A wild rainy night on the Great Ocean Road. Harry franticly rushes into a nearby veterinary clinic with a bleeding animal wrapped in a sheet. He is met by Piper, an idealist American zoologist and her activist paramour and vet Andy. Both don’t yet realise that Harry is a mining magnate, and he just ran over a tiger quoll. It is the first time in 10 years that one has been seen in the Otway forest, and it looks like it won’t survive the night. This is the initial compelling hook for the Australian play ‘Extinction‘, by accomplished and prolific Fitzroy writer Hannie Rayson.
If we had one reservation coming to the Arts Centre from reading the play blurb was that it would be mainly have an ideological focus. Far from it. The environment, and the near extinction of Australian mammals is the backdrop for an intricate and layered drama that moves with remarkable dexterity from messy intimate relationships to a grand narrative provoking reflection on our mortality and role as a species.
Each of the four characters have strong moral convictions, but personal circumstances put them in situations where they have to compromise, manipulate and lie. The writing is excellent, and succeeds in not giving the audience any easy perspective to side with. My plus one argued that none of the characters are easy to like, but agreed that their failings make them easier to relate to, and to empathise with. It also very effectively demonstrates how politics and morality are personal. People, relationships are messy — despite our best intentions.
This interesting story moves along briskly, despite the runtime of two-and-a-half hours (including interval). My plus one thought at times that the quickly shifting from one set to another was jarring, but it does have the effect of keeping us engaged throughout. With first-rate acting, production and set design, this a piece that is hard to find fault with and easy to recommend to any lover of theatre.
Christian G. is an international man of mystery; lover of books, cats and the performing arts; moonlighting as a finance professional by day.
‘Extinction‘ runs 9-13 August 2016 at Arts Centre Melbourne.
The venue is accessible.