Sunday, 3 June 2018

My Sister Feather by Olivia Satchell – La Mama Theatre

Belinda McClory & Emily Tomlins
in My Sister Feather at La Mama
Photo: Sarah Walker

A vending machine stands sentinel in the prison yard. It says it’s out of order, but Egg explains to her sister Tilly the sign is there so they don’t have to refill it. It looks broken but it still works.

Tilly is visiting Egg for the first time in many years, so long estranged that Egg doesn’t even know their mother has died. Their meeting is tense to begin with; Tilly speaking for Egg as she stands silently regarding this woman who has been gone from her life for so long.

Tilly comes bearing two letters that their late mother has written to them. The only person who has read the letters is the prison guard who checked them on Tilly’s way in. Neither sister is in a hurry to read them, both certain they know what she has said and scared they didn’t really know their mother at all.

Olivia Satchell’s play My Sister Feather is a deeply searching two-hander that explores the dark recesses of memory and the fraught nature of fractured familial relationship. Emily Tomlins and Belinda McClory are brilliant as Egg and Tilly, both as reserved adults and uninhibited children. One minute they regard each other with years of suspicion between them and the next they are sitting on a table pretending to be “The Owl and the Pussycat,” singing the poem together.

My Sister Feather by Olivia Satchell
Photo: Sarah Walker
The games they played and lollies they ate and books they read were evocative of a childhood I recognised, making the broken adult relationship in the cold, sterile prison heartrending.

James Lew’s set is appropriately minimalist, but with deft lighting changes by Jason Crick, the young sisters can make whole new worlds from a table, chairs and a rubbish bin. Tom Backhaus’ sound design is rich and nourishing in moments of reflection and harsh and alarming in the present day.

Satchell is both writer and director and her work in both roles is impressive; the writing is sharp and clear and her directorial instincts allow the work to sing.

The vending machine stands sentinel. A camera watches the two sisters. The audience stares at them from both sides. The relationship of Tilly and Egg looks broken but it still works.


La Mama is seeking support on two fronts at the moment – fundraising for accessibility and to help stage upcoming works while they wait for the Faraday theatre to be rebuilt.

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