Skip to main content

REVIEW: Lamb by Jane Bodie, Music & Lyrics by Mark Seymour - Red Stitch

Brigid Gallacher, Simon Maiden, Emily Goddard in Jane Bodie's Lamb


“You left a trail of broken bread
Across the old battle ground
Behind the veil of the living and the dead
You wrote your secrets down.”

There’s a song at the heart of Jane Bodie’s new play, Lamb. It’s the song of family history. A song full of heart. Of regret.

At times the music is a celebration of life. At times, it’s a meditation on loss. Mostly, it’s both. As great country songs can be or must be.

Farmland. Rural Australia. The wooden floorboards and the dust and the fridge full of beers.

Annie (Brigid Gallacher) has returned to her home town after the death of her mother. Sudden for her, but a drawn-out process for her brother Patrick (Simon Maiden) and their sister Kathleen (Emily Goddard).

Patrick sings a song in remembrance of his late mother, even though Annie is the singer of the family – she went to the big city to pursue her dreams. The reunion of the siblings is delicate, fraught.

Annie refuses to feel guilty for following her passion, but Patrick resents her for leaving him to look after their mother, whose last years were marred by dementia. Kathleen is also sick, mentally impaired somehow, a child in a woman’s body. It’s tough on a farm in any case. For Patrick, it’s been a living nightmare; maybe singing his father’s songs has got him through it.

Lamb is advertised as A New Play with Songs. It’s not a musical, let’s be clear. The songs are songs the characters have written; songs they sing as songs. With music and lyrics by Aussie rock legend Mark Seymour, combined with the moving work of playwright Jane Bodie, this is a stellar example of the “play with songs” genre.

The play starts with the funeral and inches back in time, in memory and then lurches back into another generation at the start of Act Two. Brigid and Patrick do double duty as parents Mary and Frank, whose early relationship is troubled by the fact that Mary really wants to leave town to go protest in the big smoke.

Although the first half of this play is captivating, it feels mannered in a way the second half does not. Director Julian Meyrick helps the actors find the hidden depths to their characters in Act Two and the layers of regret built into the family’s foundations are exposed. The children don’t really understand what their parents went through before they were born; and the siblings are at a loss to reconcile what they do know after Mary’s funeral.

Emily Goddard is captivating, as always, even if the conception of Kathleen feels a little bit like a cliché – the mentally-ill sister who is really wiser than her impairment suggests. Brigid Gallacher’s Annie is the archetypical prodigal daughter, but once we get to mother Mary, we see echoes of each in both; a subtle and striking performance. Simon Maiden gives us a laconic Frank and a taciturn Patrick, showing most passion through the song a father wrote and passed on to his son.

Lamb is an intimate tale that’s spread across years. It’s a story of a family history that is imperfectly passed along, and a song that is sung and remembered and a shared passion that binds them all together even as they slowly drift apart.

Lamb is on at Red Stitch until December 16th. A strong final show for 2018, just before their 2019 season is launched next week.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

You are far away: Agent Cooper and his troubling return to Twin Peaks

“What year is this?” Dale Cooper asks in the final scene of Twin Peaks: The Return , the last of many unanswered questions left as the 18-part feature film concluded a week ago. It’s far from the first time we’ve seen someone who looks like Dale Cooper lost for answers over recent months. But it might be the first time we have definitive proof that he’s in over his head. Mr C, Dale Cooper’s doppelganger, who was first seen in the original series’ finale back in 1991, returned to the town of Twin Peaks with a goal in mind. Mr C was flexible, though. He had to be; he’d set so many things in motion over twenty-five years, if he’d remained fixated, he would never have come as far as he did. Dougie, Dale Cooper’s tulpa – created by and from Mr C, wandered aimlessly through life, but slowly made every life he touched better. Plans change and Dougie changed with them. Slowly but surely, Dougie pieced together Cooper’s past life and became richer for it. Agent Cooper, th

