Wayne Blair and Rachael Coopes worked with young people in Katherine to create this slice-of-life play for ATYP
Commissioned by ATYP, and the product of a 2011 residency in the remote Northern Territory town of Katharine, Sugarland is a slice of life – or lives – you don’t usually get to see. It’s co-written by Wayne Blair and Rachael Coopes, and inspired by the lives of the young people they talked to during their residency.
They spun these stories and people into a play about a group of teens who are struggling with family life for various reasons and are pinning their dreams on winning a singing competition that will give them $5000 and a trip to Darwin. Interwoven with this is a dreamtime-style story about a young boy.
There are parts of the teen experience in Katherine that are foreign (the concept of ‘shame’), parts that are shocking (‘choking’ seems to be a popular recreational sport), and parts that are familiar (self-harm, drug abuse). The script cannily avoids the plot and character clichés, however, and presents a story that is equal parts sad, troubling, funny and uplifting. Mostly, you get a sense of young people forging a family for themselves
The direction is straight-forward and effective, and the ensemble deliver strong performances; Dubs Yunupingu is a stand-out, with a an intriguing mix of natural self-assurance (she’s also a dancer) and teen self-consciousness, and a gorgeous voice.
This is a review of the 2014 premiere of Sugarland at ATYP.