Review: Rats – Moonshine (Fledgling Theatre Co)

fledglingVenue: Old 505 Theatre @ 5 Eliza St (Newtown NSW), Oct 25 – Nov 5, 2016
Playwright: Chris Huntly-Turner
Director: Chris Huntly-Turner
Cast: Shelley Casey, Sylvia Keays, Carla Nirella, Abigail Honey, Jeremy Rodmell, David Woodland

Theatre review
It is the early 1940s, and women in the Central West region of NSW are figuring out a life at home, while their sons and husbands are away at war. Tired of pining for the men, and sick of being bored, their enterprising spirit begins to emerge. For a moment in (fictional) history, great success comes to a group of three peddlers of moonshine, who brew and sell alcohol to surrounding townships that are hungry for distraction from hard times. Moonshine by Chris Huntly-Turner takes time to establish itself, but its story becomes increasingly exciting as the women go on to discover their newfound freedom and learn to embrace their independence.

It is a joy seeing these characters transform unwittingly into outlaws, and the bond of sisterhood that develops is reassuring. There is vibrancy to each, but a lack of idiosyncrasy makes for personalities that can seem generic and consequently distant. Emotional scenes are actualised more effectively than in humorous sections where chemistry between actors can sometimes be hesitant. Live music accompaniment by David Woodland manipulates atmosphere cleverly, but several instances of the women’s dance-inspired flourishes require much greater finesse to achieve their desired elegance. The cast shows impressive conviction, and although not completely persuasive with their impetuses and narratives, the performers have a tenacious energy that holds our interest for the entire duration.

The play shows us what we are capable of, when the going gets tough. In a state of volatility and fear, brought on by countries going to war, individuals can escape into inspiration that lead to the creation of extraordinary things, but can also collapse into abject destruction. The women do their best, but remain vulnerable to external forces infinitely greater than their sphere of control. When days are dark, it seems easy to perpetuate hurt and injury, because making normalcy out of pain is deceptively sedating. When making lemonade from lemons feels to be a tall order, we must rise to that challenge. We can all be resilient, but it is in our efforts to overcome that our spirits shine the brightest.