I’m such a fan of Theatre on Chester; they have such a beautiful sense of community. Browsing through their program, it’s easy to see that's the case. A huge group of people comes together to make something beautiful, something more than just the sum of the people on stage. People are involved in set construction, front of house, costuming, stage management, and more. To top it all off, there's coffee and tea in the foyer at intermission, allowing the audience to discuss and exchange ideas about what they’re watching. It’s so refreshing.
Theatre on Chester’s latest production of ‘The Peach Season’ by Debra Oswald is no exception. Lovingly crafted by talented individuals, all of this comes into a production that is heartfelt, at times funny, and just slightly heart-wrenching. First-time director Jack Linklater is clearly very passionate about this show, and that has translated to the stage. His cast has a clear direction, the set is beautiful and functional, and all lighting and sound effects add to the ambiance and overall storytelling of the piece.
For those who are unaware, ‘The Peach Season’ tells the story of Kieran and his sister Sheena trying to escape his shady past in Sydney. Stranded in a country town in a broken-down car, they meet Joe, who takes them to Celia’s peach farm, where they agree to work as Peach Pickers. There, they meet Celia’s beautiful daughter Zoe and Joe’s mother, the head peach packer, Dorothy. As their friendships form and guards drop, they may have finally found a place to rest until Kieran’s chequered past comes back to haunt them.
Supported by such a wonderful team, the cast has big shoes to fill as they step into these vibrant characters, and they step up to the plate. James Miller-Argue plays the ever-helpful, loveable Joe with sincerity and truthfulness, always trying to help where he can. Tracey Okeby Lucan portrays Celia as a tough farmer, attempting to mask her worry for her daughter. Act 2 is really her chance to shine, showcasing incredible versatility between her fear and protectiveness. Cate Kerrigan plays Sheena and delivers one of the most fascinating journeys to watch, aided by her exemplary performance. She masks her fierce need to care for and protect her brother with a frosty walled exterior, and we watch that slowly melt as she starts to care for the people on the Peach farm, only for that wall to go back up in 2 seconds.
Charlize Spillane and Jordan Andrews play Zoe and Kieran respectively with much aplomb. Charlize portrays the wide-eyed Zoe, wanting to see the world and experience life away from her mother, while Jordan embodies the fun-loving, open-minded Kieran, trying to leave his haunted past behind and discover where he wants to be in the world. While all the cast members are exceedingly talented and have taken great care in crafting these characters, the real star of the show is Christine Rule as Dorothy, the Hungarian Widow peach-packer who provides a bridge for the audience into the life on the peach farm. She portrays the loveable, but judgmental grandmother with great humor and fun.
Such a beautiful script has been put together with such a wonderful team and resulted in an excellent production that everyone involved should be incredibly proud of. I give this production a solid 3 and a half Red Haven Peaches straight off the tree.