Monday, October 15, 2018

Maggie Stone by Caleb Lewis

Maggie Stone by Caleb Lewis.  Darlinghurst Theatre Company at Eternity Theatre, Sydney, September 30 – October 21, 2018.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
October 13

Eliza Logan and Thuso Lekwape
as Maggie Stone and Benedict Deng
in the opening scene, Maggie Stone by Caleb Lewis
All Photos: Robert Catto

Director – Sandra Eldridge; Production Designer – Sallyanne Facer; Lighting Designer – Matt Cox; Composer & Sound Designer – David Bergman; Cultural Advisor & Assistant Producer – Moreblessing Maturure; Dialect Coach & Cultural Consultant – Deng Deng

Maggie Stone – Eliza Logan; Amath / Doctor – Kate Bookallil; Amath Deng – Branden Christine; Leo Hermes – Alan Dukes; Georgina Spack – Anna Lee; Benedict Deng / Benny Deng – Thuso Lekwape

Branden Christine and Thuso Lekwape
as Amath Deng and her son Benny

Maggie Stone is a series of short scenes about a money lender and the trap into which a refugee family can fall. 

It’s a play about social conscience – first of all to recognise that in Australia there are criminal and semi-criminal elements in our culture which take advantage of vulnerable people.

Then we must also understand that conditions in refugee camps, such as in Kenya in the case of the Deng family, encourage the same kind of money-borrowing and theft as they find here.  Benedict and Amath manage to get out of that situation before the constant threat of being killed happens.  But it happens here.

Maggie has a heart of stone in the first scene where she refuses to lend the cash that Benedict needs immediately to pay off debts.  Only later she realises that Amath and the children are left without a father because of her decision.  We see her finally succeed in rehabilitating Benedict’s son – Benny is actually the result of Amath having been raped in Kenya – and, through her connections from childhood with the dodgy money-lender Leo, Maggie manages to get Amath and her family back on their feet.

Kate Bookallil
as Doctor

The writing is spare, so the story becomes revealed only bit by bit, with scenes separated by sound bites and blackouts – more like film shots than fully developed scenes.  But the 80 minute length is right for the essential message which is the purpose of the play, which fits in well with the Darlinghurst Theatre Company approach:

…each year we invite professional artists to put forward concepts for our company to develop and produce….We fully fund artists’ work including professional performers at award wages and creative fees…and invariably each new show hits our stage with a sense of urgency and immediacy.

Maggie Stone certainly succeeds in doing so.

Eliza Logan, Branden Christine, Anna Lee
 as Maggie Stone, Amath Deng and do-gooder neighbour Georgina Spack
in confrontation scene, Maggie Stone by Caleb Lewis