Ella Hickson’s Oil explores the underlying greed of society, and the global implications of our reliance on the titular fossil fuel.
Set across the span of 150 years, the play deals with global themes of energy, the environment, and mother-daughter relationships. In a time of true climate crisis, it seems almost fitting for a play such as Oil to be staged.
First performed in London in 2016, the play makes its Australian premiere with acclaimed theatre company Red Stitch. This will be the first production in Red Stitch’s history to be performed at a different theatre – Cromwell Road Theatre in South Yarra. Directed by Red Stitch’s Artistic Director Ella Caldwell, Oil features a stellar ensemble cast of 10 actors.
I spoke with Darcy Brown, who plays William Whitcomb/Nate in the play. A graduate of NIDA, Darcy’s credits including Peter Pan Goes Wrong, The Play That Goes Wrong, The Merchant of Venice, and Peddling (Green Room Nomination – Best Male Performer).
Can you tell me a bit about your history with performing?
From an early age, a fascination with plays, radio plays, magic, puppetry, pantomime, musicals, and movies. Lots of high school productions before three years at drama school. Thankfully, there have been many eclectic projects since; national and international tours – The Play That Goes Wrong, Peter Pan Goes Wrong, and Henry V with Bell Shakespeare; a one-person play, Peddling, with MTC; productions with ATYP, Sport for Jove, and The Rocks Bizarre Festival.
What has been the best part of working in an ensemble cast?
Watching incredible actors work (who also happen to be really lovely people). Rehearsals have been very inspiring. It’s also wonderful when the storytelling is shared across an ensemble; when everyone has ownership of the event, and gets a chance to create and contribute and fly.
Why do you think that theatre is a good platform for political discussion?
It can be a conversation in real time; an immediate engagement with a group of people. You can hear and see how ideas resonate with the audience night to night, and indeed talk with people after the show. It is also relatively quick to create, compared to film or television. So it can perhaps speak more readily to a current climate. Its ephemerality is probably useful here; interrogating a very specific moment in time, then vanishing, or changing, as its context changes.
What can audiences expect from Oil?
A mother and daughter journeying across 161 years; magic, motorcars, mysterious visitors, cigarettes, cake, petroleum, heartache, a military coup, a refrigerator, geopolitics, sand, candlelight, and a chicken.
Oil will run at Cromwell Road Theatre, Melbourne, from 17 November to 15 December (no performance 23 November).
For tickets and more information please visit the Red Stitch website.