‘Highway of Lost Hearts’ was honest.
Mary Anne Butler’s emotional and heart-wrenching one-woman play, ‘Highway of Lost Hearts’ is a script well worth the attention. Presented by Minola Theatre as part of the Anywhere Festival, the tender play about self-discovery, grief and companionship was a perfect choice for both the new theatre group and Seven Hills Hub.
Riddled with magical realism, ‘Highway of Lost Hearts’ tells the story of Mot as she sets out on a cathartic car trip from Darwin to Sydney, following the death of a friend. Accompanied by her companion and beloved pet dog, Mot is on a mission to find her heart, which has been missing for some time now. The journey takes the audience on an outback adventure through Australia’s red centre, where we meet all kinds of town folk – from racists in supermarkets to creeps at petrol stations.
In the open space setting of the Seven Hills outdoor amphitheatre, ‘Highway of Lost Hearts’ came to life. Director, Kat Dekker, has craftily used the various stone corners, grass levels and forestry exterior to portray multiple scenes. The use of one oversized suitcase as the main prop was innovative and incredibly versatile. The case morphed into a counter, seat, car and other essential plotlines with complete ease, allowing an audience to easily follow the emotionally charged journey.
Sound design by Calvin Barker assisted the dialogue where needed. Barker’s lighting design was also of the same styling and rarely transitioned between different states. The simplicity of these elements ensured our main focus was the acting and story-telling – and that’s exactly where it should have been.
As the leader of this one-woman show, actress Bianca Butler Reynolds strongly navigated a script filled with stories from the heart. Shifting seamlessly into different impersonations, she embodied a range of characters, which heightened the storyline and allowed her audience to picture the varying scenes. Her physicality changed from character to character – she used her whole body getting low as her canine companion or changing her demeanour to depict a new face met along her character’s journey.
The play almost seemed like a work-out as Butler Reynolds bounded up and down the grassy levels of the rough, stone amphitheatre. Coursing through the unsteady terrain, it seemed effortless as she delivered a woman filled with grief and burdened with questions of her purpose. Kudos should always be given to an actor who can handle a show on their own, especially with the extensive text that must be delivered, and Butler Reynolds commanded her audience’s attention at every feat.
Unfortunately, with the Anywhere Festival comes the risk of weather and external factors, which can seriously affect a show. For Minola Theatre, as much as we didn’t want it to, heavy rain poured down, and the play was moved into the space of the Ron Hurley Theatre. Understandably and completely outside of the team’s control, this contrast really emphasised why ‘Highway of Lost Hearts’ worked in the rugged exterior, in the outside open space. The treacherous struggles and exhaustion were lost inside the intimate setting and it was easy to long for us to move back outside into the open air (a little bit like the main character, Mot, and her quest to just keep driving down the open road). Despite this unpredictable outcome, the production team handled the disruption with aplomb, and the play kickstarted again inside, on the small blackened staging.
‘Highway of Lost Hearts’ was an interesting piece of theatre, unknown to a few, but well worth the experience. Many of the stories told are disturbingly funny and extremely relatable. The play itself oozes heart with emotional conviction and eerie isolation. As an audience, it’s hard not to question what makes our heart tick and what gives us joy.
For more information on Minola Theatre and their upcoming shows, visit https://www.facebook.com/minolatheatre/.