In life we seek satisfaction, comfort, consolation. And often, at least for me, these things are manifested in the form of food. Much of our daily lives revolve around food but, beyond a necessary aspect of survival, it can often be the thing that brings people together.
Originally performed at Belvoir, the play was performed at Riverside for this season. The play reveals the reality of life. It peels back the layers of civility and stability that we all safeguard our lives with and exposes a world of violence, defeat and disappointment. The commonality of existence and the struggles that accompany it can be a comforting thing though, and it can be the thing that lets us move forward despite the difficulties we’ve endured.
Sisters, Nancy (Emma Jackson) and Elma (Mel King), are victims of habit and routine, but they are vastly different. Responsibility, obligation and control characterize Elma’s life, while Nancy is a casualty of chaos. The pair run a takeaway joint on the side of a highway, but Nancy’s suggestion of the transition to a restaurant inspires a new narrative to emerge. With the help of a funny and lighthearted Turkish kitchen hand, Hakan (Fayssal Bazzi), the restaurant is a success and the audience is fed – which was a real treat.
Kate Champion’s direction was dance-like and the fluidity of each scene had a film-like quality. The drunken scene evoked very strong imagery of the loose and lithe movement of a drunk and like much of the play it was choreographed in a way that didn’t seem forced or overdone. Instead, it was able to capture the real life situations being represented and suspend them for us all to observe with bittersweet familiarity.
The script was superb, a new generation of Australian plays akin to Ray Lawler’s ‘Summer of the Seventeenth Doll’. The humour was gritty and raw, and utterly devastating at times as we saw so much of the tragedy of life unfolding before us – the natural ebb and flow of success and eventual hopelessness that befalls our lives. The Australian landscape is embedded in Rogers’ writing as he endows each character with a heavy burden, which is at times, alleviated by another character. The juxtaposition between expectation and reality, the cruel and unforgiving quality of life has its moments in the play, but in equal measure, we are privy to the joy that one character finds in another.
The set design by Anna Tregloan was innovative and thoughtful. It was familiar as a kitchen space, but details such as the wall of pots and pans made it unique for the stage. It was elevated by Martin Langthorne’s lighting design – the close relationship between lighting and stage design made a great set even greater.
Nancy and Elma’s relationship shifts and changes throughout the course of the performance, informed by their past and improved by the presence of Hakan. But of course, like all good things, the frivolity of life is countered by loss. After a close encounter between Hakan and Elma one evening, Hakan disappears and we are left with the two sisters. But, surely enough, they get up and move on. The narrative that we became invested in is removed but the sisters’ relationship has softened. All the while, there is a strong sentiment of ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, a desperate dependence on each other that will see these two through another day. And I guess there is some comfort in knowing that despite the difficulties that they have endured, they will be, if nothing else, ok.