Fifteen years after the death of their teenage school friend, Dylan and Solar jump in a car to drive from Adelaide to Mudgee, their friend’s hometown. A lot happens between 15 and 30, and they have a Long Drive Together.
Road trips are a cliched metaphor for personal journeys because they are the perfect metaphor. The characters are alone, they are as bored as they are excited or terrified, and no one really knows what’s going to happen as the scenery changes and they get further away from a problem to arrive at the real issue.
Neptune Henriksen has worked, written and performed in Australia, UK and USA. Long Drive Together is their first full-length work and it feels like a natural development from stand-up comedy and solo performances.
It’s a very personal story that’s based on their experience and the death by suicide of a friend.
Henriksen also directed the work and performs alongside Lou Sebial. Sebial’s subtlety complements Henriksen’s exuberance, and they work together with a bond that feels like they’ve been friends for ever.
While an external director could help to temper and shape the piece, the self-direction brings an honesty and focus to this work. At times, their conversations lean towards “I want the audience to know this and have to spell it out”, but these moments don’t feel unnatural in the script.
It’s structured with a theatricality that gives unexpected shape and contrast, including some killer chorey to teenage-angst pop, and a vivid drive through vineyards that says everything about how small towns change.
It’s writing that wants to tell a personal story and succeeds by using the emotion of Henriksen’s experience without revealing personal details. The connection to the work is emotional and real even if you haven’t had a similar experience. It’s about loss and grief and growing up when someone you love was left behind. And it’s about friendship.
New writing is exciting. And the only way new writers become great writers is by getting their work onto a stage an seeing how audiences react. There’s room for development in Long Drive Together, but these two characters are reaching the hearts of their audience and I’m excited to see what Henriksen writes next.
Long Drive Together
The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 9 February 2024
Season continues to 10 February 2024
Information and Bookings: www.midsumma.org.au
Image: Lou Sebial and Neptune Henriksen in Long Drive Together – courtesy of Neptune Henriksen
Review: Anne-Marie Peard