Jane Miller completed Cuckoo as part of the Masters of Writing for Performance at VCA. Produced with the support of fortyfivedownstairs, it’s beautiful writing that lets hope shine in its blackness and continues to establish Miller as one of Melbourne’s most exciting independent writers.

Cuckoo. Photo by Lachlan Woods
Cuckoo. Photo by Lachlan Woods

Mel (Natalie Carr) and Leo (Matthew Molony) are a middle-aged couple talking about their freedom as they sit at home, as they do every night; him playing with Lego and her with her laptop. When a teenager (Samuel Russo) knocks on their door claiming to have been hit by a car, he wants to eat toast and brings in memories and possibilities that Mel, Leo and their ex-cop friend Dan (David Kambouris) welcome and dread.

Miller’s writing always captures the souls of her very broken characters by letting the truth of comedy reveal the disfunction that they can’t see in themselves. With a structure that builds the tension like a Jenga tower, Cuckoo creates an ever-deepening mystery as everyone holds their secrets tight and hopes that their truth isn’t found in the silence of the subtext.

Alice Bishop’s direction keeps the rhythm beating and the tension high, the cast make the balance of laughter and the unthinkable feel as natural as they are, and Bronwyn Pringle’s lighting leaves shadows that remind how the bigger picture is always bigger, darker and less defined.

Hidden underground near some of the city’s best and swankiest restaurants in Little Collins Street, fortyfivedownstairs supports Melbourne independent art and artists and continues to win the support of Melbourne theatre-goers. Hopefully, it will continue to present works like Cuckoo because it’s up there with some of the best script-based theatre around and without places like fortyfivedownstairs, it might never have been seen.

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