In John Harvey’s Heart Is A Wasteland, a chance encounter at a pub leads two people on a road trip through the Australian Outback where they are forced to face the problems they’ve been long running away from. Directed by Rachel Maza, this First Nations storytelling and live music production tells a compelling and relatable tale of trying to find your place in the world.
Having seen the premiere production at Malthouse Theatre in 2017 starring Ursula Yovich and Aaron Pedersen, Maza’s decision to cast two leads considerably younger than Yovich and Pedersen is an interesting choice that pays off brilliantly. While Yovich and Pedersen delivered exceptional performances, Ari Maza Long and Monica Jasmine Karo bring a youthful energy to this production which makes for a fresh and alternative viewing experience for the audience as we see these two Indigenous people, at an age where naivety and jadedness begin to clash, deal with the wounds in their lives and also the wounds of their community and ancestors.Karo and Long share a wonderful chemistry together and scenes where Raye and Dan express their humour and have their awkward but natural conversations are a highlight. They portray their deepening relationship with sincerity and honesty and show the complexities of their personalities. However, there are instances with the more challenging and raw moments their characters experience that feel too performative and loses the authenticity they’ve been so carefully crafting.
With the story taking place in various locations, Maza has taken an innovative way of setting the scene with a stunning AV design from Sean Bacon. Hand drawn projections of various places including car parks, pub interiors and cemeteries are paired with filmed footage of similar places playing on a television screen. Not only does this allow for very smooth and inventive scene transitions, but the contrast of these two designs ties in well with Raye and Dan’s struggle of floating somewhere between fantasy and reality.
Heart Is A Wasteland is a road trip love story of two people who are as lost and lonely as each other. While Harvey’s script flows beautifully, it is also the original songs written by Lydia Fairhall that capture and pull at our hearts as we see this passionate story play out.
Heart Is A Wasteland was performed at Arts Centre Melbourne between 25 - 27 August.
Image Credit: Tiffany Garvie