A family drama that sinks deep into your skin
By Samuel Barson
A farming family, across two generations, experiences loss, grief, love and guilt whilst working the harsh and lonely land of the Australian outback. In her new Australian work Lamb, Jane Bodie has created the most heartbreaking and fascinating of family portraits, providing audiences with a night of theatre that sinks deep into your skin and remains well after you leave your seat.
Annie (Brigid Gallacher) has been living in the city, making her place as a successful musician. When she returns home to the country for the funeral of her mother, she reunites with brother Patrick (Simon Maiden) and sister Kathleen (Emily Goddard). This reunion brings back years of pain and family secrets that propels the three siblings towards an uncertain future.
Maiden is a driving force in this play. His stage presence is astounding, and is undoubtedly the anchor of every scene that he is in. His ability to present such a complex and tormented character, whilst still maintaining a considerable air of charisma, made him a clear stand out in this production.
Rounding out the rest of the cast was Brigid Gallacher and Emily Goddard as sisters Annie and Kathleen, respectively. Gallacher is charming, but unfortunately the presentation of her dialogue becomes slightly repetitive at times. Goddard serves as a much needed comic relief, and equally impresses in her darker and heartbreaking scenes.
Greg Clarke’s set and costume design is beautifully effective, inviting audiences into a familiar Australian landscape. The slight modifications made to the set and costumes during a flashback in time at the beginning of the second act were particularly impressive.
Justin Gardam’s sound design is invading and effecting, beautifully complementing the tense and jarring family dynamic that is taking place on stage. Similarly, Efterpi Soropos’ lighting design perfectly represents the lightness and darkness of this family.
The absolute highlights of this show are the songs performed by the cast, creating some of the play’s most poignant moments. Beautifully and cleverly written by Mark Seymour, the inclusion of music brings this show to a new level of class and emotion. Not to mention, Maiden and Gallacher both impress with their singing chops.
Director Julian Meyrick deserves to be applauded for turning an already brilliant piece of writing into one of the most moving and fascinating pieces of theatre that has played on a Melbourne stage this year. His attention to detail and understanding of the play’s complex themes is clear.
Thanks to some incredibly fine acting, direction and design, Lamb is the perfect conclusion to what has been an already successful year at Melbourne’s beloved Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre. A huge congratulation to all involved.
Lamb is being performed until 13 December at Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling 03 9533 8083.
Photograph: Jodie Hutchinson