This fully staged, workshop production of a new play by the residence writer Colleen Murphy brings a story of a recovering soldier from Afghanistan visited by a feisty twelve year old reading to him for her pathfinder community service badge. Although wheelchair bound, her spirit is not diminished by her determination to achieve what she wants in life, in contrast to the down spirited soldier dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic incident in the war. This play is not at all a commentary on war but about their healing of their own past through reading and each other. The voice of the twelve year old Halley has an authenticity to it whilst she pepper her purposeful bid to community work with distracted deluge of her adolescence social life. The language is convincing and retain a nativity which is not easy to get right. The character of the soldier Michael grew from this weak, introverted and damaged being and gain his strength to a final cathartic and climatic act. Although the direction of the play is predictable, the path it takes is both powerful and moving. There are moments where the momentum lessen, especially during some of the book reading parts but they are necessary for their bonding.
The acting from both are brilliant especially Jessica Barden who plays the twelve year old so well that it is surprising to find she is in fact twenty-one years old. Barden’s mannerisms and her grasp on that adolescence’s lack of patience is absolutely spot on and watching her performance alone would be the highlight but for the great script as well.
This play may go on to do great things and let’s hope the excellent cast will be retained when the play travel to its next destination.