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Marooned (Wolves Theatre Company) – theatre review

Four disparate individuals enter a twilight zone. No, that’s not the starting point for a gag. In fact, far from it. Rather, it is the beginning of what could turn out to be a long journey back. Each of the quartet – strangers to one another – has attempted to take their own life by different methods and they aren’t sure whether or not they have succeeded. Are they in heaven or hell or somewhere in between?

During the course of the next hour and a half (excluding a 15-minute interval), we will find out what comes next for them. Along the way we learn more about each person and what led them to this point. Their back stories reveal how the life was sucked out of them. I speak of a late age teen (Daniel Hurst, who plays 134), a macho man in his 50s (Darren Mort, being 379), an educated woman of similar age (Rohana Hayes – 768) and a 40-year-old family man (Ben Griffiths, known as 1620).

They argue, get angry and fall out, then repair the damage and offer each other support. In this no man’s land, they are known only by the numbers assigned to them. They can’t recollect their names or where they lived. When the proverbial curtain goes up, there are only three on stage and each wants to keep to themselves. That changes when they are joined by a newbie, the family man, who quickly rubs the effusive big talker up the wrong way. Things plummet from there before some civility and understanding come into play. The sting in the tail is important.

Marooned is a dramatic fantasy with comedic elements. It addresses a major issue in society, which can never be talked about enough. The idea behind the piece was to provide hope when the well appears to have dried up. The writing by Michael Gray Griffith – who also directs – balances light and shade, without in any way trivialising suicide. Critically, it doesn’t paper over struggle and desperation, but highlights the need for support in the form of talk. The difficulty here is how to insert that messaging – which amounts to vital mental health information – into the conversation, without it sounding preachy (after all, this is theatre and not a self-help group). On a number of occasions, I felt it was too obvious and heavy handed.

Arguably, the narrative (and white space around it) could be tightened, which would result in a sharper production. The performances are fundamentally sound, although a few of the characters are overplayed. The best of them was Rohana Hayes as 768, whose revelation of her line of work comes as a surprise to the others in the waiting room. The staging and set are minimalist (hardly noticeable), to say the least, but they work well in the context of what is at play. There is a couple of short rows of fawn coloured seating and a sky and clouds video backdrop. Marooned is far from perfect and could benefit from some tweaking, but as it is, it still hits the mark.

It is a travelling production, playing at Alex Theatre on 24th April and at Kingston Arts Centre, Moorabbin on 1st May, 2021.

If you are having difficulties coping with life and its challenges, help is available through organisations such as Lifeline on 13 11 14 and Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

To find out more about Wolves Theatre Company productions, go to www.wolvestheatre.com

Alex First

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