It takes a lot for me to get emotional when watching theatre. As a reviewer, I’m often safely guarded and fairly objective – even when witnessing the most tragic of operas. In fact, I don’t recall the last time I was overwhelmed by a play to the point of letting out tears, until I saw the Black Swan State Theatre Company’s touching production of The Lighthouse Girl. Three times, yes three, those tears started to fall. In fact, and I was a little embarrassed since I noticed my guest had only wiped her eyes twice.
The story is one that’s close to home, quite literally: about a young girl, Fay, stationed in a lighthouse with her father, on windswept Breaksea Island off WA’s Great Southern coast. Set in 1914, with the outbreak of war abroad, in which Australia has been ordered to take part in, Fay ﬁnds herself transcribing Morse code messages from soldiers stationed off-shore. She’s also a dab hand at semaphore (ie: flag-signing) and begins her message-taking as ships pass by Breaksea, on their way to northern hemisphere quarters.
It’s here she ‘meets’ (from afar) a young soldier named Charlie, who has no family, and so Fay becomes his one point of correspondence. While theirs is a relationship based on long distance – and though they’ve never physically met – it blossoms nonetheless into something sweet and powerful, that even the simplest telegrams keep both Fay and Charlie wide-eyed and hopeful.
War stories are often full of subplots of passion, their many mini elements of joy and tragedy adding up to create a greater story within the bigger dramatic picture. And this one is no different.
Penned by Albany author Dianne Wolfer, who also wrote a novel from protagonist Charlie’s perspective (The Light Horse Boy), the dialogue in The Lighthouse Girl is rich with romantic gesture, but also interspersed with comedy and, sure enough, tragedy.
If you’ve not read the novels, I won’t want to spoil the ending for you, suffice to say that The Lighthouse Girl had this reviewer experiencing a gamut of emotions throughout its humble hundred minutes (hence the tears).
Black Swan director, Stuart Halusz, has not only done a superb job in pulling this story together for the stage by managing to present various disparate locales on the one physical plane (ie: Breaksea vs Gallipoli; Melbourne set against Cairo) but, together with a crafty team of lighting and sound technicians, manages to traverse the play’s dichotomous moods seemingly with ease, emotions that could have ended up a mess fighting for the spotlight, but instead fall into place majestically.
The cast, too, is magnificent, particularly lead actress, Daisy Coyle, whose massive amount of lines might otherwise appear daunting to even the most seasoned of actors. Watch this talent; she’s going to go far.
The last I heard, seats were selling fast for this production, so you better get in quick before you find out they have all sold out. If you do miss this, you might just be crying a different set of tears to the bittersweet ones I let rip. Antonino Tati
‘The Lighthouse Girl’ is on at Studio Underground, Heath Ledger Theatre, Perth until May 14. Tickets, if available, through www.bsstc.com.au.
Stage photography by Lee Griffith.