Sports reports often accentuate the bravery of the athletes when mostly they are getting paid huge sums of money for doing what they do.

I guess there is courage involved but real courage is facing life and living it to the full with a disability or helping care for those who do.

That’s one reason why the Queensland Theatre and Sydney Theatre Company production Cost of Living is so inspiring. I guess the cost of living for such people is high but one worth paying and the price is love. Love is the key and that is expressed by the characters in this at times confronting but ultimately heartwarming play.

Cost of Living is a 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner and four-time Tony Award nominee for its smash-hit Broadway run. Written by former caregiver turned playwright, Martyna Majok, it tells the story of two individuals living with disability and their caregivers.

Drawing on her lived experience Majok introduces four seemingly disconnected characters whose lives are a crossroad. John (Dan Daw, who directed the piece alongside Priscilla Jackman) is a wealthy successful PhD student with cerebral palsy. He hires Jess (Zoe de Plevitz), a woman juggling multiple jobs just to stay afloat.

Then there’s Eddie (Philip Quast), an unemployed truck driver desperately trying to reconcile with his ex-wife Ani (Kate Hood) who has become a wheelchair user after an accident. Hood herself became a wheelchair user a decade ago.

The play examines two pairs of relationships with honesty and humour.

As Queensland Theatre’s executive director points out “Dan’s lived experience brings an unparalleled authenticity alongside Priscilla’s empathetic and insightful direction, both working together to reveal a production that is powerful, deeply felt and full of heart.”

The play started out in 2015 as a two-character one-act play called John, Who’s Here From Cambridge but after a run Off-Broadway it was expanded and retitled. Cost of Living made its world premiere in mid-2016 at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in the US before eventually making its way to Broadway in 2022. To have someone with lived experience directing the work here now is special and having Dan Daw and Kate Hood exploring their lived experience on stage through the vehicle of this production is a treat.

This is where courage comes to the fore, courage from them, admiration from us. Luckily, they are both great actors. Dan Daw is wry and compelling as John who is not always a sympathetic character at all. Kate Hood’s Ani is heartbreaking and hilarious. Zoe de Plevitz’s performance as a young woman with a big heart struggling to get by is quite visceral at times.

Philip Quast’s mastery is on full display as Eddie. Quast is a great actor on screen, in theatre and musical theatre and his stage presence adds gravitas … gravitas in a flannelette shirt in this instance.

It’s good to see something that makes you think and feel, even if the feeling is one of discomfort at times. Michael Scott-Mitchell’s spare but effective set allows us to focus on people rather than effects and John Rayment’s lighting design aids in that too. Composer and sound designer Guy Webster is one of the best in the business.

The last time I saw a shortish piece (it’s only 90 minutes with no interval) that was as powerful as this was Prima Facie which played in The Bille Brown Theatre a few years ago. Both plays have something powerful to say in a dramatic, effective and entertaining way.

Cost of Living by Martyna Majok is on until July 13 in the Bille Brown Theatre at Queensland Theatre, 78 Montague Road, South Brisbane.


Make a comment View comment guidelines

Support local arts journalism

Your support will help us continue the important work of InReview in publishing free professional journalism that celebrates, interrogates and amplifies arts and culture in South Australia.

Donate Here

. You are free to republish the text and graphics contained in this article online and in print, on the condition that you follow our republishing guidelines.

You must attribute the author and note prominently that the article was originally published by InReview.  You must also inlude a link to InReview. Please note that images are not generally included in this creative commons licence as in most cases we are not the copyright owner. However, if the image has an InReview photographer credit or is marked as “supplied”, you are free to republish it with the appropriate credits.

We recommend you set the canonical link of this content to to insure that your SEO is not penalised.

Copied to Clipboard