Yirra Yaakin has produced a gorgeous world premiere by first-time playwright Jub Clerc. Her debut play is The Fever and the Fret and it is a beautiful ode to loss, love and memory. Directed by Yirra Yaakin artistic director Kyle Morrison and starring Irma Woods, Ebony McGuire and Kelton Pell, this story of a family in gentle turmoil bursts with heart, soul and laughter.
Iggy (Kelton Pell) and Ruby (Irma Woods) are grandparents to Lizzy (Ebony McGuire). Lizzy’s mother is long gone, a memory for Lizzy to embellish while in the care of her loving grandparents. Iggy and Ruby are facing a dilemma; Iggy wants to sell their house in search of a better life (thus demonstrating that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, with regards to his absentee daughter) while Ruby wants to stay put. The house holds all of her family’s memories, it is where her heart lives, and she couldn’t bear to leave it behind.
We then fast forward to roughly ten years later, and Iggy and Lizzy find themselves in a new house without Ruby. Lizzy has now become the caregiver, as she must look after Iggy, who has dementia. Ruby has passed away, but her presence in their lives is still tangible as Iggy regularly calls out for her, and Lizzy finds comfort in talking out loud to her spirit.
Allow me to qualify the words “gentle turmoil.” As much as there is argument between these three family members, there is warmth and laughter. Even though they raise their voices to one another, they speak softly and lovingly not long after. And when disaster threatens, whether it be from other people or from the natural cycle of life, they rebound and carry on loving each other.
So while their story is tumultuous, it’s not a picture of extremes. There’s a very real and natural ebb and flow to their lives, events that test them, but their bonds are so strong that nothing stands a chance of tearing them asunder. Clerc eases us in and out of this family’s periods of turmoil, so that we feel the stings, but are never at risk of scarring.
Morrison’s measured direction also tosses us a lifejacket when the seas get rocky. His natural inclination towards an elongated pace works well with this material, with these performers. He allows his actors time and space to breathe, letting them play and bring their own unique humour and presence to the stage. To be honest, the whole evening, from the moment the Welcome to Country was given, to the standing ovation at the show’s conclusion, felt familial.
Scenes are occasionally punctuated by loud booms, signifying the proximity of the mine where Iggy works, and red dirt falls from the ceiling into the family’s home. Joe Lui’s atmospheric sound design and music is often haunting, and transports us to a remote and sometimes lonely place. The red dirt is repeated in the walls of the set, designed by Matt McVeigh, creating a rich, warm space that feels like home.
Each of the three cast gets wonderful moments to shine individually, but their work together as a family in this stage space is truthful and shows strong bonds. They draw out tears and peals of laughter from the audience, and move us to our feet when they’ve brought us to the end of their story.
Yirra Yaakin presents
The Fever and the Fret
by Jub Clerc
Directed by Kyle J Morrison
Venue: Subiaco Arts Centre, 180 Hamersley Road, Subiaco WA
Dates: 10 – 24 September 2015
Tickets: $26.00 – $46.00