By Tara Ramsay
Chris Isaacs' play ‘Flood’ debuted in 2004 as part of the Perth Fringe Festival. Chris wanted to reflect his feelings about Australia and it’s relationship with the Indigenous community and ‘Flood’ was the result of that.
A tale of six twenty somethings heading out on what should be the adventure of a lifetime; six friends reuniting to hit the open road and explore what the Australian Outback has to offer and catching up on lost time. It’s meant to be the best summer ever but when an unexpected violent event takes place it all comes crashing down and fractures start to appear in the once tight knit group of friends.
Presented by Emma Lamberton and Brie Jurss and held on the grass in The Great Court at the University of Queensland, St Lucia Campus, production designer Jack A. Kelly worked with the beautiful big trees and placed us all at the campsite with the six friends. Audience members took a spot on a mat, beanbag or seat around the edge of the performance space that was marked out with tree branches, citronella candles and lights. Three tents and a camp fire filled the space under trees and there was a frosty, freshly mowed lawn smell wafting through the air...I was completely drawn in.
As audience members were still shuffling in, the cast began to enter from different directions with bags, they began fussing with the tents and were excited to see each other. All cast members were barefoot and as the background music faded in, we were dropped into the middle of the reunion, laughing, hugging and applying a bit of mozzie spray of course!
Automatically I notice how comfortable the cast are in their space and with each other and I truly feel like a fly on the wall. The story flickers from narrative directed to the audience, re-enactments and current time and all of the characters take turns in telling bit’s and pieces of the story.
The six characters are a wonderful group of misfits, Liz (Emma Lamberton) – bubbly and happy go lucky, Frankie (Bris Jurss) – a free spirit, Vanessa (Meg Bowden) – the eternal list maker, Steve (Campbell Lindsay) – the larrikin, Mike (Brendan Lorenzo) – the leader of the pack and Sal (Tom Yaxley) – the thinker.
Director, Tyler Harlum did a tremendous job of bringing this play to life. All the characters were well defined and they all complimented each other nicely whilst bringing contrast to the piece.
The way the physical theatre was choreographed was my favourite part of the overall performance. Succinct and exaggerated at times, the flow of the ensemble was effortless.
I loved when they all hopped in the car and Mike and Sal each held a torch to signify the car headlights, and the sound track of the car rumbling quietly in the background, so simple – there was no grabbing at the steering wheel, and there was no need for it because I could see them cruising along. There were singalongs and games of ‘would you rather’ to pass the time and this was the funniest part of the play and had all the audience members chuckling along as nostalgia kicked in and it made me think back to car rides spent with my friends.
They finally arrive at the campsite and use the space well, the trees are lit to reflect a purple, orange sky and it’s nice to see the different friendship dynamics unfold. Mike has a quick dip in the creek and rushes behind the audience, diving in and out of the water, immersing the audience as he passes. It’s not long before a dust storm hits and the lights turn to red as they all take cover, the perfect camping trip is taking a turn and not long after, a situation arises with an Indigenous man that turns the light, funny mood into a dark and miserable tale. Friendships and alliances begin to fracture as each character deals with the events in their own way.
There were some wonderful monologues in this play and one that stood to me the most was when Vanessa (Meg Bowden), is hastily packing up to get out of there after the tragedy - it was raw and heartfelt and so honest. Simply brilliant.
Usually in an ensemble cast there are performers who take over or ‘steal the show’ but I have to say this was a strong and talented group and I truly believed they had been friends for a lifetime. They all did a sensational job of drawing me in and I am sure playwright Chris Isaac would have been proud of the performance that took place. An honest, complicated story of friendship, love, denial, guilt and the underlying theme of unconscious racial bias in our country.
There are still a few performances left of ‘Flood’ as part of the Anywhere Festival, I highly recommend you get along and watch this talented group of storytellers.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.