Theatre review: The Aspirations of Daise Morrow, Assembly George Square

Assembly Gardens' Palais du Variete is transformed into a theatre-in-the-round for this smash-hit from Australian Theatre company Brink Productions.

Brink present a tender tale of Australian small-town life. Picture: Contributed

The Aspirations of Daise Morrow, Assembly George Square Gardens (Venue 3) ****

Under the direction of Chris Drummond, they have taken Patrick White’s short story Down at the Dump and, instead of writing an adaptation, devised a piece of theatre which keeps White’s sparkling prose intact while bringing the characters and their world vibrantly to life.

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The Whalley family, who are “in the bits and pieces trade”, are getting ready for a day at the dump, while their neighbour, prim and proper Myrtle Hogben, wife of a local councillor, is preparing for the funeral of her sister, Daise Morrow. Daise aspired to enjoy the good things in life, and her compassion for a damaged soul got her what might be described as “a reputation”.

While the mourners cluster around Daise’s grave, and Myrtle (a touching performance by Paul Blackwell) weeps for her own life as much as her sister’s, her daughter Meg (the captivating Lucy Lehmann) slips off for an encounter of her own. The actors circle us, weaving among the seats, making us part of the community, while the musicians of Zephyr Quartet, positioned at compass points in the circle, provide a perfectly judged soundscape for the action.

Through White’s nimble, elegant writing, Brink take us to the heart of a small community: the narrow-mindedness and suspicion, the joys and wonders of ordinariness and the way kindness and compassion can transform even those confined to the scrapheap of life. The story unfolds with humour, sadness and some breath-taking moments of tenderness, circling around the absent figure of Daise Morrow, a woman whose capacity for love and for embracing life shines on, even after her death.

• Until 12 August, 3pm