THEATRE REVIEW: Grit by Perseverance Street Theatre Company

Vivienne Wynter

GRIT: The Town, The Stories, The Music literally shines a spotlight on how several characters from Anytown in Queensland respond to the biggest challenges life can throw at them.

The play is based on stories Perseverance Street Theatre Company gathered from residents of Gympie just after the 2022 floods.

Lives, homes and businesses were lost in those floodwaters, as they were in previous floods, so the people of Gympie know a bit about resilience.

However, this version of Grit, returning for a second, refreshed run after the 2022 season, is not about disaster recovery. It is about the grit, resilience and adaptation needed when your husband cheats, your home town is suffocating you or the doctor has bad news.

A tight four-member ensemble cast led by star Fletcher Colfs, go deep with six characters: The Saint, The Recluse, The Romantic, The Rationalist, The Runaway and The Nomad.

Colfs convincingly brings each character to life, using subtle facial expressions and obvious deep empathy to draw the audience in closely to witness their vulnerabilities, strengths, sorrows and joys.

Perseverance Street Theatre uses ingeniously simple stage design and Grit is no exception with scenery depicting intimate domesticity and a theme of ‘airing the laundry’. What the cast do with that laundry to depict a lost love, sleepy babies and a possibly dying man is remarkable and clever.

Director Sharon Hogan says when researching real life stories to inform Grit’s characters: ‘we discovered people find strength in deeply personal ways.’

‘Six symbolic characters emerged, each with an authentic story of grit.’

A compelling text and performance are the result.

The six stories are told in an authentic Queensland vernacular referring to ‘hell-town’ ,‘pigs at the door’ and ‘face planting in a cow pat’.

The well-paced cast transitions seamlessly between each character and story with no jarring set changes.

The music, delivered by the chorus, is fun and effective.

Vocalists and actors Sarah Harvey, Ben Adams and Abby Bowyer enhance the mood for each character with evocative movement and a beautiful original song for each character. The musical genres range from the tender ‘Look at My Boy’ to the jazz and blues ‘This Town of Mine’ to the hard core punk ‘Get Out’.

Cool lyrics, skilled arrangements.

This style of theatre is hard to categorise: it sometimes felt like cabaret, at others it had the languid feel of a blues club. It’s a tragedy, a comedy and a musical and it works.

The play honours regional voices and at times I recognised parts of the composite, thematic characters with their fondness for chainsaws and guitars, their dreams of leaving their town for something bigger and their love for and pride in their children.

Each character overcomes adversity in their own way, creating a hopeful, uplifting mood.

Gympie and many regional towns like it, can be rough diamonds and this play shines a light on the rough and on the diamond in a way that’s entertaining, deeply respectful, hopeful and unflinching. Recommend.

Grit runs from 20 to 27 March 2024 at the Perseverance Street Studio in Gympie. Tickets through Humanitix.

PHOTO CREDIT: Fletcher Colfs in black beanie at top of story by Brea Martin Photography

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