Production photography by Brett Boardman
“Never in my life has the right thing happened at the right time.”
Katherine Thomson’s iconic Australian play is revived by director Darren Yap at the Griffin Theatre Company for their 2017 season. Set in Wollongong, Diving for Pearls inspects the economic rationalism of the late ‘80s and the effect political decisions of the era had on opportunity and income for the working class, still impacting some today.
Ursula Yovich is brilliant as Barbara, a woman going through a rough patch who despite this, is eager to learn and immerse herself in the new job market while approaching 40. Steve Rodgers is the gentle Den, a steel work labourer adjusting to the new demands of the times. Together they compliment each other’s opposing personalities and form a wonderful (and at times comic) dynamic on stage. The range of passion Barbara and Den exude for one another reaches an ugly dramatic climax in Act 2, contrasting their affection during the first Act. Ebony Vagulans is another stand-out as Barbara’s intellectually disabled daughter Verge, who moves in to live with Barbara and Den, much to their surprise. Michelle Doake is the hilariously uptight Marj, sister of Barbara with an accent attempting to allude to higher status, particularly compared to the working class status of the other characters. Jack Finsterer is the serious Ron, Den’s brother-in-law and industrial consultant.
Griffin is well known for having a small stage, and the use of space was innovative. Set and costume designer James Browne had wonderful attention to detail, leaving no part of the stage unused. From small model houses lining the industrial pipes and dresser, to the grassy knoll that could then be flipped-up into the underground industrial areas of the town was a great transition from the natural to man-made modern world.
While having the ability to find humour in the often dark parts of the story, director Darren Yap reflects, “In the end, the hard thing this play says to me is: if you don’t change you will be changed.” Certainly Diving For Pearls is a comment on the ever-evolving world we live in, from the changing job market to the increasing over-reliance on technology. Our work is to adapt. Yapp believes we should “remember and cherish the past, but don’t live in it. We have to move forward. As I get older, I find that a harsh reality.” And perhaps this is the harsh reality of all the characters within Diving For Pearls. Life goes on for better or worse.
Diving For Pearls is on at Griffin Theatre Company from the 15th September – 28th October at 7pm Monday – Friday with additional 2pm shows on Saturdays and Tuesday 24th October.