Review: Luna Gale (Ensemble Theatre)

Venue: Ensemble Theatre (Kirribilli NSW), Sep 7 РOct 13, 2018
Playwright: Rebecca Gilman
Director: Susanna Dowling
Cast: Michelle Doake, Lucy Heffernan, Georgie Parker, Scott Sheridan, Ebony Vagulans, Jacob Warner, David Whitney
Images by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review
A baby named Luna is being held under state care, while her teenage parents attempt to clean up their act. Social worker Caroline does her best to do what is right, but faces opposition from her manager and from Luna’s overly religious grandmother. Luna Gale by Rebecca Gilman is a classic piece of American drama, compelling, moving and incredibly taut; it discusses private lives under the interference of church and government, alongside timely stories of child abuse that are unequivocally pertinent. Both emotional and thought-provoking, Gilman’s play is wonderfully engrossing, and thoroughly satisfying.

Susanna Dowling’s persuasive direction ensures that we are wholly invested in Caroline’s ordeal, keeping us riveted and entertained for the entire duration of this thrilling production. Set design by Simone Romaniuk is appropriately staid in style, but highly efficient in the way it addresses the many scenic transformations as required by the text.

Performances are stellar, with actor Georgie Parker leading the cast in brilliant form. She does not always sound convincingly American, but as Caroline, the complexities she brings is exceptional, and the power of her delivery is entirely mesmerising. Parker’s work is intense, astute and inventive, always impeccably elegant no matter how operatic the action turns. The baby’s young mother Karlie is played by Lucy Heffernan, unforgettable with the vulnerable authenticity she puts on stage. Remarkably sensitive and nuanced, it is a poignant depiction of a girl in trouble trying hard to improve her circumstances, allowing even the most jaded of audiences to relate to those experiences.

When damaged children grow up, they can either perpetuate harm, or they can endeavour to amend inter-generational problems. Even though Karlie had given birth to new life, she proves herself incapable of caring for Luna, placing the baby in grave danger as a result of neglectful behaviour. Caroline chose not to be a mother, committing instead to the thankless task of saving children from their failing parents. No one escapes childhood completely unscathed, but most are able to imagine better ways forward. The ones who are trapped in cycles of violations, will need help in trying to break free. How our communities are willing to offer remedy, is testament to the quality of people we are.