Set in a fictional coastal town, original new musical New Blood reveals irksome details and inconvenient truths of treechange life.
The compact, versatile cast of co-creators sift through the prosaic and the potent, offering both subtle and stark observations about real estate, relationships, and regional living.
Rebounding from the rigours of COVID, café owner Annie (Melia Naughton) and her partner, artist Mark (Michael Bryant) are fed-up, the sum of their lives reduced to coffee grinds and ground down hopes. Here is a place of fractional coffee orders, activewear
(everywhere), the glamour of celebrity, and the reality of people living in their cars.
The town bustles and bristles as property developer Tom (Joel Cooper) eyes prime real estate to expand his horizons. When local-local Sasha (Anouska Gammon), a journalist, jets back into town she finds herself displaced. She’s on the scent of a story but instead finds herself stalled at the intersection of a housing crisis, and a midlife crisis of dating, mating and waiting. Meanwhile, Annie and Mark’s daughter, Lara (Elodie Crowe), like most teenagers, is both listless and insistent. There is lack and lustre in this town. She wants a public pool; young and old all lament a dearth of facilities.
Narrative arrows fire into the heartland of regional Australia, taking aim at our middling middle years, our troubled teens, and so many desiccated dreams. The bones of loneliness are picked clean leaving behind only the excruciating want to belong. These stories are not unique to our town. They happen all around us.
Melia inhabits character like she’s stretched its skin and climbed right in. Her elastic enunciation spits rapid-fire mantras that morph into soaring melodies filling every corner and every heart in the room. Joel nails the slick arrogance of a detached interloper, but we catch a glimpse of frailty under his beige linen armour. These incongruences force us to consider that there may be benefits to progress and change.
The all-original score by Joel Cooper and Melia Naughton is simple but elegant, just piano and the soul-searching counterpoint
of violin by Sue Simpson. It switches from ethereal to volatile, from searing to soothing and resonates through the punctuation of finger snaps and the collective stomp of feet on floorboards. Five fine voices carry the melodies, and natural harmonies echo like shadows of shared experience, reminding us that we are not alone.
The audience are reverent but shocked at the show’s heartbreaking reveal, every parent’s terror. Breathe in, breathe out. The cast shows us how. The air is bruised but we sit with our discomfort and the theatre wraps us in its gentle magic. Around me, I see the faces of blow-ins and dyed-in-the-wool locals drenched with long-held tears, astonished that their selves have been so vividly mirrored before their eyes.
As I write this, I hear that New Blood is heading to the Adelaide Fringe Festival 25-26 February 2023 and back for a second local season in Byron Bay 8-9 February 2023.
And so, it bloody should.