Maxine Mellor’s Horizon is an intense experience … not the type of show to be enjoyed so much as to provoked by. It is a sensibility that is conveyed from before its start thanks to an ominous pre-show soundscape and the gothic shadows of a darkened stage featuring a single white line as video backdrop to its Ford Falcon centre stage feature.
Young couple Cole (Sam Foster) and Skye (Ngoc Phan) are driving the classic Aussie car from the coast into the heart of the country to Cole’s home town to visit his ill father. What starts poetically as a classic road trip of mix tapes and romantic enthusiasm soon devolves into a tense standoff of mindsets, with debate and discussion flaring around contemporary issues. As we watch the pair’s relationship struggle to survive the personal secrets that emerge, we are left considering what is worth rescuing.
The multi-award winning playwright’s script touches on dark themes from within our country’s tragedies as the couple learns more than they imagine about each other. That includes the story behind a cassette tape as old as the car itself and the real reason behind Skye’s motivation for a holiday distraction. A 90 minute, two-hander such as this can be taxing for its performers, however Foster and Phan work well together. Foster’s early speeches, in particular, are especially entertaining, delivered with a powerful rhythm akin to a gripping slam poetry share.
The car, so central to the show’s action, also receives applause at play’s end. Rather than alienating its audience by performing sections of the story from within its front seats, the company cleverly utilises the central piece as part of the action, as it becomes almost another character in the drama.
Particularly laudable is the dynamic opening scene complemented by Guy Webster’s sound design, David Walters’ lighting and Nathan Sibthorpe’s video design. It realises the couple’s celebration of their newfound freedom with imagined new names and outlaw identities on the run in a world gone mad. Video projections serve to track the passage of time.
Horizon is, at its core, an intimate story. Under Ian Lawson’s direction, it is a thrilling ride not for the feint hearted, rather for those who like their drama with a bit of terror. Although Mellor may have been commissioned to pen the Playlab Theatre production pre-COVID, it still remains just as relevant now. It touches on #metoo themes and examines struggles and isolation at the core of personal identity.
Horizon is showing at Brisbane Powerhouse until 29th May, 2021.
For more of Meredith Walker’s theatre reviews, check out Blue Curtains Brisbane.