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Reviews/Theatre

This is Where We Live – australian take on the Underworld

10 February 2022

Echoing the tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice, Feet First Collective’s latest offering is a well-told story of young love in a bad place, writes David Zampatti.

This is Where We Live, Feet First Collective ·
Girls School, 9 February, 2022 ·

One of the great highlights of a decade or so watching and writing about Fringe World has been The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre’s Orpheus, an ebullient and emotional re-imagining of the great Greek myth, relocated to a hardscrabble Northern English town (and the Underworld) in the present day.

Orpheus and Eurydice are back, this time as Chloe (Lauren Beeton) and Chris (Samuel Addison) in a revival of Australian actor and playwright Vivienne Walshe’s tense, poetic This Is Where We Live, presented by local theatre outfit Feet First Collective.

Chloe and Chris already live in a kind of underworld, a stifling, treacherous Australian country town where their school is ruled by bogans and schoolyard princesses, where domestic violence, alcoholism and illness are endemic, where the smallest deviation from its stultifying norms relegates you to the outer.

Chris, a withdrawn, bookish boy (“the odd one” is Chloe’s snap judgement of him) with the added burden of having the school’s browbeating English and history teacher for a father, is already an outcast. Chloe, newly arrived in town, knowing, combative, sexually aware, is heading there as fast as her gammy leg will take her.

They’re a match made in Hades; Chris sees it coming (“If she’s nice to me one more time, I’m gone”), and Chloe does too, though she’s careful not to admit it.

Chloe knows to be careful; her step-father is a vicious swine who’ll take his anger and malice out on anyone, including her. Her black eye is his doing, but her limp is a symptom of worse things to come, and she knows enough about it not to wait around for life to come to her.

There are strong similarities between This Is Where We Live and Scott McArdle’s recent Blue Room and Black Swan hit Playthings, their feel for a small town, their sense of outsiders clinging to each other in the face of a closed world. Like Playthings, it’s driven by the tenacious power of love.

But This Is Where We Live is not always easy going; its text sits somewhere between blank verse and a radio play script, complete with sound effects and stage directions read aloud by the actors as part of the dialogue.

It takes some getting used to, although it’s delivered well and is often necessary on a stage empty apart from two classroom chairs.

All credit to Beeton, Addison and the director Teresa Izzard, though. The complex dialogue is clearly articulated, the actors skilfully define the various minor characters they also play, and the movement, coached by Izzard, adroitly fills in the gaps left by the absence of stage paraphernalia.

One late scene, in which the young couple imagine flying up and above the town to freedom, is a beautifully realised and convincing release for them, and us.

Let’s hope, unlike Orpheus and Eurydice, they escape The Underworld in one piece. And together.

This Is Where We Live continues at Girls School until 13 February 2022.

Pictured top: Lauren Beeton as Chloe and Samuel Addison as Chris in ‘This Is Where We Live’. Photo: John Congear

Read Seesaw Mag’s Q&A with director Teresa Izzard.

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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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