Queensland Theatre closes its 2021 season with the world premiere of Steve Pirie’s Return to the Dirt, a poignant play about a young man who finds himself working in the funeral industry. Directed by Lee Lewis, the play offers an interesting insight into the workings of a regional Australian funeral home, and the indelible emotional and psychological toll of working with the dead and caring for those still living.

Mitchell Bourke and Sophie Cox in Return to the Dirt, Queensland Theatre. Photo © David Kelly

Winner of the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award 2020–21, Pirie’s semi-autobiographical play follows Steve and his fiancée Claire as they move back to Toowoomba to save money for their wedding. Inspired by Pirie’s own time working in a regional funeral home, the play follows Steve as he works alongside compassionate colleague Deb and money-minded boss Greg to manage the logistics of death. While Claire plans their wedding and struggles with his lack of communication, Steve’s job takes an increasingly high emotional and psychological toll on him, and he must learn to care for the living as well as the dead.

From the collection and care of bodies...