AAR-Black-Swan-Theatre-Oil-photo-by-Daniel-J-Grant Oil, presented by the Black Swan State Theatre Company of Western Australia, is a piece of theatre that requires some reflection and thought after digesting its many themes and images.

Comprising five acts spanning more than 160 years, Oil takes the audience on a journey from an 1800’s farm in Ireland to an imagined chaotic future. Along that journey the production explores the major events in the production of oil and a possible future.

At times the production is hauntingly beautiful as it passes through the eras and oil becomes a relevant commodity within society.

Oil  is also an exploration of women, who over the centuries search for love, recognition and a better life. It’s about power and how relationships are formed when one achieves power.

With so many powerful themes and messages it takes a well disciplined and trained cast to perform this production.

In the opening scene, set on a farmhouse in the 1800’s, the members of the cast work together to produce a scene that is, at times, moving and deeply haunting.

Other scenes are littered with emotional truths set amongst humorous moments.

Hayley McElhinney as the lead is exceptional. She assumes several characters throughout the production with vigour and conviction. Her accents authentically change throughout the incarnations of her character as she time travels across the globe.

Oil explores the relationship between a mother and daughter. Abbey Morgan as the daughter, Amy, gives a performance that is true to teenage angst and rebellion as she battles with her mother on environmental issues as they search for truth.

The supporting cast of  Michael Abercromby, St John Cowcher, Grace Chow, Will Bastow, Polly Low, Violette Ayad, Will O’Mahony and Tinashe Mangwana are given their chance to shine throughout the various five acts and do a fantastic job.

For this reviewer, the line of the play that summed up all truths in environmental angst for young revolutionaries, was in a confrontation between mother and daughter in the desert near Kirkuk, Kurdistan in 2021:

“If you hate what I do? Takeover, make better choices. Stop being angry at the generation in power, become the generation in power.”

Oil is a play with many layers that will have you leaving questioning, not only the environmental debate, but life, love, power and relationships.

And as with all great theatre it is there to provoke, question entertain and sometimes leave the audience reflecting on what they have just witnessed. Oil manages to achieve this.

Heath Ledger Theatre – State Theatre Centre of WA, William Street, Perth
Performance: Wednesday 9 November 2022
Season continues to 27 November 2022
Information and Bookings: www.blackswantheatre.com.au

Image: Oil – photo by Daniel J Grant

Review: Craig Dalglish