Festive family gathering with grim but witty twists
By Joana Simmons
Tis’ the season to be jolly. Or so they say, as for many of us, Christmas can be a time of togetherness, tinsel, traffic, terrible gifts and tension. Boutique Theatre‘s production of Merry Christmas, Bitches! written by Samantha Hill captivatingly reveals all the sides of the silly season, as told by various female members of the McDoonie family on a sweltering Christmas day between the prawn cocktails and rum and cokes.
The Tuxedo Cat’s upstairs space was filled with presents of all sizes stacked amongst baubles, stars and reindeers. Breanna (Samantha Hill) held the audience in her hand as she set the scene with her colloquial monologue detailing the family dynamic, tense from Christmases gone by, which wasn’t to be bought up this year because ‘you don’t start shit at Christmas’… but they have discovered a dead body under the shed in the backyard and it’s all a bit weird. The one-liners are comical and the content is well thought-out. The writing throughout this show is extremely clever and maturely takes us down all kinds of deep paths, with great social, political, gender and satirical commentary sparkling through.
We meet Joanna (Ana Mitsikas) the divorcee, somewhat neurotic vegetarian, and outsider. Her individual story is as interesting as the last; it’s not so much about what has happened, but the details about the relationships that get us invested in each character’s story. Caitlin Mathieson’s portrayal of year 12 graduate Greyson was authentic and strong. In her Christmas pud earrings and kitschy green t-shirt, Sylvia (Emma Jo Makay) is the aunty who tries so hard to make everything perfect and doesn’t quite get it and pulls our heart strings as she cries for the 5th time that day – her first Christmas without her Dad. The matriarch, Bev (Jen Watkins) had fantastic and charming – or as Bev would probably say – “grouse” physicality. Truths come to light, some dark, some relatable, some shocking. The audience is captivated. It’s contrasted with eight year old Snow-White dressing scooter-riding Emma-Leigh (Lauren Mass) who is hilarious and dynamic.
There’s many wonderful things that hit home in this show. The structure is strong, with characters I can definitely compare to my family and who were played well. At 90mins with no interval, I did feel it was too long, as the whole time it was only one person speaking at a time. Director Michaela Bedel has done a stellar job keeping the pace through this massive melting-pot of stories, while the show was seamlessly stage-managed by Dylan Morgan. The set of presents by Nick Casey and Alicia Aulsebrook was bought to life by lighting designer Grace Marshall; before the show started I glanced around and couldn’t see a complex lighting rig but what she did with what she had was very effective.
I made it to this show only at the end of the run. I’m incredibly glad I did. It is a show for anyone who has had a not-so-festive family gathering, for anyone who doesn’t quite feel like they fit in the family mould, or feel the need to carry on with all the baubles and bull-shit. I heartily hope it comes around again next year, for Merry Christmas, Bitches! was witty, wise, and well worth watching.
Merry Christmas, Bitches! was performed at The Tuxedo Cat from 7th – 11th December, 2016.