Emily Steel (writer/director), Dee Easton, Sam Calleja @ The Science Exchange – Thinking Space
6:30pm, Fri 4 Mar 2011
Woomera, the former weapons research facility in the desert 500 kms north of Adelaide, is the eponymous Rocket Town; since the scaling back of rocket testing, however, the town has shrunk (from its peak of about seven thousand) to about four hundred people. Josh, a young fifteen-year-old boy, has just moved to the town with his mother; in seeking something (anything!) to do, he inadvertently meets Jess.
Jess is, in many ways, the polar opposite of Josh; where he seeks friendship openly, she avoids any form of closeness. Where his life has been relatively sheltered by his city upbringing, she has spent too many years in Woomera… and, worse, she’s just discovered that her family is not moving back to the city. She is, to be quite blunt, bitter – and turns to alcohol for consolation.
Josh seeks Jess’ company, but she is wary: there’s no point making friends, she tells him, because they always move away, leaving you alone. Despite her guardedness, the two form a bond, and her icy demeanor softens… but then, as she predicted, she abruptly announces that she’s moving away, leaving him alone. It’s a bitter circle of life that sees the play close out with Josh drinking in solitude, just as Jess had opened the performance.
There was so much to love about Rocket Town: Sam Calleja’s Josh displayed marked growth from the straight-laced boy to the embittered and spurned young man, and Dee Easton’s Jess was just perfect, sneer and venom hiding a desperation and fragility. The rapport between the Jess and Josh is fantastic, with Emily Steel’s dialogue being spot-on; and though it was sparsely presented in the round, simple markings on the floor somehow lent the space an eerie atmosphere – it almost felt like we were sitting outside on a cold summer’s night, stars twinkling above us.
But the really great thing about Rocket Town is that it rings true; I grew up in a country town, and whilst circumstances were a bit different – I always wanted to leave, as did all my friends – there was always that sense of reluctant destiny that we’d be pulled apart. And to have that feeling evoked in such a play is pretty special indeed; it’s a really bittersweet and familiar experience, but one that should be appreciated by everyone.