Review: Greater Sunrise (Belvoir St Theatre)

Venue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Apr 5 – 21, 2018
Playwright: Zoe Hogan
Director: Julia Patey
Cast: Laurence Coy, Jose Da Costa, Cassandra Sorrell, Alexander Stylianou
Images by Hon Boey

Theatre review
Australia’s history with Timor-Leste is chequered, to say the least. In Zoe Hogan’s Greater Sunrise, we see an account of the evil that we are capable of, when dealing with a neighbouring nation rich with oil, but poor in influence. Australian aid worker Joana discovers the ugly operations that her government undertakes in the country she is assigned to help, and tries to find a way for justice to prevail.

It is admirable that Hogan brings attention to the important but under-reported issues surrounding our relationship with Timor-Leste, but the play struggles to speak powerfully, with a plot structure that is perhaps too filmic in its approach to work on the stage. The erratic timeline and its excessively frequent scene changes, prevent us from becoming invested sufficiently in Joana’s story.

Cassandra Sorrell shows good conviction in the lead role, but performances in Greater Sunrise are rarely more than adequate. The production feels distant and vague, preventing us from finding any meaningful resonance that could correspond with its grand message. Lights by Benjamin Brockman and sound by Clare Hennessy, however, provide a level of polish that helps sustain our attention. The emotional cues provided by design elements give the narrative some tenacity when other aspects falter.

Greater Sunrise provides valuable elucidation about the ongoing project of colonisation in our region. It tells us that we need to find satisfactory methods of reparation for the way Indigenous communities have been unjustly exploited, and also to take responsibility for the immoral and unethical dimensions of our insatiable capitalistic drives. The planet provides immense wonder, but its allure seems determined to elicit human behaviour that is cruel and deplorable.