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At What Cost? - Belvoir St Theatre

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by Emma Jane Explores (Emma Caldwell) (subscribe)
I'm a freelance actor, travel writer, photographer, foodie and attention seeker living in the lower North Shore. Check out my blog at www.emmajaneexplores.com for more.
Event: -
I'm obsessed about being dispossessed
A starlit stage, the playing space marked out by bone-white branches, awaits audiences as they trickle into Belvoir's stunning production of At What Cost by Nathan Maynard. This eerie beauty of a world, even in the pre-show state, is laced with song and story that hints at the powerful work that is to come.

At What Cost tells the story of proud Palawa man, Boyd, who lives on country in Tasmania and serves as a custodian and protector of the lands. He is married to Nala and they're about to make the transition to parenthood. His cousin, Daniel, has returned to country after living in Melbourne and he and Boyd have a brotherly relationship.

Production images by Brett Boardman


Boyd's focus is on the remains of an ancestor being returned to them and the heavy responsibility to cremate the remains and send them up to the ancestors in the sky. As he is preparing for this solemn and important event, a young woman arrives on country and turns their world upside down with terrible consequences.

Nathan Maynard's incredibly powerful play weaves in dream-like storytelling with strong themes of identity and loss. His characters feel well-rounded and nuanced, all at once allowing us to enjoy the sweet everyday moments between Boyd and Nala and then feel the enormous weight of preserving culture and community lying heavily on his shoulders.

Production images by Brett Boardman


Director Isaac Drandic allows Maynard's powerful writing to take centre stage, creating a world steeped in tradition and generations of storytelling but also manages to make the day-to-day scenes feel natural and genuine. Jacob Nash's set design creates this world perfectly, a set that breathtakingly adapts to the narrative of the play and features in the work's tragic climax.

Luke Carroll's Boyd shows great depth as he navigates his character's desire to be a good husband and father married up to his feelings of anger and frustration at the so-called "claimers" who he sees as trying to dispossess him of his cultural heritage.

Production images by Brett Boardman


Sandy Greenwood is a delight as Boyd's wife Nala, an earthy and vibrant presence that counterbalances much of Boyd's intensity. Ari Maza Long as the urban-raised cousin does a great job trying to show support and understanding to Boyd, whilst also trying to find his own feet in community.

Alex Malone plays the work's disruptor, Gracie, and she does this with aplomb. Her Gracie is a slow-burning knife that twists in the gut throughout the play, hidden behind a smiling, innocent face. When the play reaches its horrific climax and her steely resolve is revealed it is hard not to have a visceral reaction to her character, such is the strength of her performance. It's a fantastic Belvoir debut from the young actor.

At What Cost plays upstairs at Belvoir until 20th February.
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*Emma Jane Explores (Emma Caldwell) was invited as a guest
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Why? A powerful new play
When: 7.30pm
Phone: 61 (2) 9699 3444
Where: Belvoir St Theatre, Gadigal Country, 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills
Cost: $35 - $91 (check website)
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