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THE WIND IN THE UNDERGROUND gets 8/10 Sibling rivalry and reverie

Directed by Lucy Clements
Written by Sam O’Sullivan
Starring Whitney Richards, Michael Abercromby, Bishanyia Vincent, Rowan Davie

New Ghosts Theatre has come home. Spearheaded by Lucy Clements, who debuted the company back in 2015 at The Blue Room with her show Fracture, New Ghosts calls itself a “playwrights theatre company”, thus focusing on new scripts from emerging playwrights. For The Blue Room’s Summer Nights 2018, the company brings from Sydney its acclaimed production The Wind in the Underground, and with it, a bunch of Perth expats, for a grand homecoming at The Studio Underground.

This homecoming is especially fitting for the New Ghosts crew, as the play itself is about coming home, and is set in Perth. Four siblings meet at the family home to decide its fate, and with it, the fate of the last sibling to fly the coop. As they negotiate, banter and badger in the way only siblings can, soft-spoken Claire (Whitney Richards) reminisces about their childhood together in flashback sequences. She remembers the games they used to play and revisits the trauma that shook the bonds of their family unit. She’s the only one who has stayed to take care of their ageing father, while the others have gone on to travel, start new families and new lives.

The ensemble work that Whitney Richards, Michael Abercromby, Bishanyia Vincent and Rowan Davie present is first-rate, and each character is drawn with a firm hand, entirely relatable, and immediately accessible. Whitney Richards is soft but strong, with a steady light that shines throughout; Bishanyia Vincent is feisty but protective, the substitute mother hen; Rowan Davie is the impulsive youngest brother, whose free-spirited facade masks deeper troubles; and finally Michael Abercromby rules the roost with an impatient decisiveness that acts as a catalyst for the play’s internal drama.

Playwright Sam O’Sullivan intricately and beautifully weaves motifs and themes throughout his script, and director Lucy Clements keeps the pace taut and the energy full of fire and vitality. The dialogue, although heightened for a theatrical space, always retains an authenticity that keeps the characters and the situations genuine. The flashbacks in which the actors play the child versions of their characters have a dual purpose: they demonstrate and reinforce the sibling dynamics as well as provide comic relief to the central conflict.

These homegrown talents have done well for themselves after leaving Perth. Just as Simon (the youngest sibling) reminds us, we leave so we can home again; and thus so has New Ghosts come home again, briefly, in triumph.

CICELY BINFORD

The Wind In The Underground runs at The State Theatre Centre of WA’s Studio Underground until February 3 as part of The Blue Room Theatre’s Summer Nights program for FRINGE WORLD. 

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