Venue: Hayes Theatre Co (Potts Point NSW), May 26 – Jun 17, 2023
Music and Lyrics: Vidya Makan in collaboration with Sonya Suares
Director: Sonya Suares
Cast: Joseph Althouse, Dyagula, Milo Hartill, Jeffrey Liu, Vidya Makan, Billy Mcpherson, Karlis Zaid
Images by Philip Erbacher
It is perhaps the most important function of the theatre, to help us figure out, who we are as a community. A space of congregation where artistic expression is shared, so that issues can be discussed by those local to the area, and where hopefully some form of consensus can be reached. Theatre is at its best, a force for social cohesion. In these times of division, brought on by unprecedented technological disruptions, the myth of monolithic cultures can no longer prevail. Yet we have to find ways to uphold notions of unity, in a new climate determined to acknowledge and appreciate the irrefutable diversity that can no longer be subsumed by outmoded conceptions of a singular identity.
In The Lucky Country, a new musical written by Vidya Makan in collaboration with Sonya Suares, that diversity is displayed extensively on stage, but without a sense of fracture that has come to inform how we understand difference. Makan and Suares’ thorough search and depiction of ways to pay respect, for the many peoples that we are, allows The Lucky Country to offer a showcase of identities that feels accurate and aspirational. Each of its many delightfully melodious songs represents a different part of those on this land; they are distinctly rendered, more like an anthology than one narrative of experience, allowing each of us to have our own say, and demonstrating the ease of co-existence.
The work is incredibly moving with its deep excavations of marginalised lives, but it is also guided by a scintillating humour, for a show that is disarmingly funny from beginning to end. Directed by Suares, along with choreography by Amy Zhang, The Lucky Country is energetic and bustling with activity, holding our attention captive, always keeping us fulfilled and wanting more.
Instead of a set, the empty stage is adorned with a cyclorama, on which Justin Harrison’s witty and sensitive video compositions are projected, adding further emotional dimensions to the production. Lights by Rob Sowinski and costumes by Emily Collett are slightly under explored, but both provide satisfactory levels of embellishment. Heidi Maguire’s orchestrations are entertaining and lively, and along with Michael Tan’s sound design, deliver for the songs a beautiful simplicity that feel rich in resonance.
In spectacular form, a wonderful cast delivers these stories of diminished individuals to glorious light. Joseph Althouse, Dyagula, Milo Hartill, Jeffrey Liu, Vidya Makan, Billy Mcpherson and Karlis Zaid bring technical acuity, as well as exceptional soulfulness, to make The Lucky Country an unforgettable instance of transcendence, filled with love for all who have been welcomed to this country.
Colonialism aims to make so many of us feel small and devalued. It also wishes to drive wedges between us, so that we forget who the real enemies are. Its apparatus is hopelessness, wearing us down until we relent and allow them to exploit and pillage as they wish. Defiance however is a part of the human spirit that remains accessible, even during the hardest of times. In The Lucky Country, we see that the act of defiance can be joyful and unifying. An insistence on new ways to define ourselves beyond old ideas that privilege few, is an urgent need that begins with a defiance that can be summoned, from every dark depth of despair.