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Into the Shimmering World - Sydney Theatre Company (NSW)

Written by Angus Cerini. Directed by Paige Rattray


Reviewed by Claira Prider

Wharf 1 Theatre, Sydney Theatre Company

Until 19th May 2024


Visceral, impassioned, evocative and engrossing, 'Into The Shimmering World' is the final instalment of Angus Cerini's gothic trilogy


'You okay?' Floss asks. ‘Okay’ Ray responds when clearly he's not. Into the Shimmering World gives us a present day look into Australian, rural farming life and the challenges faced with their futures under constant threat. Through the lens of expectations of masculinity, Into the Shimmering World explores the isolation and grief which becomes a reality for many farmers today with banks and climate disasters knocking down their doors. Written by the 2020 Patrick White Playwright Fellowship recipient, Angus Cerini, and directed by Sydney Theatre Company Director of New Work and Artistic Development Paige Rattray, this premiere work is sure to become a future Australian great.

 

Drought stricken and worn out, aging couple Ray and Floss are elated when rain finally arrives on their rural property. But when that ra­in doesn’t stop, their land floods, taking their livestock and livelihood with it. Broke and furious at himself for not taking the opportunity to sell last month, he’s left with no option but to bury his fly-blown herd and plan how to somehow move forward.


In the role of Ray, Colin Friels epitomises the hard working, stuck in his ways, country bloke attitude. From a concerned farmer trying to put on a stoic front for his wife, to howling in agony, aching to be reunited with her; Friels gives the most raw and all-consuming performance. Particularly in the scene where he goes to the beach alone, taking the trip Floss had always wanted to go on, we see so much grief in his physicality, a manifestation of the vulnerability and despair he finds so hard to express in words. Kerry Armstrong is divine as the grounded and devoted Floss. Her characterisation feels so authentic and familiar, like Floss is someone I've loved my whole life. Sharing an incredibly palpable yet non-affectionate chemistry, their love is defined by familiarity, reinforced by the poetic, unfinished sentence, style of Cerini's writing.


Into the Shimmering World - STC (2024). Photos by Daniel Boud


James O'Connell's characterisation brings a light demeanour to the intense and often difficult dynamic between Stephen and his dad, beautifully highlighting the generational differences in their ideas of masculinity. The cast are supported by Bruce Spence as Ray's neighbour and dark humoured friend, and Renee Lim as the home care assistant and later the park ranger.


David Fleischer’s set invites us into the kitchen of the weatherboard cladding farmhouse, a simple and bare, dated home with only the essentials. Floating on metre high beams with steep wooden steps connecting them, the set is surrounded by four(ish) metres of empty space on all sides like a moat of darkness. Nick Schlieper's lighting design includes naturalistic lighting as well as facilitating much of the shimmering ambience in the latter half of the work. Like the glistening shapes you see at the bottom of the pool when the light refracts through the water, moving shapes of light and shadow project across the stage, creating a hazy, dreamy atmosphere.


Rattray's expert combining of the complimentary elements of set, sound, movement and lighting to amplify the text, makes for an extremely visceral, vivid and poetic theatre experience.

Clemence Williams' sound design is made up of sounds more than song and facilitates a soft and constant, uncomfortable presence through the work. Over the top of a low-pitched rumbling drone, Williams' writing constantly keeps us on edge with unfinished cadences and harmonic overtones. Soundscape flourishes inform and transport the story with sounds of birdsong, rain, insects, hospital monitors and idiot neighbours on their motorbikes down the road.


As there is no physical set change and often the passing of time is quite vague, much is left up to the imagination of the viewer. With the ever-evolving technical capabilities we see in many productions today; it's refreshing to watch a piece of complex writing without all the bells and whistles. The barrenness of the set, and non-invasiveness of the score and lighting allows the strength of the writing and the acting to shine, creating rich and vivid, expansive imagery. Rattray's expert combining of the complimentary elements of set, sound, movement and lighting to amplify the text, makes for an extremely visceral, vivid and poetic theatre experience. Whilst this isn't uncommon in theatre, Into the Shimmering World complements each other just enough to amplify the characters' emotions, imparting us with feelings that will be felt and thought on for days afterwards.


 

CAST & CREATIVES

Director Paige Rattray

Designer David Fleischer

Lighting Designer Nick Schlieper

Composer & Sound Designer Clemence Williams

Movement Director Frances Rings

Assistant Director Nicole Pingon

Voice & Text Coach Charmian Gradwell

With Kerry Armstrong, Colin Friels, Renee Lim, James O'Connell, Bruce Spence


 

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