Wild Cherries

15 August 2019 | 1:52 pm | Cameron Colwell

"It’s a demanding, beguiling play." Photo by Sarah Walker.

Wild Cherries is a mesmerising play that treats its subject matter — the disorientated lives of those caught in the modern slave trade – unflinchingly. It is compelling, at times frustrating, and altogether unlike anything else that’s been produced for Australian theatres in some time. Writer Daniel Keene’s script is chaotic and disparate, which for the most part, works well. While the characters are tortured by their anonymity, each of them is distinct and complicated. Their monologues offer glimpses of life before they came to work long, long hours at a cherry orchard.

Director Beng Oh’s talent is manifest here, producing a range of incredible performances. Troy Larkin’s rage at his situation is visceral in its execution and Lucy Ansell is charming in her stubborn sense of joy and haunting in her despair. The powerhouse of the evening is Carmelina Di Guglielmo, who plays Sonia, an aged worker at the cherry orchard whose bleak acceptance of her plight is heart-wrenching.

The specific location of where the action is taking place is purposefully evaded; characters struggle to maintain their grip on their pasts and their stories are blurry with a lack of detail. Their monologues, which contain some of the best performances in the play, are hit and miss – their broken nature means we never learn the full story of how the characters came to enter their exploitation. Sometimes, this works. The characters don’t understand the forces which have left them estranged and disentangled from society, so why should we? Elsewhere, the refusal to point fingers feels weak and depoliticised.

Wild Cherries is not a piece of theatre which will hold your hand. It will certainly provoke thought, and is disturbing in a way that is genuinely discomfiting. It’s a demanding, beguiling play and if you’re after something that’s going to challenge you, it’s definitely worth your while.