La-Mama-Cactus-Ayesha-Harris-Westman-Lucy-Rossen-photo-by-Darren-GillMadeline Nunn’s Cactus is a brilliantly written work that explores friendship, adolescence, hardship and identity with full throttle honesty and stoic integrity.

What makes Cactus remarkable from beginning to end is that it is not subtle – every moment is impactful and the text doesn’t shy away from dialogue and themes that many would find uncomfortable.

Nunn is a consummate storyteller – getting to the core of the work fast but still peppering the script with surprises and twists to hold an audience’s attention.

It is truly delightful to listen to dialogue that has been constructed with the age of the characters in mind – gone is any cliche or heavy metaphors, instead the audience is treated to Nunn’s ability to showcase these characters’ depth, humour and the complexities of teenage hood.

Katie Cawthorne’s direction is playful and energetic while hitting hard in the more emotionally charged moments. The pace is kept high, with the actors never quite settling – which serves the script well.

The work is let down however by constant transitions that don’t feel well thought out and a number of false endings that seem to undermine the emotional engagement of the moment.

Ayesha Harris-Westman and Lucy Rossen are perfectly cast. Both performers embrace their characters and manage to effortlessly morph into an awkward, confident and relatable teen with ease. There is a real sensitivity to their work, and a great respect for their characters and the journey that they go on.

The design team of Aedan Gale and Daniella Esposito create a multi-layered world for the script to unfold in. Each design element never outshines or distracts from the story, rather each works in tandem to elevate the narrative and enhance the emotional rollercoaster that is the play.

Cactus is such an important work and one that needs to be seen to truly appreciate. Here’s hoping it has a life after this La Mama season so that wider audiences can experience such a high caliber of theatre making and talent.

La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond Street, Carlton
Performance: Friday 25 June 2021
Season continues to 4 July 2021
Information and Bookings:

Image: Ayesha Harris-Westman and Lucy Rossen feature in Cactus – photo by Darren Gill

Review: Gavin Roach