Review: Orange Thrower – Griffin Theatre Company & National Theatre of Parramatta (NSW)

Written by Kirsty Marillier, Directed by Zindzi Okenyo

Review by Justin Clarke

Australian theatre is slowly, but surely, changing. If seven methods of killing kylie jenner was the spark, Kirsty Marillier’s Orange Thrower continues to make it brighter.

Directed by Zindzi Okenyo, Orange Thrower is Marillier’s debut play – and what a debut it is. Exploring a young South African woman’s experience living in a fictional stucco suburb called Paradise,  the play celebrates “womanness, blackness, colouredness, mixedness, otherness, youngness, or any other ‘ness’ that may feel familiar to one sitting on the margin.”

With her parents away in Johannesburg, Zadie (Gabriela Van Wyk) is in charge of running the home in the stiflingly white suburbia she lives. Juggling her younger sister Vimsy’s (Mariama Whitton) rebellious behaviour, her awkward infatuation with ripped neighbour Leroy (Callan Colley), a mysterious orange throwing vandal, and trying to keep her monochromatic boomer neighbour Sharon (also Callan Colley) happy, Zadie is playing ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’. It’s not until long lost cousin Stekkie (Angela Nica Sullen) enters the picture that Marillier’s coming-of-age story really begins to take shape and throw Zadie’s sense of identity into turmoil.

Beginning the production with John Farnham’s “Sadie, the Cleaning Lady”, Marillier positions audiences to enter the story with a sense of fond familiarity. Marillier then proceeds to smash that frame piece by piece as she builds a rich, diverse sense of South African culture into each character.

Jeremy Allen designs a stucco style home that perfectly feels too neat, too precise, too… suburban. The pastel blues of the walls overshadow the hints of African culture that hide beneath it, symbolic of Zadie’s disconnection with her South African heritage.

Marillier’s script feels personal, honest, and new at the same time. Each character reads like a piece of herself envisioned on stage. Whether its Zadie’s assimilated nature, Vimsy’s desire to know her history, Stekkie’s brass, sexy bigness, or Leroy’s search for purpose, it’s not hard to imagine that Marillier has given each character a part of her soul.

Orange Thrower is a piece of theatre that is fresh, new and yet all too familiar at the same time. This is a stellar debut; a diverse piece of surreal storytelling that will have you thinking long after you’ve left the theatre.

Gabriela Van Wyk as Zadie starts off a bit stale but ripens up with energy and purpose as her character develops. Her awkward infatuation with Leroy brings real delight and humour. The moments when Zadie takes on the role of temporary suburban housewife are those with the most contradiction. The desire to fit in and uphold the status quo of the neighbourhood is not who Zadie is, and it’s a testament to both Van Wyk and Okenyo that this contradiction is brought to the surface.

As Stekkie, Angela Nica Sullen is larger than life. From her very first entrance, Sullen feels like a genie from the lamp in the story. Sullen demands the intimate Griffin Theatre space with an ‘other worldly’ feel and a complete contrast to the world Zadie and Vimsy find themselves. Filled with large amounts of humour, brash sex appeal, and a demanding voice, Stekkie is her catchphrase incarnate – “No-one has your bigness.”

Mariama Whitton’s Vimsy reveals the young, naïve side of Marillier’s story. An innocent youth, full of hope and visions of who she could be outside of the stereotypical college pathway. Whitton takes every chance to dance, move, and have fun with Vimsy.

Playing both Leroy and Sharon, Callan Colley has a blast on stage. Bringing an unexpected depth to what could have been a paint by numbers ripped athlete, Colley shows great moments of honesty as Leroy. If you find yourself trying to keep up with the new sense of cultures being shown to you, Sharon is an (unfortunate) familiarity. Condescending, intrusive and manipulative, we all know a Sharon.

Special mention must go Benjamin Pierpoint’s sound design which makes the Griffin Theatre space feel five times larger. The throwing of the oranges comes from every corner of the theatre, immersing us in the world Okenyo creates. It’s a small touch, but an effective one.

Orange Thrower is a piece of theatre that is fresh, new and yet all too familiar at the same time. This is a stellar debut; a diverse piece of surreal storytelling that will have you thinking long after you’ve left the theatre.

If this is Marillier’s debut,  keep your eye out for what she brings next.

Reviewer Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Photo Credits: Brett Boardman

Orange Thrower plays at the Griffin Theatre SBW Stables and the Riverside Theatre, Paramatta in 2022. Details and ticket information below.

SBW Stables Theatre – 10 Nimrod Street, Darlinghurst
DATES: Friday 18th February to Saturday 19th March
PERFORMANCE TIMES: Monday to Saturday at 7pm; Saturday at 1pm.
BOOKINGS: https://griffintheatre.com.au/whats-on/orange-thrower-2/ or (02) 9361 3817

Riverside Theatres – cnr Market and Church Streets, Parramatta
DATES: Wednesday 30th March to Saturday 2nd April
PERFORMANCE TIMES: Wednesday to Saturday at 7pm; Saturday at 2pm
BOOKINGS: https://riversideparramatta.com.au/NTofP/show/orange-thrower/ or (02) 8839 3399

Creatives
PLAYWRIGHT Kirsty Marillier
DIRECTOR Zindzi Okenyo
DESIGNER Jeremy Allen
LIGHTING DESIGNER Verity Hampson
COMPOSER AND SOUND DESIGNER Benjamin Pierpoint
LIGHTING ASSOCIATE Veronique Bennett
DIRECTING SECONDMENT Chemon Theys
DRAMATURG Declan Greene
STAGE MANAGER Hannah Crane
WITH Callan Colley, Angela Nica Sullen, Mariama
Whitton and Gabriela van Wyk

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