New play examines climate change and mistreatment of refugees

Richard Maganga, Emily Rose Brennan and Glenda Linscott in Water

Water
Written by Jane Bodie
Directed by Emily McLean
Starring Emily Rose Brennan, Glenda Linscott, Richard Maganga, Amy Mathews & Igor Sas
Black Swan Theatre Company, Perth
Until May 26

This ensemble piece ranges over a series of time zones, travelling from the near future to the early 20th century, mostly in Australia but also the Ellis Island immigration centre, New York. Its main segment is a deceptively simple, kitchen-sink style, family drama in which home truths are exposed and conventional dishonesties unravelled. 

But the subject matter uncovered is the impending climate catastrophe (water is a recurring motif) and Australia’s racist treatment of refugees. So the family bickering reflects different political standpoints and the audience begins to realise that what is being examined is public life as much as private.

The quality of the acting is superb. Richard Maganga’s extended monologue describing a refugee’s experience drew spontaneous applause from the opening night audience. 

Two brief historical interludes show that Australians have tried to flee climate catastrophes in the past and have cruelly not been welcomed in the places they fled to. Also, the racist mistreatment, essentially slavery, of kidnapped South Sea Islanders is laid bare.

The play is multi-layered and stimulating. I was left feeling that each of the three segments could be expanded into a three-act drama — and I would love to see all of them.

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