Award winning playwright Maxine Mellor wrote her new work – Trollop – in response to the 2011 Brisbane floods. The play won the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award 2012-13 and has since been developed by Queensland Theatre Company.
Interestingly, the creative roles were not traditionally defined but instead, in terms of direction and design, was a collaboration between Wesley Enoch, Pete Foley, Ben Hughes and David Morton. Writing this review has been particularly hard, because Trollop has many layers and can consequently be interpreted in many different ways.
The story follows Clara, a once promising author of a children’s novel, but it has been some time since she has written anything. Instead, Clara just stays at home and languishes in front of the TV. In a bid to inspire her, her boyfriend Erik takes it upon himself to organise a children’s book deal for her, hoping a deadline will inspire her to get back to her writing. She sends him on a series of progressively stranger ‘quests’ to collect material for her project, and cracks in their relationship begin to show. When Eugenie, a person who has previously only figured in their lives from afar, shows up on their door step one stormy night, everything is brought to a head.
At first, I found Trollop a little difficult to get into. I resisted the strained relationship between Clara and Erik, and I found the blend of reality and fantasy jarring. Of course, that was the point. The digital projections across the entire set coupled with Chris Perren’s sound design were meant to immerse the audience in Clara’s unsettling reality. At some indefinable moment, however, I stopped grasping for realism and relaxed into it. From there, I was completely caught up in the story and the pervading sense of foreboding.
For me, this play was about the creative process. Clara doesn’t speak at first (Amy Ingram’s fabulous and funny physical expression still allows the audience to follow Clara’s every thought and feeling), and it is only by getting back to writing that she (quite literally) finds her voice again. This initial inability to express herself is followed by the collection of seemingly random material, which all comes together and produces something unexpected. I feel certain that this will all sound very familiar to anyone who works on creative projects.
Trollop is also about isolation, whether it’s emotional isolation from loved ones (both Erik and Clara seem somehow very alone), deliberate isolation (hiding behind online troll identities, or just crating a safe haven in your own home) or the physical isolation we feel when we are cut off from the world by natural disasters.
Love, fear, hatred: this play is about all the things we find it most difficult to express.
Trollop plays at the Billie Brown Studio until the 17th of August.