REVIEW: The Gospel According to Paul by Jonathan Biggins

Early on in Jonathan Biggins’ one-man ode to Australia’s best-dressed, collector-of-antique-clocks Prime Minister, the character of Paul Keating says that there has never been a great Australian PM. None on the scale of Churchill or Washington or Jefferson. And I wondered if the premise of the show was to submit Keating for consideration. Paul John Keating was the 24 th Prime Minister of Australia, elected to office in 1993, after ousting his predecessor, Bob Hawke, in 1991. He was a career politician from the age of 25, after managing a rock band called The Ramrods in the late 1960s. He was only Prime Minister for one full term and a bit, nothing like Hawke (in The Lodge for nearly 9 years) nor his successor, John Howard, who held the country hostage for nearly 11 . Keating was a member of the Labor Right; socially progressive but fiscally conservative. He’s famous for saying “the recession we had to have” during the economic slowdown of 1990, responding to the High Court’s Nativ

Careful the things you say... Joe Wright’s HANNA & the combination of genres

Once upon a time... I tried to write a film script that melded noir and Grimm’s fairytales, where the femme fatale , clad in a slinky red dress, was also (in a way) Little Red Riding Hood. Where the lover of a hit man discovered his true identity from something hidden under his mattress. Evil (step)mothers, adopted children, hunters, princesses and family fortunes. Noir and fairytales have a lot in common and yet... I had real trouble finding the right tone for the piece. And, in the end, my script read too much like I was trying to get the concept to work, rather than telling a compelling story. Saoirse Ronan as Hanna Joe Wright’s film HANNA , screenplay by Seth Lockhead and David Farr, finds the perfect balance between a high tension thriller and a fairytale coming-of-age story. And travels further into the story of this mysterious girl than the trailer suggests. Going in, I was worried this might be too close to Leon or La Femme Nikita – the original films of which I t

Walking out... I couldn't do it, could you?

Every so often, I think about walking out of a play, but I can't. I've never done it and I don't think I ever could. I've never walked out of a film, either. It's not in my nature. In the end, I'd rather suffer through the entire thing so I can criticise the entire play, rather than leave halfway and never know if it got any better or any worse. This has come to mind now, not because I wanted to walk out of Terence Malick's big budget experimental film The Tree of Life , but because apparently walk outs are becoming a phenomenon with that particular movie. And in a packed theatre at Cinema Nova last night, the walk outs were notable by their absense when the lights came up at the end. It certainly won't be to everyone's taste. It's very much an impressionistic film that explores grand ideas through mood and beauty, rather than telling a coherent narrative. But, even those moments in the film that were the most challenging on a "need for

Carrie Fisher: No More Postcards

Two Princess Leias, a medal and some broken jewellry Did I ever tell you about the time Carrie Fisher kissed me on the cheek? Stick around, I’ll tell it again soon. Carrie Fisher was Princess Leia; no getting past that. Except, of course, she did. And then she stepped right back into being her last year. She was the right person to play Leia because she was the right age at the time and she is part of Hollywood royalty. She was also the right person to have been Leia in retrospect, too. Can you imagine anyone else describing Jabba the Hutt as a “giant saliva testicle”? Anyone else who would bring an audience member up on stage to mount a Leia “sex doll” and whip it away before they get close enough to fulfil their childhood fantasy? Actors, even those of Star Wars­­­ -level fame, go in and out of the spotlight. Oh, you could spot Fisher on screen in the 1980s and 90s, but much of her hard work went on behind the scenes, as a script writer and script doctor. Hook , Sist

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: THE AVENGERS assemble on the big screen

