Preview: Tusk Tusk

‘Have you ever wished something so hard it isn’t even a wish anymore?’

Based on the award-winning playwright by Polly Stenham, Tusk Tusk encapsulates the precarious transition from childhood to adulthood. As their mother walks out on them, three children are left to fend for themselves as they await her return. As accidents occur, 15-year-old Eliot (Jake Leigh) does all that he can to pull the family back together, to prevent the children from being taken into care. But as family friends come sniffing around, how long can they keep the secret before they have to admit that their mother is not coming back?

What drew the Director, Gabriella Shennan, to this play was the “effortlessly smooth” way that “dark humour” and “poignancy” could create both a tense but heart-felt portrayal of growing up. The adds to the relevance of the play, where subtle hints at mental illness increase the vulnerability of the children and builds until the play concludes.

What makes this play relatable however is the cast, made up of students who “perhaps, more than anyone else, understand the uneasy transition between childhood and adulthood”. Jake Leigh (Eliot) comments on the poignancy of his character as he undergoes a transformation from “an uninhibited teenager to an adult of all sorts who is responsible for the well-being of his younger siblings”. The emotional development of the characters can be seen throughout the play as they begin to age beyond their years and take on the responsibilities that their mother could not face.

Image Credits: Paul Ashley

Whilst the emotionally dysfunctional nature of the play evokes shock and uncertainty in the eyes of the audience, Arabella Alhaddad (Maggie) notes that “witty and sarcastic one-liners add lighter moments to the heavy-hitting show”. Described by Shennan as “effortlessly smooth” and packed with “unpredictable twists”, Tusk Tusk raised issues of age and youth, making the audience question “when exactly we ever do grow up?”. For a number of cast members, being able to embody a teenager again “remind[s] me of how much we learn in those years, and how much we still have to learn” (Orla Hill, Cassie). At the same time the extent to which Eliot goes to protect his family encapsulates a sense of sibling solidarity riddled with love and uncertainty, which is so prominent in this play.

Image credits: Paul Ashley

The most poignant and recurring concept for me, however, is the idea of hope. A hope that the children will be cared for, a hope that someone will come and save them, but most importantly a hope that their mother will return. As an audience we grapple with the children’s need for their mother to appear, as well as the need for her to stay away. After all, it is usually those who are close to us that prevent us from being free.

At the centre of the production however are the people, who Shennan describes as such as “talented team of [both] cast and crew”. From transforming rehearsal rooms into imaginative spaces, the play ahas been “a wonderfully creative experience, and we cannot wait to show you the play brought to life?” (Shennan).

Tusk Tusk is showing at the Robinson College auditorium from Friday 3rd November and Sunday 5th November at 7:30pm. Tickets can be purchased here.

Feature image credits: Paul Ashley

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