By Ella Hickson, Red Stitch Actors Theatre
Cromwell Road Theatre, South Yarra, until December 15
To stage Ella Hickson’s Oil, an ambitious, time-travelling epic that spans more than a century, Red Stitch has shifted the premiere from its usual St Kilda East haunt to a more capacious theatre in South Yarra. It pays off. This is a strikingly designed and atmospheric production, with enough oxygen to ignite performances from its large and talented ensemble, and to feed the burning concerns that fuel the play.
Using the device of a mother and daughter whisked through time, Hickson marries domestic drama and the geopolitics of the oil industry, mingling the perennial struggle between parent and child with the lust for energy that has powered modernity.
On a dingy farm in Cornwall in the late 19th century, the dour Ma Singer (Jennifer Vuletic) presides over a household where mere subsistence requires relentless, grinding work. Her son Joss (Charlie Cousins) chops wood, but it isn’t enough to keep his pregnant wife May (Daniela Farinacci) warm on a winter’s night.