Written by Alice Birch, Directed by Shane Anthony
Reviewed by Vaanie Krishnan
Thursday 6th October – Saturday 29th October
Seymour Centre, Corner City Rd and Cleveland St, Chippendale
It contains adult themes, scenes of violence and suicide and the use of strong language.
Images Credit: Phil Erbacher
A haunting interrogation of the passing down of trauma and the way mothers shape our experience of life.
When it comes to the things we can’t see, like the health of our mind, it can be difficult to say anything matter-of-fact about it because everyone experiences it differently. Scholars, with their typewriters and pens, have long debated which aspects of ones mind are hereditary and which are learned or brought on by socio-ecological factors.
The answer is, it depends… but what happens when your heredity creates a traumatic environment for your child? Then which is it?
Such a complex and weighty concept could only be written by someone as ambitious, creative and considered as Alice Birch. With a penchant for writing realistic and rhythmic dialogue, Birch presents this complexity in a triptych; three stories of three women, told at the same time. It is equally chaotic as it is the perfect vehicle to show trans-generational trauma. The writing is fast paced, drawing out similarities, differences and emotional threads between the three women as it jumps between their trauma and recovery.
In this production, the triptych is brought to life through three sets of traditional, ivory doors – like the kind you’d expect to see behind a white picket fence. Each door creates a section of the stage for each story but the lack of differentiation between the three sets and the concurrent dialogue can make it hard to know where to look. Perhaps it is the intent of this production that every audience member experiences the play slightly differently, just like we each experience life slightly differently.
Direction by Shane Anthony brings out this tension, leaving each character with only a few telling props and fairly static lighting so as to let them take up space. He is able to make these small sections of stage feel like spacious rooms, it is incredibly satisfying theatre.
Performances by the three generations of women; Anna Houston (Carol), Anna Samson (Anna) and Kate Skinner (Bonnie) are thoroughly hypnotic. Houston is the show’s steady hand, anchoring the chaos as the first generation of women to be living with a mental illness. Samson brings a hurricane of breadth to this role, able to create moments of humour, build sympathy and deliver the heartbreaking climax effortlessly. Skinner is memorably evocative, conveying an inner turmoil with complete authenticity. Integrated with these three actresses is a wonderful supporting cast that bring freshness to each story.
Whether you believe nature over nurture, understanding the experiences of our parents and grandparents can help us understand our experience of life and the ways their trauma may be shaping our own. It does not, however, determine our fate and mean that our own demise is inevitable. Now more than ever, we have the tools and the knowledge to work through our generational trauma and create a different experience of life for our children. There is hope. Seek help.
If you or someone you know is experience poor mental health or suicidal ideation, contact Lifeline 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back 1300 659 467. Access confidential support services 24/7 at https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
Like this review? Support our writers to attend more shows and create more reviews just for you!
Support our fundraiser through the link below.
WRITER Alice Birch
DIRECTOR Shane Anthony
PRODUCERS Gus Murray and Shane Anthony
SET DESIGNERS Gus Murray and Shane Anthony
COSTUME DESIGNER Siobhan Jett O’Hanlon
LIGHTING DESIGNER Morgan Moroney
COMPOSER Damien Lane
SOUND DESIGNER Nate Edmondson
STAGE MANAGER Sarah Watson
STARRING Anna Samson, Kate Skinner & Anna Houston