Queensland Theatre’s Cost of Living by Martyna Majok at Billie Brown Theatre until 13 July 2024

Did you know that all people are people? Are human? We all have emotions, and needs, and we all want to help. All of us. Strange notion eh? That’s the theme of “Cost of Living” by US playwright Martyna Majok. It sticks to the US dialogue which is, I think, its only weakness. I’m sure it could easily have been adapted to an Australian setting. But perhaps the playwright wanted to keep her words intact. And so a US setting and dialect were required.

Four actors take us through days in the lives of four characters. Just random people at which life has thrown random events. And, over it all, each one retains their humanity, flaws and all.

It’s nothing like you’d expect. It runs against the tide of what the likes of John Howard and Pauline Hanson would call “political correctness”. Nothing is logical in an hour and a half of uninterrupted dialogue divided into vignettes.

In essence, it invites us behind the curtain of a day in the life of a carer. The mobile person who can do what another’s body will no longer allow them to do, or never did. And how that negotiation is played out between equals. Fights within a safe relationship. Demands of someone for personal services, without happy endings. Money in the “wrong“ hands. These are addressed in one way or another in this play. The dialogue is fast moving and a second viewing would, I suspect, bring even greater enjoyment.

Priscilla Jackman and Dan Daw directed the play. The set works. It’s designed to draw the audience in, to intrigue them. And it does. As it reconfigures itself, it mirrors back the experience of people, changing yet staying forever the same. Michael Scott-Mitchell did good.

The lives of the four characters: John, played by Dan Daw, Jess played by Zoe de Plevitz, Ani played by Kate Hood and Eddie, the booming character, played by Philip Quast, weave their lives together in unexpected ways. The actors presented us with rich and surprising characters. The wrong people set boundaries. The wrong people try so hard to be wanted. Life’s like that, and these actors left the audience with no illusions about the uniqueness of each and every one of us.

Lighting Designer John Rayment played with the shadows, taking us from black and white to grey. Guy Webster, Composer and Sound Designer, enthralled us with music that disrupted.

There was no stand out character. John and Eddie were strong determined men, and Ani and Jess had even more reason to be determined. This play is about determination against the odds. And the unravelling of the American Dream, but not so much.

Again, had it been adapted for Australia, we could have looked closely at ourselves. Instead we are left confirming prejudices about the US system. That’s the only comfortable prejudice you’ll be able to walk away from this play intact.

Book here: https://queenslandtheatre.com.au/plays/cost-of-living


Kerry McGovern