When we are introduced to Maggie Stone, the title character of this Darlinghurst Theatre Company production, her defining characteristic is her racism.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Maggie refuses a Sudanese man a loan, even after he tells her his life is at risk if she doesn’t accept his application.
A while later, this man’s wife, Amath Deng, now recently widowed, is by happenstance sent to Maggie to apply for a new loan.
Realising her actions have cost the man his life, Maggie’s guilt moves the play through its dramatic storyline as she tries to help the family through the various dire situations they find themselves in.
The topic of refugee experiences in Australia, particularly Sudanese refugees, is often plastered on the news and is the subject of political vitriol. Maggie Stone’s playwright Caleb Lewis takes us behind the stories we’re familiar with and into the home of a Sudanese refugee family, allowing the audience to better understand the fight families have to go through to survive financially in their new community and observe the racism they must endure.
However, because Lewis did not want to overstep his personal experience, or because he felt the Deng family’s story would be told better through a stranger’s eyes, the story is told entirely from a white woman’s perspective.
Maggie is therefore the show’s hero, thus aligning herself with a plethora of literature and development policy that positions white people as saviours and people of colour as unable to save themselves.
Lewis does at least recognise this and asks the audience, through Amath’s wariness of Maggie’s unearned and seemingly selfless kindness, to question the effectiveness of support for refugees and those less fortunate.
While aspects of the play’s narrative arc may be irksome for some, little if anything can be said to fault director Sandra Eldridge’s production. The cast work seamlessly as an ensemble and each performer is dynamic in their characterisation.
Eliza Logan is exceptional as Maggie, utterly genuine in her performance from her racist outbursts to her caring quips and maintaining expert control of the audience’s feelings toward her throughout the production. One moment she is detestable, and three lines later she is empathetic.
The set is ingenious. Though it is quite bare, the space is used to excellent effect. Numerous locations, all with a different atmosphere, are created with just a few pieces of furniture, thoughtful use of lighting and unique soundscapes during scene transitions.
Maggie Stone offers a fast-paced night of humorous, moving theatre that will, best of all, make you think.