Written by Will Arbery, Directed by Craig Baldwin
Review by Charlotte Smee
Set around an always empty concrete fire-pit in a Wyoming backyard post-Charlottesville riots, Heroes of the Fourth Turning is a walk through the darkness of conservative Catholicism. This once-in-a-blue-moon gathering of four friends brought together by their mentor Gina’s induction as president of the isolated Catholic college they all attended, means they must contend with each other armed with only their ideology, their identities, and their beliefs.
Playwright Will Arbery was raised by conservative Catholic parents who are now professors at a similar Catholic college to that in the play. He brings a very real perspective on the conversations and personalities that are part of this world. It is a frighteningly familiar portrait of the kinds of debates that devolve into personal attacks on both sides of politics, toeing the line between praising and denouncing this ultra-conservative group of people that reluctantly voted for Trump.
We opened with the stoic, reserved Justin (Jeremy Waters) in his simple backyard designed by Soham Apte. Complete with fire pit, two steel chairs and the corner of a fibro shack adorned with horseshoes, the setting was just detailed enough to keep us engaged at the beginning of the play without distracting from the heightened tension towards the end. Paired with subtle lighting by Lucia Haddad, the setting laid an immersive foundation for what was to come.
Uncomfortable, emotional, exhausting, and visceral, Heroes of the Fourth Turning conveys what life is like on the other side.
Eddie Orton as Kevin was energetic, tragic, funny, pathetic, and endearing – equally committed to praying his rosary, and then drunkenly vomiting on himself within minutes. Madeleine Jones’ Teresa was eerily committed to the cause, complete with constant cocaine-fuelled sniffles and nervous rearranging of her smartly tailored dress as she preached pro-life and anti-left rants. Kate Raison as Gina brought the appropriate weight and foil to Teresa, knocking her down a peg and remaining refined as she outlined her fraught political strategy. Micaela Ellis shone as the love and pain-filled Emily, bringing softness and intensity exactly where it was needed. Although her martyrdom at times didn’t sit right with me, Ellis brought great range to the role.
Craig Baldwin’s direction was excellent, making great use of the tiniest details. The hug between Kevin, Teresa and John was a shining moment, showing the subtlety of John and Teresa’s intimate relationship through their hands as they coddled Kevin’s desperation between them. One of Teresa’s fast-paced speeches ended with a quick slap of her own arm as she killed what might have been a mosquito biting her in the night – giving a crazed finality that was impressive to watch. Blessed with a fantastic cast of actors, Baldwin made full use of their precision and talent to bring a terrifyingly detailed web of pain, love, commitment, and the wrath of God.
Sound composition and design also by Craig Baldwin only heightened the intensity of the play’s themes. Deafeningly loud cicadas between scenes gave depth to the world, whilst keeping it close to reality. The other-worldly screeches that came louder and longer as the night grew darker were ear-piercing and painful, wrenching you out of your furrowed brow as you tried to follow spiralling debate.
Uncomfortable, emotional, exhausting, and visceral, Heroes of the Fourth Turning conveys what life is like on the other side. Whether or not you agree with these people struggling to make their way through the darkness, this is an undeniably detailed and effective theatrical experience that had me hanging on the edge of my seat.
Images by Richard Farland
Heroes of the Fourth Turning plays at the Seymour Centre’s Reginald Theatre until 23 April 2022. Tickets can be found here.
Follow Outhouse Theatre Co on Instagram @outhousetheatreco.
Director Craig Baldwin
Playwright Will Arbery
Producer Jeremy Waters for Outhouse Theatre Co
Assistant Director Hayden Tonazzi
Stage Manager Matt Giles
Production Designer Soham Apte
Lighting Designer Lucia Haddad
Dialect Coach Linda Nicholls-Gidley
Cast Micaela Ellis, Madeleine Jones, Eddie Orton, Kate Raison, Jeremy Waters