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The Way Out; cyborgs, whiskey and a barren wasteland

When a tale of a toxic dystopia with moonshine and cyborgs feels deeply relatable to the current state of our society, you know you’re in for one hell of a cautionary tale.

Developed under the Red Stitch Theatre's INK program, The Way Out is here to get under your skin. It’s an allegorical tale that takes place in a future where Australia is nothing but a barren wasteland due to the aftermath of a civil war. For those who are left, it’s a lost cause. Nothing natural remains, supplies are rationed by an oppressive new government, and napalm-like toxins still linger in the air 14 years on. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.
 
Enter our hero Helen, played by Brigid Gallacher who took a minute with us to shed some light on The Way Out’s dark tale.
 
“There’s no joy in the world, basically,” Gallacher explains. "When we meet Helen, she and her father secretly brew quality beer and whisky to make some money but also to give people a bit of relief and joy in their lives.
 
The fragile society we find them in is really the only one Helen has ever known, but when she manages to spark life in the arid soil, it sows the seeds of a revolution.
 
“She’s this beacon of hope in a world that is controlled and pessimistic. She’s this tiny ray of optimism. And she’s managed, through her own curiosity and hard work, to grow this thing that no one else managed to do. And she sees that as the potential to inspire. Basically, it would eventually give people their freedom back.”
 
There’s much more to The Way Out than the tropes of sci-fi and western cinema. It’s a mix of old and new – of what is and what could be – and of a world in which a Cyborgian government official can step foot in your local watering hole that makes it such an exciting play.
 
Together with playwright Josephine Collins and directed by Penny Harpham, the pair create a leading character who doesn’t need superfluous bells and whistles to be a genuine heroine.
 
“She’s not born into anything exceptional and she doesn’t have anything exceptional about her," says Gallacher. "She doesn’t have any superpowers. She’s just a woman like you or me, who’s really smart and goes out and does it. She just doesn’t see a reason to not try.”
 
In Gallacher’s preparation for the role, she channelled protagonists like Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games and Daisy Ridley from Star Wars: Rogue One – characters remarkable for one thing in particular: resilience.
 
“She starts out strong, and she finishes strong. It’s a really good classic hero story. An action film narrative, but with a woman. And we don’t see that often enough, really.”
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An against-all-odds story is a familiar one, but The Way Out promises an intriguing night at the theatre, with lighter moments of humanity and humour showing adding zest to the story.
 
“The style of the play is very naturalistic," says Gallacher. "It’s got a really strong Australian sense of humour through it, where you can be totally in love with someone and still call them fuck face.”
 
Ultimately, The Way Out delivers a bold commentary on the path our generation has forged for itself, delving into themes of oppression, environmental disaster and the struggle to survive in a world that you did not choose.
 
“It’s a future that isn’t too far away from being possible, which is terrifying,” says Gallacher. Still need convincing? There's whiskey and cyborgs, too.

The Way Out runs at Red Stitch Theatre until Sunday September 24. Tickets via redstich.net.