In 2006, American astronaut Lisa Nowak undertook her first space exploration. Rebecca Meston’s Drive is an exploration of a different kind – it mines the trauma of heartbreak, following the true story of Lisa’s 2007 14-hour nonstop road trip to confront her ex-lover’s new girlfriend.
Drive’s creative and eloquent scenic design draws the audience in to its enchanting and captivating world. Lighting and smoke transform the white chair at centre stage into a space ship, a living room, and the car in which Lisa takes her 14-hour odyssey. And it is an odyssey – her journey is rendered almost mythic in Meston’s iteration, the heightened dialogue and interweaving narrative lending an epic air to Lisa’s vengeful road trip. This is an impressive feat given the plays runtime, a short and sharp 45 minutes.
The plays action takes place on a slightly elevated circular rostrum, elevated by excellent lighting design by Meg Wilson. White bar lights cut diagonally across the space and flares of blue and red light evoke the drama and inner destruction waging in Lisa. A disco ball plays the part of a planet, the light streaking out from it in a beautiful and otherworldly way.
Sound design also used to full effect – voice overs, the radio playing Fleetwood Mac and -, Siri (though anachronistically – the play is set in 2007 and Siri was birthed by Apple in 2010) all punctuate Lisa’s long drive. Her conversations with Siri give the play a delightful injection of magical realism. Siri tells Lisa to keep going, calls her Captain, asks if she’d like some music, and begs her to detour to get gas, an oddly human injection of empathy next to Lisa’s almost robotic singlemindedness.
The play uses its actors to great effect; while Lizzy Falkland‘s Lisa is on stage the entirety of the play, Ashton Malcolm and Christopher Pitman play several roles between them, weaving in and out of Lisa’s life. This contributes to the non-linear, timelessly suspended feel of the show, and is only briefly confusing, as Pitman plays both Tommy, Lisa’s lover, and her husband – and costuming and time unravel any uncertainty quickly.
Malcolm’s magazine profiler, who interviews Lisa and her husband in their home, is hilariously squeaky and eager – but it was her depiction of Candy, Tommy’s new lover and Lisa’s would be victim, that proves most memorable. An excellent counterpoint to the world-weary Lisa, Candy is naïve, and her wide-eyed descriptions of falling in love with Tommy make Lisa’s destruction at his loss all the more palpable. Pitman’s Tommy channels Harrison Ford-cool in his dark brown aviator jacket, and often stands behind a large circle of glass – unreachable, distant. Lisa’s husband is much more work-a-day, but effecting as he implores a distant Lisa to come back; down to earth, to him.
The show’s centre, Falkland’s Lisa has a gravitational pull, her stillness punctuated at times by almost Brechtian repeated mimed gestures of flipping switches in a rocket. She often looks out to something beyond the audience, illustrating her transcendence from her earthly existence. In her blue astronaut jumpsuit, she is ever the captain: in command and control, or at least pretending, even as she sets off into potential disaster.
Ultimately, Drive is the story of a woman used to piloting her life with upmost control spinning out into reckless spontaneity. Meston captures her renegade spirit with nuance and flair, making Drive a sucker-punch.
Rebecca Meston’s production of Drive runs from 6 – 15 June at Theatre Works.
Photography by Jodie Hutchinson