Crossing The Quince
Imagine that in your pocket, you have a unique fruit, perhaps the last of its kind anywhere. You’re starving, you’re desperate. Of course you want to eat it—but if you do, you’ll remove forever its DNA from the world’s botanic lexicon. You’re a scientist, you know the score. What do you do?
Crossing The Quince, a highly visual contemporary theatre work for female actor, male dancer, a swarm of fruit-flies, a string of rats, and a rain of strawberries, explores this and other questions of individual choice.
Winter 1942, and the city of Leningrad is under siege, surrounded by Nazi forces. At the Institute of Plant Industry, as food supplies dwindle, Vera, a botanist struggles with the consequences of the pact made by herself and her colleagues at the beginning of the blockade: to protect the collection—some of the world’s most precious plant genetic resources. Inspired by true events, Crossing The Quince is the story of Vera’s struggle with herself, as loneliness and guilt gnaw at a psyche made fragile by hunger and circumstance. Finally entering a mental landscape where reality and delusion become indistinguishable.
Although set in the past, the themes of Crossing The Quince remain resonant today. As politicians legislate to control scientific inquiry, as hardline regimes continue to silence those whose views don’t conform to the prevailing ideology, and creationists lobby to get their theological beliefs onto the school science curriculum.
Robust language, striking imagery, anachronistic newsflashes and new media interventions are all integral to the dramatic unfolding of Vera’s dilemma. As doubts, regrets—and eventually guilt—are counterpointed with unexpected humour, moments of joy, political send-up, flashes of scientific reverie, and of course, the appearance of Fred Astaire, as he tap-taps his way through the rats and files, and into Vera’s arms.
Short-listed: 2008 Rodney Seaborn Playwrights’ Award