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THEATRE: 20 JULY 2016

By JOHN ROZENTALS

Cristina in the Cupboard, by Paul Gilchrist | Directed by Julie Baz

The Depot Theatre (http://thedepottheatre.com) | The Depot Theatre, Marrickville, Sydney | Until 30 July

Going to the Depot Theatre in Marrickville did seem a bit like a homecoming .

I hadn’t been there since it was called the Sidetrack and remembered seeing some fine work there, with Zoe Norton Lodge’s one-woman rendition of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milkwood particularly memorable.

Similarly, I hadn’t seen anything by Julie Baz and The Depot Theatre since they were know as the Sydney Independent Theatre Company and performing at the Old Fitz.

And what a deeply provocative, courageous and mysterious play with which to start a hopefully long association.

I think we all yearn for some peace and solitude, some ‘me time’, especially in an age when we are absolutely bombarded with social media being truly alone is almost impossible.

Enter Cristina, who has found her own solution to this challenge.

In Paul Gilchrist’s Cristina in the Cupboard, the young woman of the title withdraws herself completely from society and enters the quite magical world of her own imagination.

In the words of Depot’s publicity: “Cristina in the Cupboard is an exploration of the contemplative life, its wonders and its temptations. We join Cristina on a breathtaking inner journey as she navigates illusion, weathers dismay and discovers wonder.”

I was reminded a little of Nick Coyle’s Hammerhead Is Dead, during which I was never really sure whether I was watching reality or tripping inside Hammerhead’s brain.

And what a fine young actor Emily McGowan shows herself to be in this extremely difficult role, with her beatific smile suggesting a blissful innocence bordering on naivety, as she negotiates her chosen pathways on her terms, not society’s.

McGowan is supported by a fine troupe, who are generally totally convincing in their fanciful roles — Nyssa Hamilton, Teale Howie, David Jeffrey, Tasha O’Brien, Sarah Plummer, Lucy Quill and Rachael Williams.

I especially liked Howie as the lanky, dorky Gabriel.

And special mention must go to set designer David Jeffrey (who also plays onstage) who has constructed a childhood fantasy, with play equipment sandpit, etc — a place where Christina’s imagination often takes her.

Above: Rachael Williams, Sarah Plummer, Emily McGowan, Nyssa Hamilton, Lucy Quill, Teale Howie, Tasha O'Brien. All images: Katy Green Loughrey.

Emily McGowan.

Rachael Williams, Nyssa Hamilton, Emily McGowan.