Production photos by Katy Green Loughey.
It’s Friday night and I’m sitting in the middle of a converted shed in Marrickville, surrounded by fellow theatre goers. The lights turn on and I see a woman in a red knit dress with white tights and cute skater shoes. She is wearing black rimmed glasses and has a surprising American accent.
Played by Nyssa Hamilton, Maxine is the annoying, overachieving younger sister who, ‘wants to make her own decisions’. Maxine means well, but in her youth and naivety, she only makes things worse…. Worse for Billie. Billie, played by Tasha O’Brien, lost her left hand on day 416 of active duty, in an IED attack. She is now home to recover, re-enter civilian life and decide as to her future. She doesn’t need help, she keeps her water bottle close by, and just wants everyone, especially Maxine, to leave her alone. Billie is not deciding fast enough for her mother, Susan Black. Played by Cherrie Whalen-David, Susan is a no-nonsense lawyer who like rules, and appears to have more of a relationship with her work phone, than with her daughters.
You think you have met all the cast, and in walks the colourful wig wearing, Franny. Cherilyn Price plays a fun-loving grandmother, is undergoing chemo, and is moving back into the family home, making this a highly dis- functional family of 4. Franny plans to ‘shake things up’ a bit, because “all we need is a good party”.
The set has been designed so that it feels like you are right there with them, peering into their home, and getting up close and personal. Personal, like when Maxine finds Billie’s private journal and makes it her daily mission to try and understand what happened in Iraq and to figure out why Billie is acting the way she is.
At the first family meeting, there is, in the words of Billie, “nothing to report”. The second one isn’t much better. The art of real communication is not something which this family has learnt yet. Doing life together is hard. Things get messy, we just need to be brave enough to meet the messiness head on. That said, a lot of the time we aren’t.
Like the rubble left behind after an IED attack, the broken pieces of cinder block and bricks strewn around the set are a powerful reminder that even though we might brush the issues aside, trying to ignore their existence and the effect they are having on us and the ones we love, the fact is the issues are still there…
They are there, staring right back at us. Even when we almost trip on the rubble, and fall flat on our face, we are still trying to convince ourselves that ‘we are okay’. Like the thick makeup and sparkly outfits, we don, to distract ourselves, or a badly chosen wig, sooner or later, it all must come off.
Funny? Yes. Great cast? Absolutely. However, if you were looking for something light-hearted, this award-winning play by Jamie Brandli, might not be what you are after. As the lights dim on the set of Technicolor Life, you start to wonder what types of 'rubble' might be present in your own life?
Technicolor Life is on at Marrickville's Depot Theatre until Saturday August 12th. See the Sydney Scoop calendar for details.