Venue: SBW Stables Theatre (Darlinghurst NSW), Feb 18 – Mar 26, 2022
Playwright: Kirsty Marillier
Director: Zindzi Okenyo
Cast: Callan Colley, Angela Nica Sullen, Mariama Whitton, Gabriela van Wyk
Images by Brett Boardman
Zadie’s home in an Australian suburb named Paradise, is being pelted with oranges. The cowardly vandals feel no need to explain their actions, because the house belongs to a Black family, and therefore presumably enough of a reason to suffer abuse. Meanwhile, Zadie pays little attention to the repeated humiliation; she has too much on her plate and also, this nonsense happens to minorities all the time. Kirsty Marillier’s Orange Thrower is a whimsical and mysterious work, involving young romance, supernatural phenomena and casual racism.
This unusual blend of genres offered by Orange Thrower is its greatest pleasure, as well as a great challenge that it simultaneously presents. Directed by Zindzi Okenyo, the show is fascinatingly quirky, but its very uniqueness can sit somewhat uncomfortably against more conventional sensibilities. There is something original in Marillier and Okenyo’s mode of storytelling that takes a little getting used to, with an innovative spirit that ultimately proves gratifying.
Production design by Jeremy Allen is vibrant, with a hint of playfulness that provides a sense of visual energy, whilst straddling between spaces real and surreal. Verity Hampson’s lights are bold in its range, able to take us through the wild transformations of atmosphere, that the play so bravely insists upon. Sound and music by Benjamin Pierpoint bears a sense of freedom that traverses a multitude of styles, to coax us into indulging in the play’s complex spatial renderings.
Actor Gabriela van Wyk brings intensity to the lead role, and although detailed in her depictions, the level of authenticity she portrays for Zadie can seem slightly inconsistent. Angela Nica Sullen is striking as cousin Stekkie, with an extraordinary stage presence that can convince us of anything. Younger sister Vimsy is played by a very likeable Mariama Whitton, with excellent zeal and focus. Similarly charming is the compelling and blithely agile Callan Colley who takes on double duty as eye candy love interest Leroy, and as neighbourhood serial pest Sharron, the white lady with a penchant for calling the cops on people of colour.
In spite of the injustices being hurled at her, Zadie goes about her business with passionate glee. She cleans up the mess left behind by her abusers, then goes to work, look after her family, and kisses her boyfriend. It is a kind of joyful resistance that she embodies. Artists of colour on this land too, need to adopt that modus operandi. We must fight, but we must also thrive, and be careful not to always conflate the two. Warriors need love too.