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3 July, 2021

Live theatre in Cairns faces EXTINCTION in name only

Extinction by Hannie Rayson. Directed by Cath Willacy. At the Rondo Theatre Cairns until July 10, 2021. Bookings:

By Peter McCullagh

PHOTO: Barton Photography

Extinction is an Australian play, written in 2013 by acclaimed playwright Hannie Rayson. Extinction tells the tale of four characters, a vet, zoologist, ecologist and a mining executive, interwoven together by an endangered tiger quoll.

Don’t be fooled by the notion this play is about three passionate conservationists pitted against a mining company executive wanting to destroy the habitat.

Extinction could never be that simplistic. Rayson has crafted a very mature and challenging play. This is a play about relationships interwoven with emotions, ecology, the environment and ego, a recipe that makes Extinctionso compelling.

PHOTO: Barton Photography

Set in Southern Victoria the central star (unbilled) is an endangered tiger quoll. As fate would have it, our star is hit and injured by a motorist one very dark and stormy night.

What unfolds from that chance and fateful meeting will trigger a domino of events involving power, ego, money, lust, mortality and ideological chest thumping, all designed to challenge the audience as we confront the many moral-dilemmas so skilfully crafted by Rayson.

Whilst there only four actors on stage, the five stars of this production carry the story strongly. Harry Jewell, (Mark Chivers) the mining executive, who unwittingly hits and injures, whilst driving a country road, our leaving lady, the tiger quoll one stormy night.

His marriage is dissolving before his eyes, his relationship with his daughter is not looking good, Harry is facing his own battle for survival. Unfortunately, the battle to save our leading lady, the injured tiger quoll ends badly.

PHOTO: Barton Photography

Jewell rushes the injured quoll to the nearest veterinary clinic where research assistant, Dr Piper Ross (Julia Allman) administers first aid to our star. Andy Dixon, (CJ Bowers) a young hipster vet returns to takeover the care for our injured quoll and euthanised our star. Perhaps prematurely, but as we discover later Andy is facing a question of his own mortality.

Andy’s sister, Professor Heather Dixon-Brown, (Lisa Jones) is locked in a constant battle for funding for the University Research Department she heads along with a quest for emotional satisfaction in her personal life.

I won’t unfold the plot too much more, but needless to say, whilst our tiny leading lady, the tiger quoll, faced her own battle for mortality in scene one, the rest of the cast battled ego, power, sex, conservation and their own personal, physical or professional mortality in the following eleven scenes.

Superficially you may think this work to be a little ‘preachy’, but Rayson has skilfully woven a diverse mixture of themes and humor through her play, challenging the audience with moral-dilemmas creating a very mature and thought-provoking play.

PHOTO: Barton Photography

There is no hero, nor villain, right or wrong, you decide for yourself, the only victim in this production is the tiny tiger quoll. Through no fault of her own is facing extinction, we all have a part to play in her future, and the part we play will depend upon the moral-dilemmas we are challenged by and our openness to accept the outcomes.

The themes are very mature, confronting and challenging, we are drawn down a path that leads us to make a decision in the dying moments of the production. We all have a responsibility, and while there’s life there’s hope.

Cath Willacy has faithfully captured to essence of Extinction. Her cast equally delivered a steady pace with enough emotional light and shade to keep us engaged.

The nervous energy associated with opening night was on display, a few lines stumbles, but overall a very professional, credible, and powerful performance.

Live theatre is very much alive and well here in Cairns. Cath Willacy’s production of Extinction proves that our theatre craft is set for a long and healthy life and is not confronting issues of its own mortality.

The production is over two hours in duration with an intermission. Staging is clever with scenery created through projection; this production ideally suited to the Rondo Theatre. This is a production worthy of support and deserving of sell-out crowds.

Extinction continues until Saturday July 10; tickets are available from Ticketlink.

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