Sydney Festival Review: Driven To New Pastures

February 3rd 2011

Audiences were offered a nice cup of Bushells Tea and a slice of home made cake in the downstairs theatre of the Seymour Centre at the opening night of Driven to New Pastures, playing as part of the Sydney Festival 2011.

The play takes place in the fictional suburb of Gladeview. Just another ordinary inner city Sydney suburb earmarked by council for re-development. There’s just one problem: six families live in one very unremarkable1970s apartment block at number 3 Waratah Place, where a new ‘smart’ development is going to be built.

With the lights in the theatre uncomfortably bright for the first few moments of the play narrator Rosie Dennis welcomes us like prospective buyers to a seminar by unveiling the centre-piece of the forum, an illuminated box, which she carefully points out is a not to scale model of the proposed apartment building, an architectural tribute to the cashed up yuppie- nouveau (supposedly us, the audience) who intend to buy up the complex in droves.

Through song, dance and storytelling we are introduced to the families who live in the apartment block, including Sarah (June Hickey, 75, making her acting debut). The interior decor suggests a land time has forgotten, a neatly decorated place with some comfy orange couches, a vase with hot pink roses and three dimensional hologram of Jesus on the wall.

At a little under an hour long there is a cracking pace to this home spun story, the seed of which was planted when writer / performer Rosie Dennis witnessed first hand the social dislocation and emotional stress public housing tenants experienced in Waterloo when their homes were re-developed to cater to Sydney’s insatiable demand for apartments with 2 and a half bathrooms and off street parking.

However, Driven to New Pastures is not an anti-development piece aimed at the government but a very sweet Sydney story about the social consequences on communities who struggle to keep up with the changes impacted upon them from urban re-development.



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