FAMILY DRAMA AT HEART OF ABSORBING, CANNY PLAY
by Lori Leigh
directed by Fiona McNamara
at BATS Theatre (Out Of Site), Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington
From 4 Jun 2014 to 14 Jun 2014
Reviewed by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media], 6 Jun 2014
originally published in The Dominion Post
Family gatherings have had an illustrious history in the theatre, from Oedipus Rex to Other Desert Cities. Funerals, weddings, Christmas, and anniversaries are the most common reasons for the get-togethers, which usually culminate in a revelation about some long suppressed guilt, love, hatred, or crime.
Lori Leigh's family gathering in her absorbing new play, Revelations, takes place in “New Zealand's most beautiful town”, Feilding, described in the play's publicity as being “in the middle of nowhere.”
It is absorbing because it contains a judicious balance of comedy, drama, surrealism (eerie first entrances with revealing soliloquies), as well as deftly expressing without hammering it home the current fear that all's not well with the world and the end is nigh whether you believe in the Second Coming, or the Apocalypse, or the Rapture or not.
The reason for the gathering is because 84 year-old Nana Baker has received a message from Jesus that the Rapture is about to begin. Lori Leigh being a canny playwright wisely keeps Nana an off-stage character, though we do hear her hammering away in her bedroom and, in one amazing and beautifully lit scene, crashing about on the roof of her house.
The family not only have to deal with Nana's embarrassing behaviour in the streets of Feilding but also with their own problems, over which they tie themselves into knots as they avoid facing reality. Religion doesn't enter their minds, though computers and phones do.
The excellent cast play as a team with clearly defined characterisations. Claire, a therapist, (Emma Kinane) attempts to keep her daughters under control and happy without much success. Her cynical, pot smoking, pill popping 18 year-old Lacy (Freya Sadgrove) doesn't want to go to varsity but overseas to save animals.
Her older sister Lisa (Brynley Stent) is in an unhappy relationship with Ted (Hayden Frost) who is married to his computer. Claire's sister, Margaret (Isobel Mebus), is a not very successful feminist academic, though she does quote from a poem the line (“I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night”) that resonates.
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