In a 24-hour service station on the edge of the road through a remote industrial part of the city, the paths of six night-workers intersect.
Late at night, when the normal rites and rituals of everyday life are made topsy-turvy, these provocative encounters take unexpected turns. The beliefs and philosophies that sustain these sex-workers, taxi drivers and shift workers are prodded and tested against the ever-shifting landscape of the night-time highway.
The Last Highway is a gritty and hypnotic performance work exploring glimpses of people who are positioned at the edges of our society, who by circumstance and choice live in the recesses of the night. Just as day becomes night in the work, the lives of many people are increasingly pushed away from our gaze and also our compassion.
The night unfolds with hints of human warmth that fade swiftly in the face of a grim series of events. Bleak doesn’t begin to describe The Last Highway.
The Daily Telegraph
Through its intercultural cast, The Last Highway explores some of the cultural stereotypes associated with late-night work and looks at some of the complex issues embedded within notions of territory, dispossession and belonging.
There on the cement I see the dispossession of all non-Indigenous Australians performing disconnected rituals on foreign soil, a displacement of soul which resonated … the acting, dancing and writing was so keen, so well observed … that this is a powerful and truthful piece, as good as it gets in Sydney, the night before Australia day.
What is striking about The Last Highway is its studied depiction of inaction. Everything happens in the corner of one’s eye. Talbot’s blocking is important in this way—it makes a point of physically shaping the stillness and emptiness in the characters’ lives. As an audience we are lulled into accepting this version of ‘normality’—partly because it is a little too familiar, partly because it is a little too strange. The rigour with which the performers sustain this tension is commendable. For all that didn’t happen across the arch of the night, my eyes were wide open.
The Last Highway draws on a performance style and process of creative investigation that emphasises reality. It is an investigation of waiting and isolation, blending real-time actions within a surreal and dreamlike theatrical environment.
The Last Highway has been created in residence at a warehouse and adjoining road. By creating the work in a real site it occupies a liminal space hovering between the artifice of theatre and everyday reality. The scale of the site allowed a high degree of experimentation, enabling the composition of actions and images across a broad panorama to relay fragments of narrative. This method of creating work embeds a sense of real time and perspective that will transfer to a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces.
As the subject material and theatrical presentation draws heavily on reality, the audience are positioned in the role of the witness, becoming complicit in the action.
Throughout the devising process, The Last Highway employed Alicia Talbot’s unique consultative process that involved non arts experts. Street-based sex workers, taxi drivers, police and garage attendants and industry professionals such as outreach workers, health professionals, academics and cultural thinkers. They attended rehearsals on a weekly basis, responding to material and scenes generated through the devising process. Their critical and dramaturgical feedback greatly impacted on the authenticity of the work.
… a confronting piece of urban theatre based squarely on what is really out there in the community. It is a disturbing yet beautifully presented piece.
Sydney Festival 2008, Australia Council for the Arts, Arts NSW, Bankstown City Council, Sydney South West NSW Health, John Holland, NUAA, SWOP, Bankstown Sports Club, Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, Frankel Lawyers.