“We could have been … diving for anything … pearls …”

Rough around the edges but beautiful when polished, Diving for Pearls is timeless and honest. From the depths of a coal mine to life in housing commission, Griffin’s intimate space is a little small for such big issues. Director, Darren Yap’s rendition of Katherine Thomson’s 1991 play is well timed and relevant. One of Australia’s most popular play in the 1990’s, Griffin’s revival of the story of steel is welcomed. Set in Wollongong, NSW in the 1980’s, it speaks to the economic and social hardship of retrenchment, declining industry, distant families and love.

Lead by a strong Ursula Yovich and Steve Rodgers, the pair make a realistic portrayal of how the ‘Aussie battler’ lives. A flighty forty-something Barbara (Yovich) is looking to ‘make a change’, grooming herself for a position at the new hotel in town. Yovich is confident in her role, with a cigarette in hand, she shows us her dedication to the role without hesitation. Rodgers plays the simple, caring Den, providing light moments in a dark story. Den’s journey of false hope and loss opens our eyes to the reality for the less fortunate. From his comical public speaking to his easy-going, kind nature, Rodger’s proves his range as an actor.

Michelle Doake as the hilarious yet tart sister, Marj and Jack Finsterer, who delivers a believable performance as the big-shot businessman, both still suffer the repercussions of a retrenched and broken city. A young Ebony Vagulans has a difficult role to play, Barbara’s intellectually and physically disabled daughter, Verge. Her physical ability in the role as well as her quirky nature makes her a standout. Overall, this small cast really show us the injustices of the world around us with morality, however still reminding us to laugh occasionally.

In keeping with the times, designer James Browne’s costumes and Benjamin Brockman’s lighting design are 80’s, however the issues at hand could be mistaken for today. Griffin’s cosy corner is used well by Browne, a malleable stage gave the diversity needed for the setting; one minute on City Beach, the next underground. Max Lambert and Rodger Lock’s mechanic composition are very fitting.

Retrenchment and economic crisis reminds us where we stand in society, and how those in cyclical oppression can’t escape. Australian theatre doesn’t get more direct. With subtle changes to be made, Yap has recreated a fine Aussie drama worth watching.

Griffin repolishes an antique pearl, allowing it to shine once more.

Playing at Griffin Theatre Company until October 28.

Jamie Binder: Theatre Now