Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could just escape sometimes? Escape to a world of our own making, where everything is just so and we find all the answers we’re looking for?

Well, that’s what Cristina did. She retreated into a cupboard and into her mind, shying away from the overwhelming world and rejecting all attempts by family and friends to come back out.

Cristina low res-0038Despite a misleading title, Cristina doesn’t actually spend the entire performance in a cupboard. It’s metaphorical, thank goodness! Written by Paul Gilchrist, the delightful script is explorative and magical. It’s intelligent, witty and sharply observed, with a plethora of weird and wonderful characters. Gilchrist has managed to articulate the subconscious, and Director Julie Baz has given it life on stage.

In the title role, Emily McGowan is the perfect fusion of childlike naïvety and scholarly wisdom. Her big eyes and long, flowing hair, floral dress and ballet flats give rise to the notion that surely someone so young and so lovely can have no reason to escape the world? But McGowan’s commanding presence and strong handle on the text ensures we see another side to Cristina.

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Tasha O’Brien and Lucy Quill as Cristina’s competitive best friends Belinda and Erica find some lovely moments of comedy throughout, with very recognisable characters. As Cristina’s awkward, devoted ex-boyfriend Gabriel, Teale Howie entices more than a few groans of sympathy from the audience.

Baz’s direction lacks a little clarity at times, resulting in mixed performances and a few dips in energy. But despite this, the cast work well together, and it is a buoyant production overall. Set design by David Jeffrey (also Robert, Cristina’s dad) evokes fond memories of long summer days by the sea, and Baz’s costume design is eclectic.

Life is hard, and sometimes all we need is a little retreat to recuperate and rejuvenate. These days, in such unrelentingly busy times, finding time to oneself can seem impossible. The demand of social expectations can so often quash individual aspirations. But if you happen to manage it, to find that oasis in the middle of this urban desert, your journey of discovery will surely bring you something magical.

Playing at The Depot Theatre until July 30th.

Alana Kaye – Theatre Now & Talking Arts