At What Cost?
Truth, country and the blood in between.
As I enter the theatre the stage is surrounded by drift wood and long logs placed like a border closing me off from the stage, there is a table and two chairs on the far left. The set remains minimal throughout the performance and as I will soon witness, the show is down to the powerful performances of the talented cast members. Led by Luke Carroll, they will be enough to keep audiences transfixed.
Nathan Maynard’s At What Cost? performed at the Bille Brown Theatre has the original cast of the production delving back into an emotional exploration of Palawa and Indigenous people’s difficult history seeking connection to land and name and difficulties with the current identity politics.
At What Cost? Set in Putalina, Tasmania, it follows the story of Boyd (Luke Carroll) , his partner Nala (Sandy Greenwood) and his cousin Daniel (Ari Maza Long) as they await the return of stolen ancestral remains. Boyd is chosen by Aboriginal Land Council to prepare the ceremonial fire for ancestor William Lanne, whose remains were residing in a British museum. With the remains returned, the ceremony will allow him to be passed on to his ancestors in the sky.
Boyd’s cousin Daniel, has returned to Putalina, Tasmania after a stint living in Melbourne and there is obvious love and kinship between them even though Boyd enjoys teasing him for his city living and work for a non-profit organization. Long gives sensitive performance full of masculine bravado and insecurity as he longs to fit in and find his place and identity too. Boyd has strong opinions about people who claim Indigeneity and has grown weary of people he calls “tick-a-box” ers (people who claim Indigenous identity in the census for roles in workplaces or applying for Government grants). More of them have been showing up around Putalina and when Boyd finds out a non-Indigenous woman Gracie (Alex Malone) has put a tent up near his land saying she’s a research student he gets suspicious, while Daniel enjoys the female company, encouraging her into their life.
The cast is small with only four main characters but the performances from Carrol and Greenwood are so fantastic and believable you feel like you’re witnessing a real couple discussing their issues and their sexual chemistry had me thinking they were really partners. Carrol has a ferocity that is captivating during his monologues and elevates the entire production. Gracie (Alex Malone) is every bit the entitled student she plays, and hats off for being as loathsome as she is meant to be.
At What Cost? Is ultimately a tragic tale with a heart wrenching finish. It lays out many of the struggles we may be aware of for Indigenous people but also opened my eyes to so many more injustices that they still have to compete against. It's so important to have works like this out there for the public to gain further insight into these ongoing struggles for Indigenous people making for incredibly powerful theatre.
Review: Thomas Harrison
Imagery: Brett Boardman