A storm is brewing at the Brisbane Arts Theatre, as the ferocity of human relationships collide with the ferocity of mother nature, in new Australian play ‘Strange Attractor’.
“It's a play about six people and a railroad construction site in the Pilgara in Western Australia. The exciting incident is that a cyclone comes through and there's a death. You learn a person dies at the beginning of the play, but you don't find out how until the end, so it's a pseudo murder-mystery,” explains Brazilian born actor Pedro Ramos, who plays Chilli, a foreign labourer trying to make a better life for his family in Australia.
“Chilli is a fish out of water for various reasons, and I had to figure out what his purpose was, by getting into the mindset of someone wanting all the things they couldn't have back home. It wasn't hard for me, being a foreigner myself.”
Best known for her television writing credits including ‘Bastard Boys’ and ‘Brides of Christ’, playwright Sue Smith has created an intense story about the balancing act between temptation and your moral compass. It is a drama that explores the relationships and secrets that exist in Australia's isolated workplaces.
“It's about how the six characters react to the death or are reacting to what happens before it. It explores some timelines — which is fascinating — as well as the different facets of working in an environment like that,” says Pedro.
Once the cyclone has wreaked havoc, the small team of employees wait anxiously for 'the company man' to arrive from Perth and carry out investigations. The crew do their best to distract themselves, coming together in a makeshift mess hall, in which the evening takes an unexpected turn.
“Everyone in the team has done a really good job at making this play. It really just sucks you in and makes you feel completely enthralled by what's going on.”
To capture the inhospitality of the Outback, the play utilises high level production values to captivate and terrify.
“There's a lot of warm lighting to convey the sense of heat. The backgrounds give you a sense that there's more beyond the walls and for the cyclone we use sounds and strobe lights that really bring it alive and make it pop! The moment the storm hits is terrifying — the audience will feel like they are in the cyclone themselves.”
The role of Chilli is yet another blessing for Pedro, who only became active in theatre at the start of this year, but is already making a tradition of playing complex Latino characters.
“I did theatre in high school and loved it. I did a couple of main stage productions back then but moved around a bit so never got a chance to get back into theatre. It wasn't until stabilising myself in Brisbane that I decided I was going to give it another chance and that was late last year. I've been lucky because for some reason there's been a few plays needing someone from a Latin background and it's just been serendipitous for me and them. My accent has been a blessing and a curse, but I think more a blessing because it gives me a chance to take on roles that no one else can.”
Smith's script was shortlisted for a NSW Premier's Awards 2011 and promises a theatre experience that is witty, well-crafted and beautifully brought to life.
‘Strange Attractor’ is staged at The Brisbane Arts Theatre from October 4-26.