Drift – Australian Theatre for Young People

As if transitioning into young adulthood isn’t hard enough, what with trying to define a unique self and working out what being a grown-up looks like, the characters in Two Peas’ Drift also have to deal with heartbreaking grief.

It’s the story of a group of friends in their early 20s, some at uni, some starting fulltime work, trying to be functional adults as they attempt to deal with the death of a friend. In the wake of this tragedy, their relationships with each other change as they’re each consumed by the pain in different ways: alcoholism, anger, drug abuse, isolation.

Alex Packard and Lauren Pegus in ATYP's Drift.
Alex Packard and Lauren Pegus in ATYP’s Drift.

While the production is occasionally moving and insightful, it never really feels as affecting as a show about life, death and identity could be – instead, it feels exaggerated beyond reasonable belief. Tara Clark and Kieran Foster, who wrote the play, have created a compelling and relatable premise, but in the move from idea to execution the play has become contrived, with the script full of overstated and obvious language.

The characters are personifications of different manifestations of grief rather than complex people dealing with their heartache. Olivia Jubb’s Angie is angry and cold and we only sparingly get an insight into the sorrow that has pushed her to that extreme. Her boyfriend, Adam Kovarik’s Harrison, is an on-edge alcoholic, whose alcoholism fuels his aggressive temperament. Gavin (Challito Browne) has turned to drugs for solace and pushed his friends away. These characters all exist at one-level only – a portrayal of how grief consumes people and stifles their relationships – but by keeping them at one level, Clarke and Foster have traded complexity for broad strokes, making it difficult to connect to the characters.

Alex Packard in Drift at ATYP.
Alex Packard in Drift at ATYP.

The bright spots are Alex Packard, as Simon, who captures with real nuance the emotional highs and lows of a grieving friend. The magnetic Lauren Pegus as Kate is the real standout; she effectively balances heart-breaking sorrow with moments of humour and lightness in a captivating and poignant performance.

The play’s structure is more successful than its dialogue. Clark and Foster skilfully weave between times, cutting between scenes a year following the death, a scene at the wake, and scenes during their friend’s illness. The transitions between scenes flow naturally, aided by Liam O’Keefe’s lighting design and skilful use of projected videos against Ester Karuso Thurn’s set, and it’s a helpful way to increase the emotional investment in the characters. The most touching moments are those prior to the death; the still unhurt past lives of the characters are drawn with more depth and variation, making it easier to relate to them.

Drift’s core concerns of growing up and working out who you want to be are deeply relevant to young people, today and always, but often it was difficult to feel the poignancy of these concerns amidst contrived conversations with one-dimensional characters. Despite that, there were some very touching moments of joyful friendship and tender sorrow and a few powerful insights into what it’s like growing up after having lost a friend.

Bec Caton

Bec has a diploma in musical theatre and is currently completing a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English. She is a freelance theatre writer in Sydney.

Bec Caton

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