World Problems

AAR MTC Carly Sheppard in World Problems photo by Tiffany GarvieI remember seeing Emma Mary Hall performing her World Problems in 2019. I remember loving it. I remember being excited to see it again with a different performer and director.

I remember being thrilled that it was part of the MTC education and families program and that it would be seen on a main stage and by student audiences. And I remember being as fascinated and captivated by this now re-developed script again.

Carly Sheppard enters through a vortex that feels like watching the opening credits of Dr Who on a black and white tv. It looks like the frame of an abandoned ship with everything in shades of grey.

She’s wearing a shirt made that could have been made from every checked and flannel shirt she has ever worn that have faded to grey and been mended into a new shirt that no longer feels like hers but holds her memories.

World Problems begins with memories. “I remember …” is repeated so many times that it’s easy to forget that they are writer’s memories and not your own.

Maybe you don’t remember the first time you got period blood on your school uniform, watching the Berlin Wall fall on TV, hearing Whitney sing, telling a partner you hate them, or driving to Canberra through smoke on the day of the capital territory’s worst bushfires.

Maybe you do. These memories are specific and personal, but open enough that it’s easy to hear your own story and your own memories as you connect with Sheppard’s telling of Hall’s life.

Sheppard isn’t Hall and she isn’t a character. She’s memories. And as the memories move into now – where refugees are burnt alive on piles of garbage – to an unlived future – where concrete surrounds us, relationships still end in yelling, and clothing becomes something to keep human bodies safe and alive – she becomes everyone. She becomes humanity. She becomes our hope that we won’t destroy our world so that it becomes colourless and dangerous.

Director Cassandra Fumi and designer Dann Barber recently won Melbourne Green Room awards for their 2023 production of Crocodile and are becoming an independent creative team with a very strong voice in Melbourne’s indie theatre.

Their interpretation of World Problems (with Harrie Hogan’s lighting design and Rachel Lewindon’s sound design) takes the text away from the original personal reflection and story and into a world that explores possibilities of where our world is heading.

Its literal stage darkness is bleak but there’s no despair.

Sheppard remembers the 1980s as clearly as 300 years in the future. She wants change but she also goes with the flow of change and adapts. She never loses hope and that is carried through memories that are sad and frustrating or funny and loving.

And while it’s easy to get lost in your own memories while watching, this hope ensures that the audience don’t get lost in the darkness and remember that life keeps going on no matter what we remember from our past.

The MTC education and families program reached new audiences by telling stories that ask questions about where we are today and how we want to change, as it continues to bring our amazing independent theatre makers onto our main stages.

World Problems
Southbank Theatre, The Lawler, Southbank Boulevard, Southbank (Melbourne)
Performance: Wednesday 8 May 2024
Season continues to 22 May 2024
Information and Bookings:

Following its Melbourne season, World Problems embarks on a Victorian regional tour to selected venues from 24 May – 7 June 2024. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Carly Sheppard in World Problems – photo by Tiffany Garvie

Review: Anne-Marie Peard