Past the Shallows Review


As the lights went down in The Rebel Theatre, we were sent off the Southern Coast of Tasmania and into the wild, untameable seas.

Griffin McLaughlin in Past the Shallows, 2022. Photo by Brett Boardman ©

The setting was immediately clear thanks to seascapes projected onto the set’s three cycloramas. The projections serve as a backdrop to three talented young actors – Meg Clarke, Griffin McLaughlin, and Ryan Hodson – throughout the play. These visual scapes are used throughout the play (AV design by Nema Adel), often in combination with dreamlike soundscapes (sound design by Glenn Richards) to represent places, feelings, thoughts, and even dreams. The minimalist costume and set design meant that the story rested purely on the actors working in unison with these cycloramas and soundscapes, and under the careful direction of Ben Winspear, their timing was impeccable throughout the play.

Past the Shallows is a co-production between ATYP, and Tasmania’s Archipelago Productions, based on Favel Parrett’s novel of the same name. Written by Julian Larnach, the play is told through the voice of Miles, a 15-year-old boy growing up on Tasmania’s south coast, trying to navigate life and care for his 10-year-old brother Harry after the death of their mother, which left them with their largely absent and abusive father. The sea is an important motif throughout the play and draws parallel between the unpredictable and tumultuous physical landscape and Miles own life.

Griffin McLaughlin and Ryan Hodson in Past the Shallows, 2022. Photo by Brett Boardman ©

The actors switch between roles throughout the play, with all three actors sometimes playing the same character simultaneously. I was confused by this at the start of the play, and it took me a good 15 minutes to understand what was going on and get in the rhythm of this, but once I had established traits of certain characters the story was easier to follow. The wide variety of characters the actors play included the brothers, the father, and at one point, an energetic dog! For any actor, playing multiple characters is a tremendous challenge, yet all three actors portrayed each character convincingly, and kept interest throughout sometimes long-winded dialogue. Meg Clarke was a stand-out to me, embodying 10-year-old Harry with such a convincing and endearing youthfulness, yet still able to fully portray the father with such fierceness. This contrast led to such clarity when Meg switched rolls, and I loved seeing her in every part.

Meg Clarke, Griffin McLaughlin, and Ryan Hodson in Past the Shallows, 2022. Photo by Brett Boardman ©

The play dealt with heavy themes which were treated with sensitivity, and not used for shock value. Although hard to follow at times, the story was deeply moving and beautiful, and I wasn’t alone in needing some tissues at the end of the play! I appreciated that I didn’t leave the theatre feeling burdened or scared by the themes. Instead, I left with a greater awareness of the experience of others, and an increased understanding of the situations that other young people face. However, I didn’t have an increased understanding of how to help friends who may be experiencing domestic and family violence, and I wondered how young people experiencing that would have felt during the play. There were no obvious resources presented (that I saw) that talked about ways to help others, or to get help, or services that are available. Given that this story was not necessarily one that would spark hope in those experiencing domestic abuse, I feel that some balance should have been provided, whether through resources or another medium.

I think the success of this production is best summed up by the statement my non-theatre going friend made as we left the theatre – “This has like, sold me on going to the theatre!” – so it is clearly worth seeing!

3.5 Stars.

Julia, 25 [she/her]

ATYP’s Past the Shallows plays at the Rebel Theatre until the 9th November. Buy tickets here.