Highway of Lost Hearts is a powerful piece that centres around personal identity and loss with a strong allegory for a country that has also lost its heart.
Brisbane's Anywhere Festival is exactly what its name suggests; performances anywhere other than a traditional theatre. Minola Theatre delivers in spades with their debut production of Highway of Lost Hearts in an outdoor venue nestled in the leafy green suburb of Seven Hills at the newly refurbished 'Seven Hills Hub'. Visually gratifying, the stage is set upon cascading steps of rock and grass with a lone actress and a red suitcase. Performing in an outside venue naturally presents its own set of unique challenges like seating (bring a cushion or comfy camp chair!), environmental conditions (pack a blanket and a scarf!) and commercial airline flight paths. The last one is tough to combat. Luckily it is forgivable for reasons I'm about to explain!
This show begins with Mot (Bianca Butler Reynolds) divulging that she has lost her heart, even though she is still breathing and has a pulse. From the get-go, we are introduced to Mot's four-legged companion and begin a figurative search for pieces of Mot's heart spread far and wide throughout the harsh Australian landscape.
Butler Reynolds is engaging from the moment she begins her opening monologue; enabling you to immediately connect with her character and share in the bond she has with her fur pal. The verbatim re-telling of her journey is so vivid, it is hard to remember you are watching a single woman in an amphitheatre. By adeptly utilising voice, tone and physicality, Butler Reynolds splashes her impromptu stage with imagery, allowing the audience to share in Mot's experience. With such a large space at her fingertips it would be easy for a lesser actress to be drowned out by her empty surrounds, Butler Reynolds, however, commands your attention for the entire 90-minute piece. Notably, Butler Reynolds easily transitions between the characters of Mot and those whom she encounters with professional ease and expertise. Her embodiment of Mot's dog is uncanny, and those of you all too familiar with these types of canine bonds will no doubt identify immediately with the dog's stability and friendship.
Director Kat Dekker has artfully crafted a well-devised piece that uses space effectively. The amphitheatre morphs easily from graveyard to highway to a supermarket checkout line. Dekker boldly uses the elements of the amphitheatre to its advantage, allowing hurried footsteps, thumps and rustles of darkened scrub enlighten our senses to aid in the dramatic tension of the story. It is evident that Dekker has given the allegory present within the script thought and it is through her direction that we are able to see the political context of the piece shine through. We see socio-economic stereotypes explored through the physicality of Butler Reynolds, whilst more touching moments including those with racial connotations attached are brushed with equal parts acknowledgement and shame. This is a credit to Dekker, unafraid to confront the ugly sides of our cultural heritage and display them in their rawness.
Mary Anne Butler's script is one with a rich political undertone. She argues that Australia lost its heart, and as displayed in a Highway of Lost Hearts, would benefit from a journey of self-discovery. Mot searches everywhere for her heart, finding that the pieces return to her when she is at her purest most honest form, or upon harsh critical self-reflection. Mot discovers a few hard truths on her journey, some light-hearted and others tough, rigid and uncomfortable. Likewise, for us as a nation to critically reflect upon our shared history could serve to heal Australia's heart. Ultimately Mot finds her salvation through her dog, living each moment to its fullest then and there, a sentiment which holds both true and achingly unreachable for many.
This is a great piece of theatre, and if you can forgive a few airplanes as they journey on overhead, you will enjoy the theatrical experience given by Minola Theatre and Anywhere Festival. The show runs on select nights up until Saturday, May 18th. You can find more details from the Anywhere Festival website, where you will find further advice on what to pack/bring to enjoy your experience to its maximum potential.
"Have you seen any hearts pass by here?"
I sure have, and it's been front and centre stage this whole time.