‘What We Saw in the Sorghum Fields’ was ominous.
In a theatre surrounded by the tall Eucalypts of Seven Hills, audiences entered the Ron Hurley Theatre into the world of the wheat fields of the Queensland outback. In the inaugural production of Tremayne Gordon’s ‘What We Saw in the Sorghum Fields’ we follow the story of three teenagers stranded in the Queensland outback after their car breaks down. Under the steady direction of Timothy Wynn, the narrative skillfully weaves themes of identity, belonging, family, and unresolved conflicts, with the undeniable spooky influence of Australian Gothic theatre.
This is a production that relies heavily on the audience’s imagination. Through the use of sound, and a set design that was very much open to interpretation, Wynn and his team give the audience the freedom to fill in the gaps.
On a bleak backdrop reminiscent of the dry Queensland country, Wynn (also as set designer) incorporated the use of rotating scrims and the front bumper of a 4WD to create the ominous and mysterious landscape. The blocking utilised these scrims to set time and place, as the characters disappeared behind one, to then reappear in a different area of the field. They also added to the sense of mystery and unknown: one could never know what was beyond the scrim, just as one could not see through fields of wheat to what hides beyond.
The sound design for this production was excellent. It transported audience members to the Queensland outback, as well as contributing to the action of the play, whether that be through radio static, a car running off the road, or the sinister sounds of creatures in the distance. If a fault were to be found, it may be in the sound cue of the predator which generally did not correspond to the ensuing events.
Jaimeson Gilders, as the lighting designer, created a design that was subtle, yet ingenious. Effectively utilising colours, Gilders created a space that looked and felt like the outback at night. In particular, the use of headlights in the car was inspired, as they were utilised both while the car was in use, as well as during flashbacks, and the spookier parts of the play.
Starring Indigo Macrokanis, Chris Patrick Hansen and Ella Macrokanis, ‘What We Saw in the Sorghum Fields’ was in good hands. The three actors created honest portrayals of teenagers going through the highly relatable struggles of identity and belonging. The connection between the actors on stage was palpable.
Indigo Macrokanis portrayed the stubborn and passionate Lilly with vulnerability, yet also strength, creating a complex and believable character. From the beginning, the audience could sense the inner struggles that were realised in the closing moments of the play.
Hansen, in the role of the blind teenager, Charlie, brought a softness to his role, which contrasted well with the two sisters.
Ella Macrokanis’ Hannah was impulsive and strong. She played the role of the big sister and leader of the group very well, and her more vulnerable moments towards the end of the play were handled with great honesty.
‘What We Saw in the Sorghum Fields’ produced by THAT Production Company, was an intriguing piece of theatre. On the face of it, a gothic style theatrical piece about three teenagers stranded in the outback, though at a deeper level it explored themes that will resonate through every audience member.
‘What We Saw in the Sorghum Fields’ played until Saturday, 8 February 2020 at the Ron Hurley Theatre, Seven Hills. For more information about upcoming productions, visit THAT Production Company’s Website.