Every good story needs to have strong and dramatic content, believably memorable characters and a plot that deepens with subplots. Oil by Ella Hickson at Heath Ledger Theatre 5-27 November is one such good story.
Spanning more than 160 years – from 1889 Cornwell to 1908 Tehran to 1970 Hampstead to 2021 Bagdad to 30 years into the future – it plots the lifespan of one of our most precious commodities, oil, and a mother/daughter relationship. A 5-part play that is an oil barrel full of content, characters and subplots to have one engaged with what’s played out on stage.
Making her professional theatre debut is recent WAAPA graduate Abbey Morgan who plays Amy in Oil.
In 2019 Abbey moved from Melbourne to Perth, specifically for her studies, and found being somewhat isolated here in the west away from the judgemental scrutiny of the industry’s hub over east to be of great benefit. She says not feeling like all the eyes were on her while she was still in discovery mode and testing things out gave her space to train and try.
Merely a month after getting her degree, in November last year, she landed a gig in the Stan original series Bad Behaviour – followed by the role of Amy.
Abbey endears herself to the “meatiness” of Oil together with its food for thought. “I love it because it’s an environmental play and it gives you so much to think about,” she says. “It kind of encourages you to think about how you live your life and strive to be better.”
“It’s so personal, it [also] makes you think about your relationship with your family,” she adds.
Hear from Oil‘s Director Adam Mitchell
Abbey likes the idea of the play marrying the personal relationship, a rather contentious and combative one at that, between daughter (Amy) and mother (May played by Hayley McElhinney) with statements about the imperialistic instinct of countries and corporations.
“I feel like I’m being challenged to utilise all of my acting skills … and everything that WAAPA trained me with,” she says.
Acting skills that require playing a person living for over 160 years in the UK and in the Middle East, where the character of Amy is transposed into different versions of herself. From a delightfully bright 8-year-old to a rebellious snarky teenager to a defiant and angry woman, passionate about the environment whose world is turned upside down by her mother.
“I’m challenged to think about the technical aspects of how to change my physicality and the vocal challenges of different accents,” she says indicating to the different worlds and different times Amy finds herself in.
Challenges such as learning how to speak Arabic with the rolling of the ‘R’ and the phlegmy, throaty sound. But as Abbey says the technical as well as the psychological and emotional requirements make the role an “absolute dream” for “a new actor joining the industry.”
She goes on to say having the opportunity to play the role of Amy as well as working with many creatives she has admired for a long time is incredibly cool. “I’m learning so, so much working on the play.”
This is also in reference to the historical and cultural journey Oil takes us on. A journey that gives her portfolio a little more gravitas. A portfolio that already has her performing Shakespeare and comedy at WAAPA, film and then stage after graduating.
A launchpad to give 23-year-old Abbey Morgan a “multidisciplinary career.” Where the plot of saying “yes to any [acting] opportunity” is scripted with the subplots of takes one, two and three to get it right in film and just one take to get it right in live theatre.
Oil by Ella Hickson presented by Black Swan State Theatre Company is on at the Heath Ledger Theatre from 5-27 November.