Writer: Kirsty Marillier
SBW Stables, Darlinghurst
February 18 – March 19, 2022
While Kirsty Marillier’s debut play Orange Thrower lights up the Stables’ small stage with the energy of its lovely young cast it also explores the dark side of the coming-of-age of two mixed-race South African (SA) immigrant sisters. Often exuberantly funny and strutting the wild side, it also offers a deeply moving portrayal of the struggle to find self-acceptance.
The every-thing-in-place- sitting room (designer Jeremy Allen) tells the uptight story of the Peterson family on the aspirational home estate of Paradise aka Australia. Built-in shelves offer a restrained nod to SA origins displaying a book on Mandela and two giraffes on the lowest shelf and on the uppermost two sprays of wattle acknowledge the Peterson’s new homeland.
Zadie (an appealing Gabriela Van Wyk), the elder daughter, is aware of how hard her parents have struggled to own a house in a respectable suburb and still struggle to be accepted into their mostly white Paradise WhatsApp group. “Why so quiet?” asks Yolandi, Zadie’s mother, phoning from Johannesburg, of the sleeping household – apprising us of a long parental absence – to be immediately followed by the loud, repeated whack of an object hitting the walls.
The something turns out to be now-mangled oranges which land “near the – not on the welcome mat” as Zadie’s friend, LeRoy (an endearing Callen Colley) phrases it to lessen the message that there is no joy for the family in Paradise despite strenuous efforts to fit in. Nor any rewards it seems for Leroy. He clearly hankers after Zadie, but despite a hot moment when seeing him in orange fluoro speedos, Zadie is fearful of letting down her parent’s values.
Her irrepressible sister, Vims (a charming Mariama Whitton), keeps up a dutiful front but cheerfully pursues her own young girl’s agenda. She sneaks off to raves, wears sparkling boots and glitter make-up, vapes, is happy working at the comically named franchise Chook Treat and yearns for Africa. She doesn’t want the place at Notre Dance University that her family assumes she will take and her relationship with “good-girl” but unhappy Zadie is becoming increasingly conflicted.
Stuck in Paradise, their future looks dark but for the mysterious arrival of Stekkie (a gorgeous Angela Nica Sullen), a larger-than-life cousin who simply appears in the Peterson house. She has been summoned to this moment, a watershed in the lives of the two girls, a distressed Zadie anxiously striving to fit in and tormented by snide white neighbour Sharron (a preening Colley) and Vims, covertly rebellious and likely to flee. Loud, sexy, and knowing how to move her hips, haunted and haunting Stekkie brings both chaos and radiance helping her kin to find their ‘bigness’ in the suffocating littleness of suburbia
The play’s strength lies in Marillier’s ability to communicate the deepest and most complex feelings of her characters and Okenyo’s understanding direction enhances the play’s impact. It is difficult to imagine that anyone could see Orange Thrower without being deeply moved.