Every now and again a local original work comes along that defines a prominent issue and gives it a powerful theatrical voice. Lachlan Philpott’s new play ‘Truck Stop’, commissioned by Q Theatre Company and directed by Katrina Douglas is that play.
It was a privilege to see something so sophisticated in its writing and production that I encourage everyone to see it and if you have teenagers, take them with you and use it to springboard a discussion with them into current teenage trends and behaviour in this global accessible graphic world we now live in.
‘Truck Stop’ is based on a true story where two 14 year old girls were prostituting themselves in their lunch break at the truck stop down the road from their high school. But it is much more than this. It explores a highly sexualised immature culture where a real knowledge, understanding and comprehension of the consequences of sexualised activity and images are missing from the behaviour itself. It is action without emotion, a numbed idea of the reality of what you do and what it means, when the impact and footprint of the now can’t be felt, where the idea that ‘everyone is doing it’ is enough permission you need.
I can tell you how much truth there is in this. It is not a small scale problem. Incredibly young teens are sending each other nude text pictures, sexting, engage in sexual activity, easily accessing pornography and there is a feeling that this is what is expected or the norm. Sex has become a commodity and the idea that love and sex are disconnected permeates through.
Philpott captures this issue using a cast of 4 as his vehicle. His eclectic style, a combination of direct audience narration, real time action, transformational acting, linear time shifts, audio visual overlays, popular culture songs, internal verbalised monologues- they all offer an insight into the actions and motivations and relationships of these characters. Apart from that, it leaves the audience with some really big questions to consider. As psychologist Michelle says to Sam “Where do you live? Not the house or street or suburb but in here. If you can’t see the difference between what’s going on in there and what’s happening around you, what’ll happen to you?” How can we teach teenagers who are immersed in an uncensored adult world how to process and respond to it? And whose responsibility is it to teach them?
‘Truck Stop’ is given great respect and life by director Katrina Douglas and her outstanding cast. Douglas utilises Philpott’s words in the frame of designer Michael Hankin’s set, like a rough, barren school square, surrounded by metal benches and neglected scrub. It’s a clinical, functional area, left without nurture or care and it is made clear in this play that the characters have been relegated to this area as they didn’t get in quick enough to grab anything else worthwhile. It’s a powerful metaphor of their own existence and age- trapped in a wasted area and left to survive as best as they can. Nothing beautiful can grow here.
Actors Eryn Jean Norvill (Sam), Jessica Tovey (Kelly), Kirsty Best (Aisha) and Elena Carapetis (playing an ensemble of roles) were superb. They created roles of such conviction, flavour, integrity and tension so audience couldn’t help but engage in these journeys. It was the perfect recipe of cast to complement Philpott’s intent.
This is a play I cannot recommend highly enough. Writing about it doesn’t really do it justice. This is a play you just need to see. Now.