On the Beach

STC-On-the-Beach-photo-by-Daniel-BoudOn the Beach is a beautifully symphonic production that enhances rather than reinvent a classic story.

In an idyllic and carefree corner of Australia, a town waits for the fall out of a war to come, a radioactive dust cloud rolling in on the winds, threatening to end life as they know it. But life must go on. And the winds might not come. And hope must remain.

Tommy Murphy brings his well-worn brand of humanity to Nevil Shute’s classic story, focusing in on the heart of the characters, what drives them to keep on going each tragic day and embedding the work with a deep and lasting empathy.

Murphy superbly subverts the large scope of the story, instead making each moment and action a choice or reaction from the core of the characters, the emotional heartbeat, the words unsaid and the acceptance of a final breath.

Kip Williams takes the micro focus of the work and places the story and characters into a world that is large and beyond their surroundings. Williams conducts the production like a symphony, separately but equally focusing on each production element, weaving a song together and creating an expansive and thunderous complement to the sparse yet detailed nuance of the script.

Matthew Backer, Tony Cogin, Michelle Lim Davidson, Emma Diaz, Vanessa Downing, Tai Hara, Genevieve Lee, Ben O’Toole, Contessa Treffone, Kiki Wales, Elijah Williams and Alan Zhu make up the extremely talented ensemble, each bringing a haunting innocence to the characters and world.

There are times however, when the cast’s commitment to the heightened choices and style make what would have been powerful performances feeling very two dimensional and one note.

Set Designer Michael Hankin, Lighting Designer Damien Cooper, Composer Grace Ferguson and Sound Designer Jessica Dunn work in a stunning symbiotic unison, creating designs that allow the space to feel full within its emptiness. Such innovative techniques are used to bring a world we once new to life on stage, without ever losing the romantic nostalgia.

Given the work’s grand design, respectful nod to Australiana and the epic formation of story and the richness of the world created, there is no reason that this work should not become an Australian theatre classic.

On the Beach
Roslyn Packer Theatre, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay (Sydney)
Performance: Saturday 5 August 2023
Season continues to 12 August 2023
Information and Bookings: www.sydneytheatre.com.au

Image: On the Beach – photo by Daniel Boud

Review: Gavin Roach