Written by Alana Valentine and directed by Wesley Enoch, Head Full of Love is a story of hats, healing and coping strategies.
Nessa (Colette Mann) has run from her suburban life to Alice Springs. Completely alone and out of her depth, she meets Tilly (Roxanne McDonald) and an unlikely friendship begins. Tilly is also alone and vulnerable, as she has had to leave the country and move to Alice Springs and have dialysis three times a week. While she has her treatment, Tilly knits beanies for the Annual Beanie Festival and she enlists Nessa to help her finish in time.
In the first scene, when Nessa meets Tilly and just doesn’t know how to approach an indigenous woman, is cringe inducing but hilarious. Think of The Office: comedy that you want to look away from, but you just can’t. Playwright Alana Valentine certainly isn’t afraid of bringing prejudices and misconceptions out into the open, before pulverising them. Both actresses, Collette and Roxanne, have excellent comic timing, and their passion for this story shines through their performances.
Simone Romaniuk’s set design also deserves a special mention. Picture a stage covered with red earth, against a back drop of corrugated iron which doubles as a screen for projection. Beautiful, contrasting oranges and blues that not only evoke the desert but also the complementary differences between the two women.
To put things into perspective, Head Full of Love was originally commissioned for the Darwin Festival in 2010, which Wesley also directed with the same cast. After reading about the beanie festival in a Qantas in-flight magazine, Alana spent time out in Alice Springs and she says that Tilly and Nessa are conglomerations of the many people she interviewed at the beanie festival and The Purple House. The Purple House is a suburban house in Alice Springs that is a community run dialysis centre. There is a nearby hostel where between sixty and one hundred patients live and commute by bus three times a week to receive treatment. Over the years, many of these people have also become a part of the beanie festival. On top of Alana’s extensive research, Wesley and the cast have also spent time with dialysis patients, and their deep understanding of the struggle of these people has informed every aspect of this production.
What is really special about this play is that it has a purpose: both a story to tell and a goal to achieve. It’s so lovely to see theatre that is openly advocating social change. They also hope to raise money for The Purple House, specifically for a mobile dialysis unit so that people are able to receive treatment at home and no longer have to be isolated from country and community. After only a few performances in Darwin, they raised over $15,000. If you are wish to show your support, you can visit www.westerndesertdialysis.com
Head Full of Love is rather like the beanies it features: simple on the surface, but actually full of intricately woven stories replete with meaning. It gets to the heart of universal issues through two very personal journeys.
Head Full of Love plays at QPAC’s Cremorne Theatre until 11 August.