By Ash Cottrell
Parking is always a nightmare at Theatre Works in St Kilda. Despite this inevitable logistical hurdle, I’ve been enthusiastically attending shows at the venue for over ten years now. In saying that, I’ve never arrived not flustered and without the fear of Port Phillip City Council towing my car. Last Wednesday evening, was no different. Despite this stressful, yet familiar malaise, I managed to inhale a house glass of Cab Sav before taking my seat to see what, Lemon Tree on Dreg Street had to offer its audience.
I’ve seen some wonderful plays at Theatre Works over the years, some of the very best plays I’ve ever seen, in fact. While that has not been the case for some time, I was pleasantly surprised with this heart-warming, offbeat show. Lemon Tree on Dreg Street told the story of two twenty-something misfits, Twiglet and Boots who found themselves at a crossroads. Their tumbledown home on the outskirts of an unnamed locale is being threatened by the impending doom of developers and the encroaching horror of gentrification. While this storyline provided the foundation for this tale, at its heart, this is an exploration of a coming of age – where friends that are inextricably linked, are confronted with differing dreams and prospects. One wanting to stand still and the other, having dreams of living a bigger life. A relatable concept, done solidly here.
I enjoyed the quirkiness of the writing, written by Melbourne based artist, Amy May Nunn and directed with vision by, Miranda Middleton. Some of the more eccentric elements of the storytelling surrounded ‘Possum’, played insightfully by Michelle Perera. Possum was a squatter of sorts, living in a tent in the front yard of Twiglet and Boots’ place and one of the central plot points of this show surrounded the wedding of Possum and her beloved lemon tree, also residing in the front yard. Interestingly, the subject of objectophilia never came up. The wedding of Possum and said lemon tree, was officiated by an equally complicated character, Cowgirl, played by Milo Hartill, with humour and heart.
The acting was solid across the board and while the performances were enjoyable and expertly delivered, projection and sound were an intermittent issue. Not being able to hear actors or actors delivering dialogue over loud transition music is one of my pet peeves at the theatre. It has an air of amateurism to it, and I seem to be seeing a lot of it lately. That, and blocking resulting in the audience losing dialogue.
While the costume and set design weren’t particularly to my taste, they served story and provided a fun and light atmosphere. I did think at times though, that the ‘Australianness’ was pushed a little and that the socio-economic realm that the play was clearly trying to capture, felt somewhat inauthentic. With that said, other elements, such as the incorporation of song and poetry, created a rich and dynamic world for the audience.
When questioned the next day about my night at the theatre, the word that kept coming up in my response was – delightful. Lemon Tree on Dreg Street was a bit of fun and may just have uncovered a raw and unbridled talent in, Milo Hartill, whose onstage presence was impassioned and irreverent in all the right ways. If you’re looking for a sweet story about the family we choose and can find a park at Theatre Works, this one just might be for you.