Review: Signs of Life

Tim Winton has over the last twenty years engraved himself into our culture. He arose out of the waves of Western Australia and has risen all the way to Living National Treasure. A superb and unique author.

It is only recently that he has turned his pen to playwriting, “Signs of Life” is his second play after last years “Rising Water”. It is a co-production of the Sydney Theatre Company and the Black Swan State Theatre Company from Perth.

“Signs of Life” is unmistakably a Winton work, it’s concerned with place, identity and belonging. It reminded me strongly of the English “kitchen sink” dramas of the sixties, it felt as if you came into an ongoing story at some random moment and left it the same way while in between you saw lives unfolding with all the difficulties and pasts that life holds. It is a somewhat sequel to his novel “Dirt Music” which I must admit to never having read. That may have to change.

Heather Mitchell, Pauline Whyman and Aaron Pederson do a marvellous job supported by George Shevstov. The men have a difficult job in this play as neither character feels really central and well developed, it is the two women who carry the play forward while the men have roles that are more explanatory and narrative. Pederson, in particular, has a difficult job as he and Mitchell have most of the dialogue while he shows only a little of himself and little variation in character. When his character shows it is important, large to him and so subtle. He is, in a word, superb. Shevstov looks right, an ageing hippy, but somehow never seemed right to me.

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