Tobias Manderson-Galvin’s Lucky is a historical tale presented through a distorted mixture of truth and myth. Three convicts, an outlawed priest; an Irish woman transported for either stealing lace or slitting throats (it could be both); and an indigenous man driven out of his own land, break free from their chains and head north towards England in a small boat. As they optimistically set sail each outcast is driven to desperation, at times almost madness, not unlike a spout of cabin fever under a beating sun and destitute journey. As tensions wear thin the escapees are forced to test the waters and each other in a unforgiving fight to prove who is the most deserving of the title of ‘Innocent’ and who in turn does not deserve to set foot on land again. As the escapees “drift” aimlessly across a black and shiny ocean and bicker to exhaustion, they seem to replace their prison on land with a hopeless expedition and presumably no better company.
This dramatic arc is split in acts by displacing yet politically loaded cutaways that presented more recognisable everyday scenarios in the colony of New Albion. With New Albion’s Aboriginal cricketing teams’ 1868 press conference, a speech by the Minister for ‘Digging Holes’ about the importance of uranium exports, and a suicide-bomber writing a farewell letter to his parents, the cutaway sequences were often the most entertaining developments of the performance.
While some of the cutaways came as a welcomed shift from the slow and consistent journey on the ship, others seemed to lack direction or thematic relevance. Johnny Carr’s break away from the ‘Lucky’ Priest character to portrayal of an overly passionate New Albion piano mover introduced a lighter counter to the political mismatch on the play’s focal narrative. Other cutaways were not so entertaining or prevalent. Devon Lang Wilton stumbled her way from a gritty knife wielding convict to an uncomfortably manic high school principal opening a reconciliation garden and finally an unsettling movement piece complete with poetic whispers and sensual slithers across the stage’s floor.
Designer Matthew Adey provides a simple yet effective stage design with a rust-coloured boat, broken in its centre, and a black and shiny floor like an ocean that would swallow you up in a single gulp. The boat’s pointed shafts looked as if they belonged in a gallery exhibit, but instead they lined the upstage playing space like frightful figures, daunting waves or perhaps claws ready to trap the escapees once again. This striking, sculptural ensemble sits on an inky, shiny surface that suggest a calm, black sea. The set design for Lucky is one of the more impressive elements of the performance keeping a reminder of the play’s overarching narrative even when actors may abandon its constraints.
Just as the escapees are lost at see too long to maintain their integrity, the show seemed to journey on too long for maintained captivation. The show opened with moments of writing brilliance, darting from high stake chases to welcoming humour from Matthew Cooper’s opening invitation to the audience. As each cutaway is layered with devastating tragedy or disjointed physical movement the story becomes lost in an ocean of too many offers and loose ends that are never explained. Perhaps the play itself wanted to break down into a delirious nonsensical crash of poetic offerings and artistic interpretation, as if to mirror the deteriorating characters stranded at sea. As the characters welcomed death I felt myself welcoming the play’s conclusion considering its rock slide from potential and guided understanding to distance and ambiguity by the final chapter of the escapee’s journey.
To view the review of MKA’s Double Feature’s production of Lord Willing & the Creek Don’t Rise click here.
– Written by Rhumer Diball May 27th 2015.
LUCKY ( MKA’S DOUBLE FEATURE) PRESENTED BY MELBOURNE THEATRE COMPANY
THURS 14 – SAT 24 MAY 2015.