James Slee, Luke Carroll, Shari Sebbens, Roxanne McDonald, Guy Simon. All images: Lisa Tomasetti.



The Battle of Waterloo, by Kylie Coolwell | Directed by Sarah Goodes

Sydney Theatre Company | Wharf 1 Theatre, Walsh Bay, Sydney | Until 27 June

Battle of Waterloo is Kylie Coolwell’s first play and she has chosen to set it in an inner suburb of Sydney, a mere four kilometres from the CBD.  However, the ironically named James Cook Housing Tower is in so many ways a million miles from the affluence of the city centre.

Here, unemployment, jail and drug abuse are just three of the numerous problems. Coolwell lives in this area and she uses the battle of the indigenous community to remain here as a major theme in her play.

The extended family who inhabit Aunt Mavis’s (Roxanne McDonald) small flat provide the narrative. Brother and sister, Jack (James Slee) and Cassie (Shari Sebbens), and their significant others. Uncle Milo (Billy McPherson), Sissy (Shareena Clanton), Leon (Guy Simon) and Ray (Luke Carroll) all at various times take refuge here.  The drama documents the highs and lows of family life lived in, as it were, a modern doll’s house.

It is also a poignant love story between Cassie, a student of fashion design, and Ray her boyfriend who has recently be released from jail. Both Shari Sebbens and Luke Carroll deliver compelling performances.

Sebbens succinctly captures the quiet determination of aspiration, and has an extraordinary stage presence, whilst Luke Carroll is perfectly suited to his physically demanding role and generates a powerful enactment. He has spent three years locked up and his energy is tangible. Likewise, Shareena Clanton delivers a frenetic and pace-setting rendering of the volatile Sissy, Leon’s and Cassie’s sister, who is undergoing a continuous struggle with substance abuse.

There is a great deal of chaos that takes place in this tiny urban flat, but at the same time there is a constant internal support system due to Aunt Mavis’s matriarchal presence, as she simply but persistently struggles to maintain the family structure. Roxanne McDonald is majestic in this role.

Indeed, all performances are carefully crafted under Sarah Goodes’ expert direction as she orchestrates this examination of contemporary indigenous urban domestic life by accentuating the poetic realism of the script and elevating the drama out of mere social realism.

The production values managed by Kate Chapman are equally impressive and functionally inventive, and Renee Mulder’s set is nothing short of amazing as she cleverly conveys estate living, showing us both the interior and the exterior, and its impact on the unfolding community drama.

This is theatre that will make you stop and reflect. We are witnessing a shared reality that is localised, but in truth is probably global. Thumbs up!

Luke Carroll, Shari Sebbens.

Shari Sebbens.

James Slee, Luke Carroll.

Shareena Clanton, Roxanne McDonald, Luke Carroll, Billy McPherson.