Black Swan Theatre's The Lighthouse Girl Shines Bright
It's fitting that the world-premiere opening performances of Black Swan State Theatre Company’s play The Lighthouse Girl—written by Hellie Turner, based on the novels Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy by Dianne Wolfer— bookend the date of Anzac Day, holding a torch of artistic light to the annual commemoration of a war a year shy of seeing a century past. Fresh from its premiere showings at the Albany Entertainment Centre on the 21st and 22nd of April, The Lighthouse Girl brings to a new generation a window in which to view an increasingly distant, yet important chapter in Australia’s history.
The play follows the story of Fay, a girl living with her lighthouse keeper father on Breaksea Island (off the coast of the Great Southern WA region) when the First World War breaks out and Australian involvement is announced. At this point, a parallel story is introduced, focusing upon Charlie and his mate Jim-- adventure-hungry, thrill seeking teenagers who eagerly enlist for battle. When Fay begins sending telegraph messages for soldiers who have stopped by Albany on their way to uncertainty in battle, she ‘meets’ Charlie (at least in spirit). So begins a friendship between two lonely souls as Fay navigates the monotony of home life and burgeoning womanhood, and Charlie learns of the hardships of war.
The Lighthouse Girl is not what one might call ‘fast paced’, often seeming to lack any form of large scale action to fuel the plot. However, this feature may just be the making of the play. The script’s ability to capture even the smallest of joys gives opportunities to characters such as Fay (played with such wonderful verve and tenacity by Daisy Coyle) to become well-rounded and likeable to the audience; despite being the sort of character who could easily have found themselves teetering on the edge of being slightly irritating. Benj D’addario captures poignantly the struggles of Fay’s father, recently widowed and fiercely protective of his daughter, whilst Murray Dowsett as Joe Taylor (a fellow resident of the light house) provides excellent comic relief and blunt honesty within his role. Charlie and Jim, played by Giuseppe Rotondella and Will McNeil respectively, are portrayed excellently in what are challenging roles at times; the excitement and anticipation of war, stark realisation of the hardships of the frontline and heartbreaking grief are all traversed in the 90-or-so minute span of the story. Alex Malone (as Alice Finch, Jim’s sister) and Nick Maclain (as Frank/Major Bridges) are excellent supporting characters- especially Alice, who displays the anguish and uncertainty of those left behind during war times, uncertain of their loved one’s fates.
The Lighthouse Girl is an important play in that it manages to transport an audience, a century into the future from when it is set, into the worlds of a young girl and a couple of young men—each in their own way inexperienced, naïve and, furthermore: kids. Values held dear by modern Australians, such as mateship and loyalty, are explored against the canvases of war and the sea—a juxtaposition of tumult and calm, perhaps not so different to the turmoil taking place in our own world. A lesson on perspective and the little things in life and an exploration of friendship through war—The Lighthouse Girl certainly makes for thought-provoking viewing.