Friday, August 4, 2023

Theatre / "Legacies", Written and directed by Rachel Pengilly, Q The Locals and Ribix Productions. At Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, until August 5. Reviewed by SIMONE PENKETHMAN.

The Arran stowaways with first mate, James Kerr. Photo: Ben Appleton

 is a new work by Canberra playwright, Rachel Pengilly. It tells the dramatic story of six Scottish boys who stowed away on the Arran, a cargo ship bound for Quebec, seeking excitement, adventure and to become men.

Pengilly and her formidable collaborators weave movement, music, stunning design, and a well-honed text together to bring this true story from the 1860s to life.

Mel and Lachlan Davies’ set evokes a ship with full rigging. The multiple levels of woodwork make a perfect stage for the strong choreography of the show.

Composer, sound designer and production manager, Shannon Parnell composed the music alongside the script development. The narrative is carried by an ongoing conversation between words and sounds.

The opening scene is a working song at the docks that’s underpinned by the percussion of footsteps, a straw broom and wooden crates.

The cast of 11, mainly young actors are a seamless ensemble, enacting mythic tales of sea monsters and pirates on the high seas. 

The boys are initially accepted onto the ship, but the sadistic first mate, James Kerr (Christopher Samuel Carroll) keeps them starved and underdressed as the ship sails into ice around Newfoundland.

Adventure turns to tragedy as Kerr convinces spineless Captain Watt (Tom Cullen) to cast the boys overboard onto the ice. It’s 12 miles to land and two of the boys are barefoot.

One of those boys was Pengilly’s great great great grandfather. Another two of the boys didn’t live to tell the tale.

This is a captivating and high-quality production that is a testament to a new generation of talent in the capital region.