A tender portrayal of life

1 July 2021

Quiet yet deeply satisfying, Kalyakoorl Collective’s Fire is a slice of life that deserves a wide audience, says David Zampatti.

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Fire, Kalykoorl Collective ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 24 June 2021 ·

One of the greatest strengths of the Blue Room Theatre and its circle of independent producers and artists has been telling the stories of young adults and their contemporary, West Australian, domestic lives.

Those stories have a realism and relevance that make them both important and compelling.

They offer, too, great opportunities for young actors, directors and creatives to deal with subject matters they know and understand, resulting in many of the best performances we’ve seen on the Perth stage.

We are also fortunate that more and more work created by First Peoples, about life and issues faced, is being presented on our stages. These stories, too, are real, relevant, important, and compelling.

It was a particular pleasure, then, to see young playwright Ebony McGuire’s Fire, a production that impressively combines these two strengths.

The first full length work from new local First Nations theatre company Kalyakoorl Collective, Fire has a third strength, one with great, positive, potential. While it is absolutely the story of two First Nations women – and a beautifully choreographed dance for the Djiti Djiti (Willy Wagtail) that bookends the show emphasises the culture that underpins their lives – their experiences, and the dilemmas they face, are common to young people of all backgrounds and ethnicities.

This, I believe, is an extremely significant insight, and an important message; we all bring our different histories and circumstances to the table, but we all share a common humanity, with the same foibles, strengths and weaknesses.

Holly (Nadia Martich, also the work’s choreographer) is couch surfing at her younger sister Lyss’s (McGuire) apartment after the break-up of her relationship with her girlfriend Stephanie. Lyss is at a life-changing moment too, as her new relationship with Josh (Christopher Moro) blossoms.

Ebony McGuire embraces Nadia Martich. They are bathed in purple light and you can see the details of the kitchen in the background.
Each has their own charisma: Ebony McGuire as Holly and Nadia Martich as Lyss. Photo: Tashi Hall

It’s a tricky time for both of them; perhaps not the best for sisters who’ve not been close since Holly left their grandmother’s house where they’d lived since the death of their mother.

Minor domestic irritations fester; Melissa’s frustration with her sister’s lack of initiative, especially in finding a place of her own, rankles, and she’s desperate to have her own place back, particularly so she can spend time alone with Josh.

Sound familiar? Of course it is. We’ve all lived it, or know people who have.

Nothing amazing or earth-shattering happens. There’s no terrible incident, no overwhelming catharsis, no betrayal that can’t be forgiven or forgotten.

But that’s life, and its tender playing out here is just as satisfying than if there were fireworks.

Emerging theatre maker Sian Murphy directs this slice of it with neat skill and an absence of superfluity, and she draws three very fine performances from her cast.

Each has their own charisma; Martich’s resting face has a smile on it, but it’s one of those that can say many things with an almost imperceptible change; McGuire has an irresistible energy that fits her character perfectly; and Moro’s Josh is every bit as sweet as he appears, but nowhere near as gormless.

I hope our present COVID restrictions don’t gut the season of this quietly satisfying piece. It deserves a wide audience.

Restrictions permitting, Fire continues until 10 July 2021.

Listen to Nina Levy explain why she’s looking forward to seeing Fire, and other new works coming up in July, in Seesaw’s new podcast Your Arts Playground.

Pictured top are Christopher Moro and Ebony McGuire in ‘Fire’. Photo: Tashi Hall

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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