For over 20 years, Milk Crate Theatre have engaged with disadvantaged people, devising works which challenge norms of performance. Developed over the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns, DUST was conceived over a number of zoom sessions before being fleshed-out in the person earlier this year.
Drawing on themes of isolation and enforced reflection, the story centres on a dust storm in an unnamed regional town. The teenaged Jeddi (Lana Filies) is restless and clashing with her distraught mother Elixir (Kamini Singh), while stepdad William (Matthias Nudl) aims to keep the peace. With the unexpected arrival of Elixir’s childhood friend Kirra (Darlene Proberts), the past comes to the fore as Jeddi begins to ask about her biological father, while Elixir is jealous of Kirra’s success.
The audience is enveloped by two small stages, with the cast shifting across the space, allowing us to feel locked in by the unfolding story. Sound design by Prema Yin and lighting design by Liam O’Keefe is wonderful in highlighting the space and adding to the drama.
While the subject matter seems heavy, the cast offer earnest and heartfelt performances; a treat for a team less experienced in professional theatre performance. Filies and Singh are vibrant onstage as mother and daughter, while Nudl and Proberts bring a lovely balance to the former’s intensity.
Additional cast member Desmond Edwards is memorable as the mysterious Two Bob, a blow-in to the town who speaks in riddles and becomes a metaphor for the dust storm itself, locking the cast in and forcing them to confront their pasts.
The process of devising this kind of work can often be as important as the work itself. Viewing the final product can often be a layered experience, where the norms of theatre give way to a more communal offering. In seeing the work, we are part of its creation, by validating these people as artists and giving their voices space to be heard. In giving in to the experience, we become more enriched for having been a part of it, and connect with the storyteller’s inner world and experiences.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
DUST performed at Richard Wherrett Studio, Roslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay, September 15 – 17.