‘The Road to Huntsville’ was enthralling.
Wynnum Fringe Festival brought the goods with ‘The Road to Huntsville’ – a one-woman show. Playwright Stephanie Ridings has crafted a compelling story that poses the question ‘how can women fall in love with men who are destined to live the rest of their lives behind bars?’
The protagonist Steph, played by Brisbane-based actor Jacinda Mclaughlin, takes the audience on an intimate and engaging journey into her discoveries. Initially, she is bemused by the women who have sought to have a relationship with incarcerated men, only then to find herself falling in love with one and travelling halfway across the globe to visit him.
Ridings’ takes the audience into unexpected territory by showing the process of trawling through an actual dating website for prisoners. Yes, it was…enlightening. Not long after that, she stumbles across the profile of prisoner Jonny Demouchette. Jonny is currently on death row in Texas. They begin exchanging letters and then, of course, the plot thickens.
The stage was sparse with one chair, and a screen and projector above it providing opportunity for some great theatrical moments. The theatre is a meeting room in the Wynnum Library. It’s bare and cold, which created a clerical atmosphere one might experience while visiting an inmate. Dominic Guilfoyle’s tech prowess was en pointe, navigating this atmosphere with cold lighting cues that mirrored the emotional shifts.
Director Elodie Boal and Mclaughlin masterfully tell this story by weaving between direct address to the audience and re-enacting Stephs memories with Jonny.
There were several amazing moments in this production. Moments to mention were Steph’s description of receiving her first letter from Jonny, knowing that it was written by the hand of a man who had killed. The details were visceral and so intimate, and audience members couldn’t help but empathise with the man behind bars. Steph’s final meeting with Jonny was also beautifully directed and performed.
Ridings’ is definitely a playwright to watch and ‘The Road to Huntsville’ is a real crowd-pleaser.
‘The Road to Huntsville’ performed until Friday, 19 November 2021 at Wynnum Library as part of the Wynnum Fringe Festival. For more information, visit Wynnum Fringe’s website.