One Little Thing Can Go Wrong… Sally McKenzie’s WAY Shows You How

WAY, written and performed by Sally McKenzie, is a thought-provoking piece in its use of live performance, video, and audio elements. I wasn’t expecting the screen to compliment the performance so well.


WAY, written and performed by Sally McKenzie, is a thought-provoking piece in its use of live performance, video, and audio elements. I wasn’t expecting the screen to compliment the performance so well.

The La Mama Theatre stage opens with Lynne (Sally McKenzie) sitting off to the side with her back to the audience, switching between asking strangers for change and turning to talk to the audience. A big telephone box stands tall in front of her. Five chairs sit behind the phone booth with a coat on each chair—a big cardboard box off to the right balances the other side. We have a big screen to complete the stage.

What is WAY about?

Actor and documentary maker Lynne is making a film about homeless women. She is consumed by the women she’s making a film about. Homelessness in older women has affected her deeply and she wants to finish her documentary to help bring attention to these women’s dire situation. Lynne’s story is threaded into the women’s story. She is a documentary maker living through a pandemic, trying to deal with the financial crisis in her life.

We see the screen introducing women with shots of their backs and their feet while they are at work on something. Lynne explains how she doesn’t want to show women’s faces because they don’t deserve to have their faces associated with homelessness. She wants them to have dignity, not be defined by their problems. She doesn’t want to make pity porn.

This is a good segue into Lynne portraying all the characters to us. The coats help distinguish the characters, along with an introduction to the character on screen. McKenzie mimics their speech and mannerisms quite well for the play to not be confusing.

Lynne feels for the women who allowed her access to their lives. These women from all walks of life ended up with a home for many reasons.

“One little thing can go wrong…”

This line is at the centre of the storytelling and is weaved into the portrayal brilliantly.

The play starts with a homeless woman talking to us and then we go through individual stories of different women, with Lynne’s story being the recurring thread. Lynne switches from portraying the women telling their stories to being herself and trying to get finances for her documentary while getting her mother, who is under care, to bankroll her expenses with a promise to pay her back.

We see her getting more desperate as the play progresses. Lynne has to convince her agent’s replacement about the project's importance and defend her choices for not showing the women’s faces in the documentary. She has to ask her mother for more money and hide it from her brother, who questions where the big chunks of money are going.

When we reach the end, the “one little thing” starts making so much sense, and you feel the unfairness of it all.

The Play​

At first, McKenzie playing all the characters was a bit confusing, especially quick changes between characters because all the coats were shades of grey and beige, except one red coat. Additionally, Lynne has a coat sometimes and not other times.

For most of the play, it was done really well, assisted by the name introduction on the screen and trailing speech from the last time the character spoke. McKenzie’s body language, tonality, and speech were distinct enough.

However, it didn’t translate as quickly as I would have liked in a few places. Trying to match the coat to the character distracted me from the story. That being said, the emotionally charged scenes, like Lynne trying to convince her new agent about why the documentary is important and why it has to stay that way, were so well done that you could feel the desperation, frustration and hopelessness in McKenzie’s voice.

I sat there in awe after hearing her speak; the end was a nice full-circle moment. Not nice in the story sense but in the direction. It did a good job of pulling at your heartstrings while backing it up with statistics to appeal to your mind.

I had never seen a screen used in this way, I felt inspired. I loved the use of sound to add another layer to the performance. Solo performances can be tricky, especially when playing multiple characters.

The lighting was crucial to the pacing and transitions. For each segue, the lights dimmed to allow McKenzie to switch coats, have water and be ready for the next monologue while the audience watched the screen introduce the next character. A spotlight on Lynne during her emotional monologues and telephone booth conversations added to this eerie feeling of something about to happen.

The sound used to complement the transition into different sections was in balance with the visual elements. All the dialogue scenes are via telephone, so it starts with the person talking on speaker phone and then Lynne switching it to her headset. This allows it to still have Lynne be the main focus by letting the audience focus on just her side of the conversation. It also maintains the integrity of the solo performance through the screen and audio, not taking too much away from the performance.

To Wrap it Up

As Lynne emphasised throughout the performance, “one little thing can go wrong…”

The end is a perfect homage to this statement. You feel your heart reaching out to these women. McKenzie found a perfect balance between not making it too boring with facts and not making pity porn to tug at the heartstrings.


Acknowledging the cast and crew

Sally McKenzie: playwright, actor, screen director, producer

Sean Mee: stage director, dramaturg

J. David Franzke: sound design

Clare Springett: lighting designer

Millie Levakis-Lucas: technical operator

Joe Lancaster: video editor

Rocco Fasano: cinematographer

Jeff Busby: key image

Darren Gill: show photography

Justin Green: set builder

Farrago's magazine cover - Edition One 2024


It’s 2012 and you have just opened Tumblr. A photo pops up of MGMT in skinny jeans, teashade sunglasses and mismatching blazers that are reminiscent of carpets and ‘60s curtains. Alexa Chung and Alex Turner have just broken up. His love letter has been leaked and Tumblr is raving about it—”my mouth hasn’t shut up about you since you kissed it.” Poetry at its peak: romance is alive.

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