Presented by Brink Productions
Reviewed Thursday 14th October 2010
Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre, Grote Street, Adelaide
Season: to Sat 16th October
Duration: 2hrs no interval
Tickets: Various prices, chack with BASS
Bookings: BASS 131 241 or http://www.bass.net.au
Like a fine wine, Brink’s production of Andrew Bovell’s play has improved with age. Taking into account that it won legions of fans, gained both critical and audience acclaim and won numerous awards, after its first performance in 2008; that is really saying something. Director, Chris Drummond, has wisely made little change to his production, although there have been cast changes due to the ill health of two of the original members, Michaela Cantwell and Paul Blackwell.
The play is a series of scenes that cover the periods 1959 to 2039, in London, on the Coorong, Alice Springs, Adelaide and Ayers Rock/Uluru. The scenes are mostly duologues, with the occasional monologue, and concern several members of the Law family and the York family, the two families connected, primarily, by the brief relationship between Gabriel Law and Gabrielle York, but also by other threads that come to light as the play progresses.
The scenes are not presented in strictly chronological order, but in a sequence that presents information in the order in which it needs to be known. Covering such a long period of time also means that two of the characters are played by different people, as younger and older versions of that character. Although this might sound complex, and perhaps it is, the performance is clear and easy to follow due to the skill of the author and the insight of the director coupled, with the superb performances.
The piece begins in Alice Springs in 2039 with a monologue from Gabriel York, down at heel and worrying about the impending visit of his son, Andrew, whom he has not seen for many years. Neil Pigot, who also plays Henry Law, Gabriel York’s grandfather, injects a warm note of tenderness combined with fearfulness into Gabriel, engaging the audience with his first few words, drawing them into the narrative which then holds them solidly until the final bows.
Set against a background of climate change (it rains constantly in Alice Springs in 2039 and an ocean fish falls from the sky at the feet of Gabriel York, even though fish are supposed to be extinct), there are a number of threads that run through all generations, beginning with the actions of Henry Law and affecting both his descendents and the York family. As Gabriel York passes on to Andrew a few family keepsakes given to him by his mother, only we, the audience, know their full meaning and significance.
Carmel Johnson, Anna Lise Phillips, Kevin Harrington, Kris McQuade, Mandy McElhinney and Yalin Ozucelik complete the cast with Phillips and McQuade playing Gabrielle York at different ages, McElhinney and Johnson playing Elizabeth Law at different ages and Ozucelik playing both Gabriel Law and Andrew Price. To single out any of them would be meaningless as all seven offer completely believable characterisations that sweep the audience along with them as their family secrets are kept hidden and little is talked about. Together, they are an evenly matched ensemble that creates a powerful and moving piece of theatre, far above the ordinary.
Composer and musician, Quentin Grant, provides a strong accompaniment to the action, further enhanced by Hossein Valamanesh’s set and Niklas Pajanti’s lighting. These three elements, combined with the sound effects and coupled with the thoughtful characterisations, delineate the times and places and express the social mores of each generation.
This was a terrific production when it was first seen and is now tighter and all the better for it. It is a play that no serious theatregoer should miss.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.