Dropped, by Katy Warner | Directed by Anthony Skuse

The Goods Theatre Co & Red Line Productions | Old Fitz Theatre, Woolloomooloo, Sydney | Until 20 December

Melbourne playwright Katy Warner won the 2010 Victorian Writer’s Centre Award for Best Emerging Playwright, and in this, her latest work, she convincingly demonstrates that she is a worthy winner. We are told in the Director’s notes that this play is Warner’s response to the 2011 parliamentary decision to allow women to fight on the frontline.

So, fittingly, the play commences with two female soldiers immobilised, for reasons that are never flagged, in a sand pit that represents a desert. We are never privy to the exact circumstances — time, place etc — but what is made dramatically clear is that these two women are in a very bad place.

In their communal stasis they share stories and rituals that have obviously been carefully constructed to assist with the nightmare scenario they have found themselves in. Their conversation, in true absurdist fashion, is both desultory and disjointed. They have been left behind in a world that has been constructed for them — trapped in a desert, narrowed down to a graveyard containing corpses of children, it appears there is no way out.

Warner freely rifts on Beckett, incorporating existentialistic ideas and repetitive dialogue. The well paced tension emerges mainly from the stories that are told fondly and then retold, in the shared hope that the dreaded realism of what has occurred will somehow be softened by each retelling.

The two soldiers are protecting a base, but have long ago forgotten why they are protecting it, if indeed they ever knew. Desperately they try to piece together why they are there and why they can’t leave.

Superbly staged at The Old Fitzroy, Lisa Mimmocchi’s ingenious sand-pit set ably assists the claustrophobic ambiguity that allows the two actors (Deborah Galanos and Olivia Rose) to bring to the stage fully explored character studies and slowly but expertly showcase their character’s individual anxieties as the time closes in.

Both actors deliver the spare, confrontational dialogue as a form of offensive weapons as they try to fathom how they have arrived in ‘no man’s land’.

This is austere absurdist theatre. Anthony Skuse’s expert direction accentuates the tensions and symbolism in the text and masterfully manipulates the drama to its resulting and unsettling conclusion.

It sounds grim but it is a most rewarding theatrical experience. Try to catch it.

Thumbs up!

Above and below: Olivia Rose and Deborah Galanos. Images: Christine Chahoud.