Lucy Lehman and James Smith in The Aspirations of Daise Morrow at the Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre.

Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The performing space of the Playhouse has been transformed for Brink Productions' The Aspirations of Daise Morrow.

The stage has been covered with grass, leaves and twigs, which give off an outdoorsy aroma. and above it a giant brown canvas represents the Australian sky.

Members of the audience will sit on the stage as the drama, based on Patrick White's short story "Down in the Dump", unfolds around them. with a score composed and played live by the Zephyr Quartet.

The cast of four – Genevieve Picot, Paul Blackwell, James Smith and Lucy Lehman – all play multiple roles and narrate the story of two families in the suburb of Sarsparilla in the mid-1960s engaged in very different activities on the same day.


The Whalleys, who are scrap merchants, are fossicking in the dump for items to sell, while their neighbours the Hogbens are burying Daise Morrow, the scandalous sister of Myrtle, the family matriarch, who is married to town councillor Les.

The two families, separated by wealth and class, don't like each other, but when the Hogbens' daughter Meg and the Whalleys' son Lum slip away together, their parents' enmity is forgotten.

Lehman said, "Daise was a little bit of a rebel.. She was ahead of her time in terms of feminism. Other people in her time called her a loose woman but she didn't care what people were saying about her: she loved everyone."

That included Ossie, the homeless man who had been a victim of meningitis she took in and cared for and grew to love.

Blackwell said, "We all play multiple parts – Genevieve and I handle the more elderly characters and Lucy and Jim play the two young kids. Lucy also doubles as Daise Morrow and Jim doubles as Ossie."

Lehman said the intimacy of the set and the proximity to the audience was quite confronting at first but she grew to enjoy it.

"That's what's special about this work. It got quite fun and… you could see the audience definitely warm to it."

Blackwell added, "There are little gestures to bring the audience in."

Having the music performed rather than recorded was expensive but, Blackwell said, "Everyone fell in love with it being live. We couldn't imagine it wasn't there. "

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Ron Cerabona

Ron Cerabona is an arts reporter for The Canberra Times.

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