Sven Swenson is one of Queensland’s most prolific playwrights and his works are all interlinked in a massive project he calls The Sundial Series. Vertigo and the Virginia was his first play and is remembered fondly by most who saw its 1999 premiere at Queensland Theatre Company.
Reading it now, having seen several other plays in the Sundial Series, it’s interesting to see the links between characters: to recognise a name and know that the person mentioned briefly and never seen is a main character in a different play. I appreciate this interconnected world that Sven has created, where each and every character has a life that preceded this particular play’s beginning and that extends long after the play finishes, although it does make for additional length and exposition in some of the later plays.
Perhaps because Vertigo and the Virginia was the first of the series, it’s also in many ways the cleanest. The story is told simply without needing to slot into an existing jigsaw. It’s the shape it is because that’s the best shape for this story, rather than because it’s been moulded to fit with the others.
Relationships are raw, there’s a sense of dread as the play unfolds, and the characters are complex and well realised.
RUTH: We have been doing battle, my memory and I. And my memory hasn’t been fighting fair. I have felt long forgotten walls close in on me again. I have been drowning within those walls.
Vertigo and the Virginia begins and finishes with Ruth reading these lines and they are a beautiful portent and conclusion to this play about memory and families.
Publisher: Currency Press
Cast: 2M, 2F