Highway of Lost Hearts: Heart, Soul, and the Open Road.

Highway of Lost Hearts Rating

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‘Highway of Lost Hearts’. What a beautiful title for a beautiful play. A captivating blend of gritty road trip realism and magical storytelling that explores an individual’s search for a soul and need for redemption. Mary Anne Butler’s superbly adapted novel is a True Blue, One Woman, Aussie travelling tale, where red earth meets fire, flood and drought, and ancient mountains loom over spirit-stirring waters. Our paths are both uniquely our own and universally relatable. Wherever the open road takes you, your own thoughts, dreams, and demons will be right there in the passenger seat, refusing to be left behind.

Mot is a remarkable woman whose once-unbreakable spirit is now weathered and worn. Detached from her sense of purpose, identity, and relationships, she is lost in a sea of meaninglessness, longing for peace while hungering for connection. At this crossroads in life, she’s grappling with the questions all women of a certain age face when they finally shed society’s expectations. But the spark that once drove her has flickered out.

This is a uniquely female pilgrimage and point of view. Mot is not afraid to entrust us with insights into the delicate balance between desire and defence. She is resilient in the face of uncertainty as she propels down a long and lonely 1000km stretch of relentless highway.

Director Adam Deusien optimises a pared-down and intuitive approach to these epic themes. He uses a luminous lighting design (Becky Russell), and simplistic, streamlined set (Annemaree Dalziel) which utilises forced perspective with long drops of sheer drapes. This evokes a never-ending thoroughfare where horizons expand, hopes arise, and possibilities are boundless.

Smith tackles the role of Mot, a formidable challenge of what is effectively a 70-minute monologue and (fittingly) solo performance. It’s a feat of focused endurance. Accompanied by her faithful imaginary canine companion, she matter-of-factly envisions a kaleidoscope of encounters with new people and old memories, blurring the lines between reality and reflection. With just a few basic props, a ‘she’ll be right’ laconic tone and her physicality, Smith slowly weaves a winding narrative tapestry. It’s a deeply intimate story experience shared through mind, body and immense heart.

Sophie Jones and Abby Smith imbue the beats of Mot’s story with an original and hauntingly beautiful vocal and instrumental soundscape of guitar, keyboard, harmonica and percussion. They could have sung acapella because both were strong singers who created a rich and full sound. At times the mike amplification level was a little overpowering. When it was more subdued, their lovely harmonies resonated with a melancholic depth and sacredness that echoed the emotional terrain of Mot’s odyssey of grief and growth.

Only 10 years old and on the HSC drama list, ‘Highway of Lost Hearts’ is already a distinctly Australian classic for a reason. It’s a reminder that the roads we travel are not just physical, but also emotional and spiritual. Anyone who roams solo will innately understand Mot, the fragility of her heart and the transformative power of travel. After all, the true purpose of a road trip is to connect with something greater. The rest may ponder the challenge of self-discovery and how we are all called to take this journey.

Like Mot, Arts on Tour and ‘Highway of Lost Hearts’ has ventured far and wide, concluding its performances in the Land of the Dharug People at the Riverside Theatre. The next time it revives and swings by this part of town, make sure you join the road to inner wisdom and delight in discovering more about yourself along the way. The trip will not always be what you expect, but you’ll leave more enlightened.

For future Arts On Tour performances, see: https://artsontour.com.au/what-we-do-and-why/

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

Photography by Hannah Groggan

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