‘Train Lines’ was breezy.
If you crave a heart-warming meet-cute etched in the Australian culture of public transport and idle daydreams, the current Brisbane season of ‘Train Lines’ at the Community Space at the Woolloongabba Substation will certainly provide. The quiet intimacy and subdued nature stemming from Lara Qualtrough’s direction and Tremayne Gordon’s playscript felt like a timely conclusion to the current year.
Set against the backdrop of Sydney in July 2018, the production centres on Ash (Lachlan Stuart) and Rose (Geena Schwartz) waiting at a train station after an ‘apocalyptic’ workday.
Gordon’s writing is a snappy modern take on the two-hander. Run-on sentences that evoke realistic conversations, a cheeky self-deprecation here, a relatable inner voice there. It possesses an awareness of genre and tone that is amicable to the audience while generating buzzes of laughter and focus.
Stripped to essentials, ‘Train Lines’ utilised the Community Space to great effect. With nothing but yellow tape marking as an indication of a train line, a bluetooth speaker hovering among a slender glass window that doubles as a door and two brown cardboard boxes laced with props used for one scene, the production is decidedly bare. As a result, the liminal space ghosted my memories of people watching and waiting at a station. This made the central performances all the more inviting with little distraction.
Qualtrough’s direction was effective. The blocking of having each character oppose sides, break apart to directly address the audience, with the occasional dance felt well-done without being overtly cliché. It was subtle enough to honour the stripped-back nature of the work and serve the audience within the intimate space.
The chemistry between performers Stuart and Schwarz was electric. Both demonstrate a grounded nature and exude likability within the space that lit up the room. However, a caveat of the space’s intimate quality meant that while the performances were truthful, there was a tendency to lack projection into the space.
Stuart’s Ash – a down-on-their-luck real estate agent holds a restrained charm and affable slack that could have easily been misconstrued if in lesser hands. Able to funnel Gordon’s writing to a T, Ash’s performance felt truthful, subtle and yet idyllic. I was particularly intrigued by the physical offers made, with the tap of a shoe or hand wave consciously or unconsciously reinforcing this foundation.
Equal praise is deserved for Schwarz’s Rose – a sceptical cynicism seeped in missed opportunity, their work is gentle, longing and sensitive. Through every footstep and muscle moved, I had a delightful trepidation of will-they, won’t-they resting on how Schwarz listened and responded with their tactics.
Overall, ‘Train Lines’ was a quaint production exploring the intentions to be empathetic and understanding towards one another. It used the essentials to captivate an audience, inviting the space with an idyllic daydream of its own.
‘Train Lines’ performed until Saturday, 17 December 2022 at Woolloongabba Substation (Community Space). For more information visit their website: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/train-lines-tickets-456937641787