Tim Winton is nothing short of a national treasure. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Signs of Life, the iconic author's second play. Directed by Kate Cherry, the play is essentially a sequel to the 2002 Miles Franklin winning novel Dirt Music, and accordingly emphasises the interconnectedness of past, place and self.
Heather Mitchell gives a sincere performance as Georgie, a middle-aged widow whose reclusive life on her farm is interrupted by the seemingly accidental arrival of Bender (Aaron Pederson) and Mona (Pauline Whyman); an indigenous Brother-Sister pair clearly wearing the scars of inexplicable hardship. Predictably, we learn the visit was no accident and the trio trudge through their emotional chaos.
Although the set looks like a weatherboard house mashed into an inebriated eyeball, it is the script that really hampers the production. Attuned to having his words do the work, Winton has crammed the dialogue with hyper-expositional and descriptive rants and soliloquies. The play moves better when the characters act in the present and there are some endearing little rapid-fire feuds between Georgie and Bender. But for the most part, we're absorbing layers of tedious backstory.