Barking dogs desperate for praise. Arguing over directions during a road trip. Watching an ex-lover take their suitcase and leave. And choreographed dance scenes, set to Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights. I Will Not Be Here Long is a play rooted in both its honesty and its mysticism.
Written, directed and produced in its entirety by the National Theatre Drama School’s graduating class of 2017, I Will Not Be Here Long very aptly plays out like a culmination. A culmination of three years of study, of camaraderie between the cast members, and of the relationships it portrays.
The short, rhythmic play profiles five couples who find themselves in a remote outback motel – one seemingly both real and imagined. Director Harvey Zielinkski described I Will Not Be Here Long as being inspired by memory and the way dreams can, over time, become indistinguishable from reality. As we learn the couples’ stories through snippets of snippets, game show dramatisations and haunting dream sequences, we are never given too much. The audience is allowed to interpret each couple for themselves, and it feels as though we are watching memory itself, in all its elusiveness and sudden musical interludes.
The motel in I Will Not Be Here Long is unnamed (apart from being the most popular rest stop in the ‘north east of the southern corner of west Western Australia’), as are the characters themselves, bringing a sense of universal familiarity. We have all, at some point, felt the isolation and despair that the characters feel. And in a country like Australia where spaces are so vast, and in our digital age when connections can seem so hard to form, I Will Not Be Here Long taps into both nostalgic regrets and modern dilemmas.
On the technical side, the play is spectacular. The direction, lighting and sound design come together to create a show with an unrelenting energy. Emotions are at the forefront here, and the technical aspects of the production work overtime to portray each one with clarity.
The most striking aspect of I Will Not Be Here Long is the bursting rapport between the cast. They are very clearly, even to an outsider, a group of people who have known each other and worked together for years. For a play about relationships, this adds an invaluable layer of authenticity. If you have ever loved at all, or felt loss of any kind, or even just experienced something simply end without explanation, then you will find something to recognise here.
I Will Not Be Here Long by the National Theatre Drama School Graduating Company of 2017 runs from 19-22 October at the Richmond Theatrette. Tickets are available at: https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=320951 and are $15 for students.