The disarm of domestic despair

Red Sky Morning (Room to Play Independent Theatre)

Taylor King Gallery

March 29 – April 8

“Red Sky Morning” begins simply; an everyday, likeable-enough country man (Wayne Bassett) chit-chats in conversation. He appears to be an ‘ordinary’ bloke, living an ‘ordinary’ life in an ‘ordinary’ Australian town. But what is ordinary anyway? This is one of the questions that soon emerges as the harrowing drama continues with introduction of his wife (Heidi Manche) and daughter (Madison Kennedy-Tucker).

After a missed moment of marital passion the night prior, the day proceeds as usual; the man goes to work and the girl heads to school, while the woman waits for them to leave so she can begin drinking. This is their normal, but it is an understanding never acknowledged as the characters never connect, verbally or physically as the play is told through three internal monologues presenting character’s reflections and desires. Each monologue is autonomous, an emphasis of each character’s isolation however, they are cleverly weaved together with perfectly-timed interjections, in nod to their yearn for connection. This is the craftedness of Tom Hollowy’s script, and it is seamlessly executed by the show’s three performers who present the complex interplay of synchronised silences, continuations and overlaps with perfect timing.

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These are flawed characters, not always likeable but, under Beth Childs’ direction, all the more real because of this. Kennedy-Tucker, in particular, gives a strong performance as the Girl, whose schoolteacher crush belies a painful yearning of her own.

“Red Sky Morning” is a big drama of little moments missed and as such, after a somewhat slow start, it takes audiences on a demanding ride from trivial talk of schoolgirl crushes and night-time dreams to the traumatic possible consequences of dissatisfaction unshared. This is particularly so as the story progresses and monologues are delivered atop each other, in competition for audience focus.

The Taylor King Gallery offers opportunity for an appropriately-intimate, disarming production and the simple staging serves to effectively emphasise the internal isolation experienced by the three characters who never move from their immediate space, despite the story’s transition to work, school and churchyard.  It is left to Lauren Salloway’s lighting design to journey the narrative, taking audiences from the pink of a pre-dawn sky to white sunlight and then the burnt orange of a day almost over.

“Red Sky Morning” packs a lot in its 70 minutes running time. It is a poignant and very real look at the reality behind domestic routine and reminder that layers exist in every relationship. However, it is more than just a tragedy of family miscommunication and its exploration of the bleak effects of depression offers a wise advocacy for communicating, staying connected and having meaningful conversations with those around us.