Printable CopyTHAT EYE, THE SKY
The State Theatre Company of South Australia
Dunstan Playhouse
Until 16 Sep 2018

Review by Kylie Pedler

Love, loss, faith and family. The dark and mysterious adaption of Tim Winton’s novel, “That Eye, The Sky” explores everyday, mundane themes through a group of beautifully complex characters that transform the ordinary into something thought-provokingly intriguing.

The peaceful opening scene in which Ort, played by Tim Overton, shares some background on his family and provides some insights into his inquisitive wondering about the wider world is dramatically shattered by the sounds of a car crash. Instantly, the world he knows is turned upside down. Along with caring for a grandmother lost in her own mind, the family now has to take care of Father (Bill Allert), who returns home in a semi-conscious state. As the family struggles to deal with their new existence, a mysterious stranger appears from under the bridge, bringing an eerie sense of danger to the story. He brings ideas of God and eminent possibilities of hope.

The complex characters are portrayed with warm humanity by a strong cast. Tim Overton brings great naivety and innocence to the role of young Ort Flack, a young boy on the verge of puberty and transition to high school. Kate Cheel excels as the energetic, hate-filled teenage sister, Tegwyn Flack, who is longing to escape the restraints of her family and rural life. Elena Carapetis brings great strength and dignity to the character of Alice Flack, the empathetic mother, exhausted by her new life while layered with strength and resilience despite her hidden turmoil. The pivotal role of Henry, the stranger, is portrayed by Christopher Pitman and evokes that sense of unease from the unknown and unclean.

Beautifully designed by Geoff Cobham, the set encapsulates the earthy tones of the rural, minimalistic lifestyle. A few scattered pieces such as a mattress, pillows, a wheelbarrow and crates are manipulated throughout to define different spaces as the characters go about their daily routines. In the foreground, extending into the audience is a pool which is home to some of the more intimate moments of the play. The back of the stage is a large metallic latticework that finalises the rustic outback set and a fine cloud (that only the protagonist sees) floats above the set, effectively lit to provide a sense of mystery and highlighting Ort’s belief that there is something up there watching over his family. Similarly, Cobham’s gloomy lighting design accentuates the seriousness of the issues.

Director Kate Champion has allowed her characters to make the human connections often missing in other productions. Interacting with the audience, from Ort’s opening monologue from the balcony to a lively cricket game. Her staging is brilliant, using every inch of the stage effectively.

In Winton’s story, despite the journey and questions asked, there is no closure. The audience is left to wonder—what will come of the family? Will happiness prevail?

A thought-provoking piece, beautifully portrayed.