Review: Leaves (Bakehouse Theatre Company)

kxtVenue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Jul 9 – 23, 2016
Playwright: Lucy Caldwell
Director: Rachel Chant
Cast: Harriet Gordon-Anderson, Bobbie-Jean Henning, Poppy Lynch, Simon Lyndon, Amanda Stephens-Lee

Theatre review (of a preview performance)
When news broke several months ago that a 10 year-old Aboriginal girl had taken her own life in Western Australia, our nation was stunned into a moment of grief and rare self-reflection, searching for reasons to help us understand what had happened. We knew that it was the fault of a wider community, but struggled to find a way to take responsibility for the deeply unfortunate incident. In Lucy Caldwell’s Leaves, a teenager attempts suicide and we must again investigate the causes of her calamity. The play takes place in Lori’s home, where everything is healthy and normal, bringing us to the conclusion that family is unable to shield us from all the failings of society. It is a tender script, confidently quiet but with subtle fluctuations in tone that provide unexpected hints of drama and comedy.

Situations in Leaves are volatile, so corresponding emotions are kept under tight containment by director Rachel Chant for a work that is elegant, melancholic and extremely thoughtful. It is a production full of nuance, aided by the considerable talents of music composer Nate Edmondson and lighting designer Sian James-Holland, both providing unobtrusive but essential elements of movement and tension to the piece. A strong cast provides the show with a cohesive and unique flavour (too rich and ephemeral to put to words), with each actor compelling in their respective parts. Poppy Lynch is especially memorable playing a 12 year-old, adorable and authentic in her emulation of childlike qualities, but complex in the relationships she harnesses with co-actors. Bobbie-Jean Henning plays the feisty Clover, rebellious in demeanour but innocent by nature. The actor is convincing and dynamic in her characterisations, effectively adding sprightliness to a largely sombre production.

Places have problems, and sometimes leaving is the best answer. Forming attachment with community is human, but where we call home might not be nurturing or gratifying. The grass is greener on the other side, but when given the opportunity, we must make the effort to discover the truth in what was once only imagined. Taking chances can mean win or lose, but to truly live requires motion. When Lori chose to give up on life, she gave in to stasis and hopelessness. The solution for her problems may not be concrete or certain, but the only way to find it is to get moving.