MPAC Think Tank – Sugarland Review


SUGARLAND – Review by Nicholas Tan

On Tuesday 24th May, I had the opportunity to watch “Sugarland” at MPAC. The play is written by Rachael Coopes and Wayne Blair, directed by Fraser Corfield and David Page, and produced by the Australian Theatre for Young People. I was lucky enought to participant in one of the development programs offered by ATYP at the time when “Sugarland” was first staged in Sydney (but I did not get the opportunity at the time to see the show). So I was excited to finally see the production at MPAC and indeed it was a great production, with engaging performances by the young actors. In a nutshell, the play is about a group of teenagers and their counsellor who are seeking escape from the futile situations that they face in the town of Katherine in the Northern Territory.

The first thing that stood out for me was the design elements. The set comprised of red sand/pebbles, blocks and had a general rustic look. It really took me to Katherine and made me feel like I was  isolated somewhere in the outback. Isolation (isolated from support, as well as physical isolation from the city) is one of the themes that we are continually asked to engage with throughout the play. As well as this, there are other important themes in the play, such as cultural diversity, however, I found that “Sugarland” aimed to speak to me most as a young person.   Even without having inside knowledge of Katherine, I found that this wasn’t needed and the universality of the character’s stories were what spoke to me.

The second thing that caught my attention was the portrayal of the risky behaviours the characters were engaging in. The play did not shy away from these darker behaviours. At the same time, the actors did not over exaggerate these actions/choices. I must say that I was slightly disturbed that the addictions and other risky behaviours were portrayed so “normally”. Interestingly, the play does not show a resolution or the full consequences of the characters’ actions. I am, however, reminded near the end of the show by Nina’s tale of the boy who wishes to fix Country that the story does not end when the lights go down. The message of hope I get from watching “Sugarland” is that despite our limited knowledge, the consequences of our unwise actions, and even the circumstances we cannot control, we can still choose to make the best of our present circumstances.