Like its characters, Which Way Home has been on a major roadtrip, touring theatres nationally since May.
Seen in Belvoir’s Downstairs Theatre during the 2017 Sydney Festival (it premiered in Melbourne before that), Katie Beckett’s two-hander is a warmly funny portrait of an indigenous father-daughter relationship.
Just 65 minutes long, it takes Tash (played by Beckett) and her Dad (Kamahi Djordon King) from suburban Ipswich, Queensland to outback Lightning Ridge, New South Wales, back to the country Tash grew up on but hasn’t visited in years.
Tash is the self-appointed driver, organiser and timekeeper. Everything is planned to the minute, including toilet breaks.
At first, Dad can’t do much more than come along for the ride, but as the journey unfolds, he subtly subverts his daughter’s plans, tucking into the Minties (he’s diabetic) and encouraging Tash to open herself up to the unplanned and off-grid.
The roads straighten, the landscape flattens while Dad snoozes, Tash daydreams and drifts back to her childhood, one marked by tragedy and by Dad’s fear that his daughter would be taken away from him and put into care.
Early scenes are breezy and bantering but as the landscape rolls by and becomes, for Tash, something slightly ominous (especially when out of phone range), the story darkens. Tash can drive all day but she can’t put her past behind her. Moreover, she can’t outrun the intergenerational trauma of indigenous people.
Directed by Rachael Maza for Ilbijerri Theatre Company, this is a small-scale, portable production based on a couple of wooden packing cases and featuring an oversize roadmap for a backdrop and stage floor. Simplicity itself.
Djordon King replaced Tony Briggs as Dad for this tour and he and Beckett have developed a warm onstage rapport befitting the relationship they portray. But, to me at least, the show’s pulse seems to have faded a little. The playing style seems more broad this time, the emotional interactions less nuanced.
Touring many and varied venues in recent months has resulted in a polished show but one that’s had some of its sparkly edges worn away.