eight: the peach season by debra oswald
The Peach Season (playscript) by Debra Oswald
Currency Press, Sydney, 2007
review published in VATE Newsletter, no. 4, September 2007
Kieren, the wild, trashy boy from Sydney, bites into a Red Haven peach and gasps, getting a rush. ‘Oh, this is—far out, this is— How come I never tasted anything like this in my life before?’ Like the Red Haven, The Peach Season is raw and exhilarating. Debra Oswald’s tender and confronting script explores love through a concentrated collection of universally significant relationships: mother/daughter, mother/son, brother/sister, man/woman. What begins as a plan to get people in to pick the fruit for market, rapidly bursts into personal territory. The blurb reads…’It’s the best season for five years at Celia’s farm, and the fruit is rotting on the branches for want of pickers.’ The trees go to ruin with daughter Zoe.
This two act drama, first produced by Griffin Theatre Company in 2006, features emotionally engaging dialogue exchanges. Black and white photographs accompany some significant scenes. Actor Maeve Dermody (Zoe) introduces the script, while Oswald illuminates the myth of Demeter and Persephone which subtly underpins her characters’ journeys. The atmospheric dichotomy of rural utopia and urban underworld provides opportunities to elicit student responses about representations of contemporary Australia and the fears consuming our love.
A synopsis of the journey: Zoe feels burdened by her sheltered life, barely alive. Two Sydney ferals seek picking work at her mother’s peach orchard to finance an escape from police. Zoe’s need to sever the relationship with her overprotective mother pushes her to extremes. Captured by the luscious rush of first love, she escapes with Kieren, stumbling in to degradation; drug use, break and enters, sleeping rough. Zoe then witnesses the violent death of another girl. Along the way we experience a mother’s deep love for her child, and the tangle of brother/sister relationships. We are amused confidantes in grandmother Dorothy’s dry asides to-camera, and as a side-dish, we cheer for the rebound love that rejuvenates Joe and Sheena.
This strong Currency Press publication for senior school students features a small cast (4F, 2M) ranging in age. No follow-up activities or notes are included. Perhaps there lies an opportunity. The script contains minimal stage directions. Peach is pitched to a more mature audience than Oswald’s Dags and Stephen Davis’ Juice, but certainly to those who can cope with Nick Enright’s Blackrock. Peach contains more tenderness and humanity than Blackrock, but both contain profanities and exposure of life’s underbelly. Its issues, more complex than those of After January, could be explored in class alongside Juice and Heroin Lies, or in production.
Zoe could be compared to Vicki, the ordinary girl of Heroin Lies who is ‘no troublemaker or runaway, truant or secret smoker, well, not at first.’ Unlike Vicki, Zoe emerges from her Hell; damaged, but stronger.