Sitting in a cosy living room mingling with the artistic directors of a show isn’t your typical theatre experience, but it’s an essential part of the Corinthian Food Store Collective’s This, This Is Mine.
Founded in 2012 by two NIDA alumni and expanding to a core group of dramatists, The Corinthian Food Store Collective is a small Sydney-based ensemble that create new works exploring the nature of Australia’s modern cultural identity. This, This Is Mine, their latest work, is about the nature of ownership – and is staged in the living rooms of real homes across Sydney and Canberra.
Before the show the small audience is treated to drinks and excellent live music by Co-Artistic Director Charles Wu. We are then led inside a room fitted with an assortment of couches, stools, and chairs, which lends the production a cosy charm.
Much like Belvoir’s 2016 play The Tribe, staging This, This Is Mine outside of your traditional theatre brings a sense of intimacy and familiarity to its story. It’s easy to imagine this kitchen really belongs to Eva (Matilda Ridgeway), our lead.
Eva has returned to her decaying childhood home, recently bequeathed to her by her late father, on the night of his funeral. She is soon joined by Lester (Shiv Palekar) for an uninvited reunion of old friends. Outside, a hurricane mimics the tempestuous mentality of the characters as adolescent dreams and tensions are brought to the surface.
The raging weather has caused a blackout, and the show is lit by a series of candles and torches which capture the dark and brooding undercurrent of the story. The derelict apartment, designed by Isabella Andronos and Michael Hili, is a mess of old boxes (reflective of the emotional baggage the two carry).
Over the course of a seventy-five-minute confrontation the two argue about everything from the colonisation of Indigenous land to alcoholism and stolen dogs. Writer and director Duncan Ragg is focused on greed, ownership, and how it intersects with identity, and the script’s provocative dialogue doesn’t shy away from these big issues. Ultimately, though, the work is stagnant.
Eva and Lester fight through their issues, raising a lot of compelling points, but without a consistent through-line or resolution, the issues merely are put on the table and remain virtually untouched. It’s hard to invest in Eva and Lester when their talking-head style dialogue keeps us distant from their emotions, and upon reaching the end of the show, there’s no significant change in either character, or, most likely, in the audience.
With those dramaturgical issues in mind, the script is often sharp, smart and funny with an admirably straightforward style. Ragg shows a lot of promise as an emerging young playwright.
Ridgeway is fantastic and really connects with Eva’s emotional journey. Palekar’s performance is less vulnerable but he nicely exploits Lester’s light-hearted moments for laughs.
Just like the intimacy of the SBW Stables Theatre, or Belvoir’s downstairs theatre, the site-specific setting of This, This Is Mine evokes a friendly community atmosphere that’s wonderful to be a part of. The play is muddled but the work still conjures up an enjoyable and thought-provoking evening. Keep an eye on The Corinthian Food Store Collective. They’re one to watch.