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Through These Lines - Darlington Theatre Players

Reviewed by Kate O'Sullivan

 

CONTENT WARNING: Through These Lines contains depictions of sexual assault, violence, suicidal intention, violence and war injuries, some of which are discussed below. It also has significant gun and explosion sound effects.


"An Australian play based on the letters and diaries of Australian army nurses serving in World War I" feels like an incomplete description of this complex play directed by Michelle Ezzy for Darlington Theatre Players.


For the most part, this play is one of individual moments in time through the lens of Australian nurse Flo Whiting. We witness the excitement, apprehension and sense of adventure as a group of nurses and soldiers all set sail for what awaits them in the unknown of the War. This is followed by the despondency that sets in when the realities of war are met head-on as we transition to the wards, the operating rooms, and the trenches.


You can feel the work that has been done on this show in the performances themselves. The cast works seamlessly together, transitioning between characters and different relationships in each vignette. There are a couple of rogue accents in one scene but, for the most part, the Australian, English and American character accents are solid and consistent throughout the team. While all the performers do a wonderful job of their hugely varied characters, Joanna Tyler must be commended for her emotional and heart-wrenching performance in the few scenes she has as Staff Nurse April Guilford, whose short storyline includes a sexual assault and the aftermath of that event. The use of the director's experience with intimacy coordination is clear. All the actors involved in these moments are confident and comfortable in their portrayals of this uncomfortable subject.


With this being a bitsy show of connected vignettes, Michelle Ezzy and the cast have done a solid job of keeping the show from being too confusing or feeling unfocused. However, due to the number of similar characters and the small cast, there are moments where it is hard to tell which characters are present in the scene and how much time has passed. Clever costuming does help at times, such as the different nurses' outfits by country of origin, but it can still take a moment for the audience to distinguish between which soldiers and nurses are onstage. The actors have done a lot of work giving each character some distinguishing features through physicality and vocal choices to help the audience. However, this lack of clarity is more due to the structure of the show and the rapidity with which we move through the story than any specific directorial choice.


To say there is an army of people behind this production is an understatement, and it shows. The costumes are beautiful and work has clearly gone into ensuring they feel authentic. The use of three revolves in the set allows for changes of set at a regularity and scale we don't often see in locally produced theatre. While there were a few technical teething problems on opening night, I am sure these will iron themselves out as the season progresses. The sound and lighting create a wonderfully evocative atmosphere, especially in the late-night scenes and in the sectioning off of areas of the stage to create more intimate moments. There are times when the music (written by Keiran Ridgeway and performed by a live band) does drown out some of the performers, especially in the quieter moments of contemplation, but it is a wonderful addition to the sound and rhythm of the show.


A show that kept many audience members chatting in the foyer long after the show had ended, this reviewer would recommend getting along to this one if you can.


Christopher Steicke (Actor 5) and Joanna Tyler (Actor 2 as April Guilford): Photography by Sean Breadsell/Immaculate Photography

Reviewer note: Kate has been directed by Michelle Ezzy at Melville Theatre and Anatomical Heart Productions. She previously performed at Darlington Theatre Players in 2022. Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.

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