Kerosene-Izabella-Yena-photo-by-Jack-Dixon-GunnKerosene is a perfectly restrained journey through one young woman’s hopeful hopelessness.

Milly has it tough, but she’s not down about it, she makes the best of what she has, and what she has the best is her best friend Annie. There’s nothing they won’t do for each other and nothing will come between them – until something does.

For every beat down, she gets back up. For every step back, she takes a leap forward. Nothing is going to stop Milly but herself, and even then, it’s all part of her plan.

Writer and director Benjamin Nichol builds a world that is dense and rich with life. The writing is so subtle but poignant, with dialogue that carries the audience down a path that we can all relate to, even if we haven’t walked it ourselves.

The strength of the work is Nichol’s use of syncopation and the cadence by which Milly speaks – he has created a world through her voice, her intonation, her rhythm, nothing about this text feels forced or overwritten, simply showcasing a talent deserving of the spotlight.

Nichol’s direction matches his powerful text – he knows exactly when to traverse the light and shade of the piece and when to move to the story at a pace that is transfixing but ever so unsettlingly erratic. Nichol uses every inch of the stage, refusing to allow Milly to linger too long in one place and using the limitations of theatre in the round to their advantage.

Izabella Yena is nothing short of sublime as Milly. Every aspect of the character inhabited Yena’s performance – from the delivery of the dialogue, to the physicality, to the small subtle ways in which Yena allowed Milly’s vulnerability to have a moment, there is nothing about this performance that wasn’t considered or held back. Yena has all the command of the space and story of a performer who is trusting of their craft, a performer with nothing to prove.

Harrie Hogan and Connor Ross round out the creative team with a lighting and sound design that enhance the text and spark a kaleidoscope of emotive responses, riding parallel to the powerful performance and script.

Hogan’s lighting is so effectively used within the limitations of the space – bouncing the work from one moment to the next, creating pockets of Milly’s world and illuminating her differing emotional states. Ross’s sound composition is a haunting accompaniment to Yena’s performance, used so masterfully sparingly it never fails to evoke the complexities of a world and state of mind rumbling just below the surface.

Kerosene is a perfect example of a work of theatre that has been brought together by creatives with passion, skill and drive. It is a work that packs a punch and is truly deserving of full houses and raucous applause. One hopes that it finds its way to main stages round the country in the not too distant future.

Theatre Works, 14 Acland Street, St Kilda
Performance: Wednesday 20 January 2021
Season continues to 31 January 2021
Information and Bookings:

Image: Izabella Yena stars as Milly in Kerosene – photo by Jack Dixon Gunn

Review: Gavin Roach