Is the past something you can leave behind? Steeped in prejudice, accusation and intrigue, Holy Day reflects a time in history governed by loss, hardship and uncertainty.
Set in the Australian outback in the mid-nineteenth century, Australia was considered “England’s sewer”, placed at the end of the world and only fit for the disposal of convicts.
The story begins with a desperate plea for redemption from God. The missionary’s wife Elizabeth (Fiona Lardner) meets Irish Nora (Cate Rogers) at the traveller’s resting post, declaring that her husband has been murdered and her infant child stolen. Three travellers arrive, Goundry (Brant Eustice), Epstein (Matt Houston) and Cornelius (Robert Bell), demanding food and shelter.
With the assistance of Nora’s daughter Obedience (Carissa Lee), they call upon local property owner, Wakefield (Steve Marvanek) to assist the search for Elizabeth’s family. Obedience finds lone Aboriginal woman, Linda (Nicolle Orr) at the watering hole and believes she has taken the baby. A story of callous lies, possession and deception unfolds in this harsh and hostile landscape.
Director John Graham brings credibility to the back-story of these strained characters and authenticity to the stark wasteland with impressive use of the space. Outstanding set design by Normajeane Ohlsson, supported by the lighting design of Richard Parkhill.
This production is unmistakably a team-effort and deserves capacity audiences to experience the vivid account of a significant and critical part of our history, not to be forgotten. “You and I will be silent about what has passed, for what is not spoken will eventually fade”. There is “no justice, only vengeance” in this memorable account of a time when fear, isolation and gross misuse of power prompted brutal acts of cruelty, survival and damnation.
Written by award-winning playwright Andrew Bovell, Holy Day is on at the Little Theatre, Adelaide University until 19 October.
© Patricia Herreen 2013