Review: Truck Stop
“Why you always mad at everything, Sam?” This question is asked several times of the 14-year-old western Sydney schoolgirl at the centre of Lachlan Philpott’s riveting new play. She is certainly one angry young woman. This alpha female belligerently rules her schoolyard patch, but in reality, it is a weed-choked concrete rectangle. She is a bright girl emerging into a world she already feels has no place for her. No wonder her head is filled with fashion, sex and the latest hooky pop song that lets her escape from the banality that surrounds her. Truck Stop examines, without judging or pulling any punches, what can happen when this desire for freedom takes a dangerous turn.
The tough, fast-paced play is based on a real incident where a group of Year 9 girls slipped out of school to prostitute themselves to truckers passing through town. Commissioned by Penrith’s Q Theatre Company , it was developed with input from teenagers growing up in greater western Sydney. With a keen ear, Philpott has beautifully crafted dialogue which lends authenticity to every exchange and his characters feel gritty, real and rooted. With utmost respect for their humanity Philpott tells the story of best friends Sam and Kelly, and would-be friend Aisha, and reveals their bleak world to us just as he reveals the complex inner workings of their minds.
Director Katrina Douglas is on top of the material and deftly stages the action that sharply moves back and forth in time. She has brought together a dream cast and all four actors – Eryn Jean Norvill, Jessica Tovey, Kristy Best and Elena Carapetis – deliver high-energy, powerful performances creating a believable ensemble for this confronting story. I was particularly impressed by Norvill who seems to get into the skin of the troubled Sam and lets us see the terrible loneliness at her character’s core.
The set by Michael Hankin, a slab of concrete framed by metal benches, is wonderfully symbolic of the teenagers’ entrapment in a life they don’t want. Sean Bacon’s video projections and Peter Kennard’s sound design are equally effective in evoking an unsettling atmosphere.
Truck Stop, Q Theatre, Penrith (Season now moved to Seymour Centre). Until June 23. Bookings: sydney.edu.au/seymour or call (02) 9351 7940