Still from THE WEEKEND. A woman looks poised to run. In the background the outline of a red door shape glows in the darkness.Lara has only the weekend to track down her partner as she traverses the world of public housing, drug dealing, and addiction.

The Weekend is based on a situation that first time playwright that Henrietta Baird (from Kuku Yalanji/Yidinji country in Queensland’s Far North) experienced. From this she’s written an extremely funny, emotionally horrifying one-woman show. Performer Shakira Clanton plays multiple characters as we follow Lara on her epic journey.

She performs on a stark set (by Kevin O’Brien). There is a large rectangle of grey industrial carpet that looks like create sparks if Clanton wore shoes. A three panel screen of funhouse mirrors distorts her reflection when she dances or walks in front of it. Around the edges of the panel are led lights which change colour to brilliantly represent different settings. (Lighting design Karen Norris.) A plastic bread tray sits at one side.

The play starts with Clanton dancing. Her movements are sure and strong. I see aspects of gathering, direction. Energy is created then sent through clapping. The theatre stills. The soundscape is rhythmic with a tapping sound balanced by a hollow drum beat. (Sound design by Nick Wales, Rhyan Clapham (aka Dobby), Kevin O’Brien.) The lights fade to black and then we’re in to the story.  

I’m confused at first. Clanton as Lara is charming. She balances the outwardly-calm persona with the rising tension on the inside. Her realisation of the Lara’s two boys is sparser than I’d expected. A head tilt, a slight change of voice. Her characterisation of the other women is much stronger. Physically and vocally they are quite different to Lara. Later in the play I get it. The men aren’t at the centre of this story. The men leave, or are left. It is the women are active in this world.  They are informed by their past and the relationship they have with these men but the sisterhood (good and bad) is who takes action. These are women who have been traumatised but who have locked that trauma away in order to function. It leaks out in self-destructive behaviours, but they are coping the best way they know how. There is a terrible sense that they believe this is what they deserve. Director Liza-Mare Syron has skilfully paced the evolution of the characters with the revelation in the script. 

A mythic tale of searching and self discovery. Recognisably First People’s work, it’s heartbreaking and redemptive. 

Content warning: descriptions of intravenous drug use, strong language.