I like superheroes. I grew up with reruns of the 1960s Batman TV series. The Superman films were released when I was really young. The Amazing Spider-Man , Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk were nighttime TV shows. And one of the defining motion picture releases of my teenage years was Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989. I was never a big comic book reader as a kid – I’ve probably read more comic books, uh, graphic novels in the last ten years than any time before that. But superheroes were always very cool. And Burton’s Batman took my favourite superhero very seriously. Well, until Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins appeared – taking it ultra-seriously and much darker than I’d ever hoped for. As a non-comic reader, I find it hard to align myself as a DC ( Batman , Superman , Wonder Woman ) or Marvel Universe ( Spider-Man , X-Men , The Avengers and its consitutent parts) person. They appeal to different parts of my brain. In effect, DC’s superheroes are often lone warrior

Colder by Lachlan Philpott - Red Stitch

Colder Photo: Teresa Noble I’m there. I’m sitting there in the dark. Sitting there in the dark watching a play by Lachlan Philpott at Red Stitch. A child has gone missing at Disneyland but nothing evokes Disneyland for me, not even the actors wearing mouse ears. Especially not the actors wearing mouse ears and affecting exaggerated American accents. I want to feel what the mother is feeling, while officious behind-the-scenes Disney workers assure her everything is going to be fine. I want a sense of her being frantic and frustrated. But I don’t get this sense because the language of the play is putting me at a distance. The expository monologues don’t paint a picture or flesh out a world beyond the very basic (“padded concrete, padded seats”) and the facile (“padded people”). This choral arrangement of voices is not singing. Eight-year-old David remains missing all day and we learn that his single mother has felt separate from him ever since. We ar

REVIEW: let bleeding girls lie by Olivia Satchell

  Three. Three women. Three women sit silently, set an equal distance apart, each with a cannula inserted into their hands. Three women sit silently, set an equal distance apart, each with a cannula inserted into their hands, donating plasma at a blood bank in Melbourne. They are there when the audience walks into the theatre. They sit, reading a book or their phone, fidgeting as we find our seats and chatter amongst ourselves before the lights go down. The play has already started, of course. The thing about giving plasma is that the wait is part of the experience. You cannot go anywhere. You’re hooked in. They sit in a room surrounded by televisions, all tuned to the same network. Like donating blood at Harvey Norman. But they’ve come prepared to wait. Lou is writing in her journal. Grace is reading Go Set a Watchmen for her book club. Juice is scrolling endlessly on her phone. Small talk starts. It’s pleasant and awkward in equal measure. You never know if other peopl

REVIEW: Cactus by Madelaine Nunn

It’s 120 days (not counting weekends) until Abbie leaves high school, but she’s got a lot to tackle and endure in those final months. Luckily, she has her best friend, PB, by her side. Abbie’s period surprises her one day at school and she has to improvise, because she doesn’t have any tampons with her. PB hands her a roll of toilet paper under the stall and it feels like the pair of them are always there for each other in similar ways. PB seems to be more outgoing, forward thinking, forward trying, but that might be because Abbie is held back by the torture of endometriosis. High school and puberty are hard enough without feeling like there’s a cactus scraping at your insides. So, on top of the usual school dramas like exams and boys and emotions and sex and clothes and the school formal and self-defence classes, Abbie is facing the likelihood she’ll never have children. Something she has always dreamed and assumed would happen for her. Madeleine Nunn’s script is insightful, and

Seeing It Again Through New Eyes: Watching Reaction Videos on YouTube

SesskaSays reacts to the Eleventh Doctor's departure on Doctor Who One of the things I’ve missed during lockdown is watching television with other people. I have some close friends that would regularly get together to watch shows, so we could talk through whatever the hell happened on Westworld or unpack everything we feel watching June suffer over and over again on The Handmaid’s Tale . I’m used to watching television alone, too, but there’s nothing quite like having a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on. One of the reasons or excuses I have for watching Twin Peaks countless times is that, over the years, I have introduced a lot of people to the show. I re-watch it because I love it, but I also sit there waiting for their reactions. To the end of season one or the reveal of who killed Laura Palmer. Or the season two finale. And, more recently, to see how they process Part 8 of Twin Peaks: The Return . Back in 2013, after the Game of Thrones episode “The Rains of Castamere”