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Lingua Franca and BMEC Local Stages: Highway Of Lost Hearts - Review by Selina Wong

During the 4,500km journey through Australia’s outback, Mot manically flings a frozen kangaroo tail at a disgruntled shopkeeper in Alice Springs; all over 35 cents. She also hilariously attempts to put half-dead roadkill out of its misery with a car jack. These are two of the many events that occur when Kate Smith grasps the audience tightly by the hand and navigates through Outback Australia in search of her lost heart. 

Smith’s voice, movement and gestures were powerful and she commanded the stage with her captivating storytelling. Not only did Smith bring her companion dog to life, she impersonated uniquely Australian characters she met along the way. From sketchy publicans, a poor Indigenous couple, to suspicious travellers, the realistic personalities all faced their own adversities which allowed for Mot’s introspection. The heroine’s inner dialogue revealed the pain and grief experienced by the protagonist, alongside her independence and strength as a lone woman journeying through the fires and floods of the red dirt landscape. 

Bathurst-based group Lingua Franca and BMEC Local Stages production’s commitment to regionally based artists truly made the show authentically Australian. Throughout the show, Central West musicians Smith & Jones performed their original music and their enchanted Australian folk sounds complimented Smith’s engaging storytelling. Abby Smith and Sophie Jones ethereal sounds also highlighted the magic, beauty, desolation and hardships faced by people in Australia's outback. Stage manager Madelaine Osborn’s combination of lighting and sheer curtains allowed for Smith & Jones’ intimate and integral on-stage presence.  

Set designers Annemaree Dalziel and Becky Russell used simplistic props such as an esky, a calico-covered bench and an urn to create believable spaces such as the van, bed, pub and lake. Bones, grasses, a hubcap and branches took the audience to various regional towns. Skull Creek’s massacres, Cooper Pedy’s “Fuck off we’re full” stickers, Eliot the “Black fella town” and Woomera’s detention centre, it is clear that Darwin playwright Mary Anne Butler, chose locations that allowed for her nuanced social commentary. 

While there was “no map for this journey”, Mot finds her heart in a truly raw and uplifting ending. Kylie Shead and Adam Deusin’s vision came to life and was captured in a stunningly raw female-led performance leaving the audience to contemplate whether their own hearts were lost.

Photography courtesy of Hannah Grogan

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