This, This Is Mine
Written and directed by Duncan Ragg. The Corinthian Foodstore Collective. A private house in O’Connor. September 30 and October 1 2016.
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
I am invariably excited by the initiative of young actors to forge their way into the acting industry by collaborating and creating original, uniquely created and dynamically energetic and expressive ideas that reflect their place in a complex and changing world. Graduates of the National Institute of Dramatic Art, Charles Wu and Duncan Ragg have done just that, and have gathered together other exciting professional performer on the cusp of their theatre careers to create original work, and find new ways of exploring issues that concern them in locations that defy expectation and convention.
This, this is Mine is such an original and personal insight into the lives of two friends, struggling to come to terms with their identity, their complex relationship and their beliefs and attitudes, informed by cultural and ethnic differences. It is a tale of the tribe, preoccupied with their concerns, incapable of the ability or desire to listen, and irrevocably drawn into a web of conflict.
|Matilda Ridgway as Eva in This,This Is Mine.|
Writer, Duncan Ragg’s play opens with a sense of portent. Set in the actual living room and kitchen of a house in Canberra’s inner North, the play opens during a power blackout. Eva (Matilda Ridgway) has returned from her father’s wake and is sorting through boxes of possessions. Outside the rain pours ceaselessly, when suddenly Lester ( Shiv Palekar) bursts through an open window, tearing a poster . It is a sudden, unexpected and ominous entry, creating an atmosphere of suspense and potential threat, which eases with the knowledge that Eva and Lester are old schooldays friends and they have met at Eva’s father’s house to wait for a third friend, Ark.
|Matilda Ridgway as Eva and Shiv Palekar as Lester|
What ensues in the shadows of the room is a spontaneous combustion of private emotions, conflicting attitudes and a persistence to express independent thought and motive. Eva seeks order and control. Lester, an apparent rival for her love, in the absence of Ark, who, like Beckett’s Godot, never appears, but defines the hidden truths of their relationship. We watch as their relationship waxes and wanes before erupting in irreconcilable conflict and obstinate preoccupation with self.
In the powerless dark, truth lights up the bitter rifts that ultimately forces these friends apart in an universal conflict between man and woman, black and white, different cultures and opposing expectations. Ragg’s dialogue is specific, natural and revelatory, an entirely believable depiction of two people compelled to confront their relationship and define their own feelings, Ragg writes the chronicle of his tribe, assumedly members of the Gen Y clan, grappling with their age, their society and their identity and place within that society. Played out in the confines of an actual house to a small audience, seated on couches and chairs, the unfolding drama is powerful, sudden, surptising and revelatory. I sit there as a member of a generation far removed, and yet reminded of a rite of passage, scarred with the search for self.
Shrouded in the intimacy of a room, the performances reverberate with conviction. Ragg’s dialogue may may echo with the inspiration of Beckett and Pinter, but Ridgway and Palekar lend every syllable the authenticity of their personal tru8th and their powerful performance technique. We are witness to an utterly plausible event and relationship breakdown that reaches far beyond the four walls of Canberra living room. Ridgway, a graduate of Ensemble, Ecole Philipppe Gaulier and Atlantic. and Palekar, a 2014 graduate of the National Institute of Dramatic Art have already proved their stripes with companies such as Belvoir and the Sydney Theatre Company. In the intimate space, their performances are controlled and totally engaging in their moments of tenderness, confusion or simmering violence. This,This Is Mine, has been written for performance in an act8ual house to a small audience, and would be less effective on a proscenium stage, although both Ridgway and Palekar have the talent and the technique to embrace any stage with their performance. Unfortunately, This,This Is Mine is unlikely to reach wide audiences, although it speaks to all audiences and especially to its particular tribe. The play and its concept are ideal for a Fringe Festival and deserve to be seen by a large number of audiences. Adelaide’s Holden Street Theatres springs to mind as an ideal venue during an Adelaide Fringe.
The Corinthian Food Collective, and Artistic Directors Duncan Ragg and Charles Wu have revived the intimacy and the power of Salon Theatre with a play that reverberates with the issues and concerns of a young generation in search of meaning, identity and recognition. The theatre is neither decorous, nor entirely comfortable, but it is impressively honest and I do hope that this company will continue to challenge, provoke and excite through their belief in theatre that is relevant, imaginative and has something important to say.
|Photo by Nick McKinlay|
I leave through another room crowded with audience who, as at the beginning before the show starts, have gathered to drink, talk, enjoy the company of others and listen to Wu’s singing on guitar on Canberra’s wet and dark September night. At the end, there is a closer sense of community, a shared understanding of the power of theatre to affect our lives and bring us all closer together. Ironically, the conflict between Eva and Lester has become the closer bond between every member of the audience. This is theatre that erects a signpost to the future and deserves support.
Apartment photos by Isabella Andronos.