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Blueberry Play by Ang Collins
Presented by DARE Collective
Performed by Indea Quinn
Directed by Matt Taylor (with Zoe Vandervelde, Nikia Breen, Bianca King and Chaya Ocampo)
Wizard Room, Boags Brewery

May 14th, 2022

From its arresting opening words—‘My dad has prostate cancer. And bi-polar’—you get the sense that this play is going to be an intense ride. It charts the adolescence of its unnamed only character, who must deal not only with her father’s illnesses (and accompanying challenging behaviour), but also with more usual coming of age fare—friends, school, parties, boys. However, the quality of the script transcends these tropes—and the quality of Indea Quinn’s excellent performance renders them with invigorating energy.

The strength of Ang Collins’ writing is twofold—she bases her character’s experiences in everyday, almost mundane activities and tasks that are instantly relatable, while often finding moments of poetry and insight that is cleverly drawn out of those moments. In addition, the energy of this script veers seamlessly between comedy and pathos, compressing moments of often extreme emotion into breathless scenes that capture attention and absolutely hold it hostage. This is supported by some clever staging and direction—every centimetre of the small performance space is utilised, not only to conceal props but as a space within a space where the most intimate revelations, or the most searing confrontation, might be played out. Despite ostensibly listening to Blue’s story play out while she is in her bedroom, we are transported—to a boat on a river, a public pool, her school, a couple of parties, and various other spaces in Blue’s house.

The electric dynamism of the script requires a challenging, bold and nuanced performance—in addition of course to the minor Everest any actor would face in taking on a 75-minute monologue. Indea Quinn was utterly superb—she inhabited the role masterfully, weaving compelling threads of courage and vulnerability through her performance. She matched every moment in the script with vigour and full commitment, and to her credit her vocal delivery also managed to withstand a heavy downpour of rain on the corrugated iron roof of the performance space. She was, most simply captivating to watch, crafting Blue with the right measure of joy, innocence, anxiety, doubt, resignation and fear. Blue has a difficult story to tell, for several reasons, and Quinn’s commendable talent served every moment of it with panache and an always credible verisimilitude.

The location of the performance space, in the bar of a brewery, was also a commendable choice—although, as noted, prevailing weather conditions were not entirely friendly. The simplicity of the space worked well as a context for the relatability of the story, and its intimate sized also worked well, helping to minimise space between performer and audience and adding to the impression that we were being let in on Blue’s secrets.

Overall, Blueberry Play was a triumph for DARE Collective. A strongly written contemporary story, a masterful performance and the collaborative approach to development and direction in rehearsal have all contributed to the production of a quality piece of compelling theatre. I have no doubt that the involvement of Sakura Walker as Blue in a former iteration of the production was also central to shaping the production to which audiences were treated. Strong congratulations to everyone involved.

Review By Cameron Hindrum

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