Left – Nadine Garner and Susan Prior. Cover – Ben Prendergast, Nadine Garner, Susan Prior and Katrina Milosevic. Photos – Jeff Busby
“I’m asking you to accept my decision…don’t criticise me. Trust me and give me some credit for thinking about this” pleads Bea, Deborah Bruce’s anguished and fleeing protagonist in, The Distance.
The drudgery of motherhood, its expectations and (often ensuing) isolation are serious universal themes scrutinised in this latest MTC production with both frankness and humour.
As the story unfolds, we learn that Bea has returned to the UK after five years from her adopted home of Melbourne, having (according to the hysteria of her sisterhood) “abandoned” her children and husband – seemingly forever.
The title (literally and metaphorically) examines the longevity of friendship groups and the emotional distance one can feel within relationships, as a wife and as a mother.
Set against the backdrop of the London Riots in 2011, it allows Bruce to draw comparisons with its undertones of frustration and resentment and develop “this idea about how things are stored up and then suddenly burst out.”
When Bea’s intimate circle of friends, Kate & Alex, can neither fathom, nor indeed, support her ‘controversial’ decision, “what the f***’s going on? You don’t have the option, we’re mothers,” she feels judged and ostracised – and challenges this notion of unconditional friendship.
Given the taboo subject with its ingrained prejudices, Bruce handles her characters with empathy. When Bea (Susan Prior), expresses her loss of identity and vents her frustration and lack of maternal instinct, we can sympathise. When Kate (Nadine Garner) the controlling one, finally acknowledges, and then attempts to rectify mistakes she’s made in her own marriage (because “she was terrified of losing Dewi”) we might not condone it but we can relate to it. And when Alex’s character (played ever so endearingly by Katrina Milosevic) provides the majority of the comic fodder – we laugh, because we can recognise it.
The dialogue is naturalistic – both in its rhythm and delivery; in particular in the second act when the characters are imploding. Joe Klocek, makes an impressive MTC debut as 15 year old Liam, and captures so convincingly, those feelings and moments of confusion, stupidity, exasperation, anger and boredom in a nuanced performance.
This play is a conversation starter – airing these very private moments of vulnerability, embarrassment and insecurity in public and focuses on society’s double standards. And for that, it should be congratulated.
Melbourne Theatre Company presents
by Deborah Bruce
Directed by Leticia Cáceres
Venue: Southbank Theatre, The Sumner VIC
Dates: 5 March – 9 April 2016
Bookings: 03 8688 0800 | mtc.com.au