XANTHE Paige was captivated by Sugarland when Sydney-based Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) staged the production in 2014, the same year she graduated from NIDA.
The actor was an audience member that time and was thrilled by the news ATYP was remounting the piece in 2016.
Written by Rachael Coopes and Wayne Blair, the play was a result of a series of residencies in Katherine, Northern Territory that aimed to create a personal story about life growing up in remote Australia.
“I’ve always wanted to work with ATYP, having seen a lot of their shows,” Paige said.
“I just loved Sugarland and thought it was a beautiful piece with so much heart.
“It deals with such important issues, so when I heard that it was being presented again, it was really exciting and incredible when I got this role.”
Paige (23) plays 16-year-old Erica, one of five teenagers and the new girl in town following her father’s transfer to the RAAF Base just outside Katherine.
“Her story deals with issues of displacement, trying to find a sense of place and belonging when she moves around so much,” Paige said. “She lives a transient life, never sees her dad and just the struggles associated with that,
which I didn’t know about prior to going to Katherine, where we had the opportunity to go on the RAAF Base and chat to families there.
“You realise those issues are so huge and there are a lot of mental health issues and as a result of that, a lot of self-harm that goes on.
“It’s incredibly sad and not readily talked about.
“It was phenomenal, especially meeting these young people who are so strong and resilient, but forced to be by circumstance.” Paige said the play was a world away from her childhood, growing up in northern NSW town Murwillumbah until she was 18 years old, moving house but never having to change friends. “That’s all part of Erica’s journey within the play and then her somewhat unlikely friendship with Nina, who is a young indigenous girl at school,” she said. “They bond and form a friendship, which is initially through a shared musical interest. “These are the stories of young Australians and the idea of the play is to express they are not alone. “It’s a way of opening the conversation.” Sugarland will be presented in Perth by Subiaco’s Barking Gecko Theatre Company to coincide with National Reconciliation Week.