One Night in Thirroul starring Jodie Whittaker and Nicole da Silva

The scenic long winding road that leads us to the NSW coastal town of Thirroul conjures all the longing that comes with leaving the city for a breathtaking wake up and smell the roses moment.

I’m on a bus heading to the premiere of One Night – a new six-part drama set in the Illawarra Shire, and making a mental playlist I want to cue immediately – The Triffids’ Wide Open Road and Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’.  You get the roadside drift.

Written by American-born Emily Ballou and starring English actress Jodie Whittaker and Australian favourites Nicole da Silva, Kat Stewart and Yael Stone, One Night tells the story of three friends who relive a tragedy that happened 20 years prior; a traumatic assault that still haunts and reverberates through their adult lives. It forms the plot line of skeleton and closet wounds which steadfastly unravel.

Ballou did spend time in Thirroul in the late ‘90s thanks to a relationship that took her there. She completed a Master of Letters in Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney and remained for 20 years. She’s now based in Scotland and was able to rekindle a yearning for this part of Australia.

While One Night wasn’t written with the town of Thirroul as its backdrop in mind, the coastline works perfectly with Ballou’s script that’s steeped in mystery with lots of calm before the storm curveballs.

From the way the light falls at dusk to the sound of waves crashing and the summery whiff of a day swim, One Night lingers long after you’ve seen the first episode. From the roadside old school petrol stations and pubs, there’s landscape familiarity bundled with character complexity that makes this series an epic rollercoaster ride.

One Night might be about female friendships at its core, but it’s the shifting power of memory that jolts.  The main characters hold onto different moments of truth; a total recipe for an existential crisis in human behaviour and shows how self-punishment feeds the narrative.

We see the women as teenagers, living loosely in a coastal community – binge drinking, partying and bonding. But it’s when Nicole da Silva’s character Simone publishes her first book One Night, about an event that shook their teen lives, the plot thickens and tempered worlds flare.

Jodie Whitaker plays Tess – who has just moved back for work after 17 years away from Australia. There’s Hat (Yael Stone), a married lawyer with three young children who never left the town and acts as the meditator between the three of them, and Da Silva as Simone; who returns to the town to take care of her ageing father with dementia.

Ballou, who spoke to a packed house on opening night at Anita’s Theatre said, “memories are a privilege”. Those few words stuck in my mind long after she spoke them, and how crucial it is to the plot line that tests their friendships, stirs memory and sees other unable to remember at all.

Actress Yael Stone and writer of One Night, Emily Ballou


Opening night at Anita’s Theatre, Thirroul with One Night cast and crew.

Directed by Catherine Millar and Lisa Matthews, One Night is at heart a mystery and one that’s tackling complex self-analysis of women who have plenty to say – but it’s the quiet moments, those lilting stares and beautifully shot cinematic frames that say so much more too. A must-see/binge to add to your list of viewing.

Now showing on Paramount +


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