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For her debut on the mainstage, Kylie Coolwell offers a work that feels like it was penned by a playwright with years of experience. Structurally, it is familiar: a domestic family saga; a strong example from the lineage of conventional ‘well made plays’. Such traditional theatrical storytelling is structurally and tonally difficult to master, yet Coolwell makes it look easy. Her loving, unsentimental, funny and tragic presentation of the daily dilemmas of Indigenous people in a city housing estate presents social issues without sermonising. Her characters — she holds a cast of seven with skill and ease — never veer into clichés; they are wonderfully defined by the directness of their voices and the hilarity, dignity, pain and tenderness of their interactions.
While the play focuses on one central character and her relationships, we are nonetheless given a portrait of a wider community, one that we don’t often meet on our stages. The particular vernacular, the individual rhythms and the command of narrative arc all contribute to the power of the work. This Indigenous story from Sydney’s inner city streets makes a conventional theatrical form feel fresh and alive.