Left – Emily Goddard and Francis Greenslade. Cover – Emily Goddard and Lee Beckhurst. Photos – Jodie Hutchinson
Red Stitch Actors Theatre has taken on US playwright Clare Barron’s You Got Older. Directed by Brett Cousins, the play is a comedy/drama about a father who’s dying of cancer and a (kind of) coming-to-adulthood of one of his daughters, Mae. More than anything You Got Older is a celebration of sibling love, of simple family bonds and the peculiar dynamics, patterns and habits one shares with a very select group of people.
Only one of Red Stitch’s ensemble actors (Eva Seymour as daughter Jenny) features in this production; guest actors include well-known face from TV, Francis Greenslade as Dad, playing opposite Emily Goddard, ever-captivating as Mae who's home to nurse her father while she recovers from losing both her job and her lover. Mae’s other two siblings are Matthew (Mark Yeates), and Hannah (Penny Harpham). They’ve already lost their mum and clearly their dad has been a warm, if sporadic, anchor in the lives of his children. While Dad suffers stoically the four dance around him, all personality and weirdnesses, intending to be supportive yet at times lacking in sensitivity for his needs while they tumble in conversation.
Mae’s missing the escapism that sex provides and not even her (hilarious) domineering cowboy sexual fantasy (Jordan Fraser-Trumble) can soothe the itch while she’s being interrupted by Dad needing her attention or wanting to know what her plans are. Even when a real man, local Mac (Lee Beckhurst), makes it through her bedroom window their encounter is disappointing.
Time lapses are shown by differing views through a window; seasons change, we live and die, life goes on, etc., and the visual design features in this production work nicely on a symbolic level while the story, often very funny, moves along.
The narrative frays somewhat when it comes to Mae’s character arc – although she breaks the fourth wall towards the end to tell us she’s gotten a job and a new apartment, we don’t get to see her act on her new-found maturity. For my money, the play overdoes the quirk factor and rushes to its conclusion but Cousins’ direction allows breathing space when it’s needed from the whacky, nicely elongating what might have been a too-truncated finish. The final scene is especially moving as the siblings come together in a celebration of what they do have, rather than what is lost. The seemingly random details in this script give it breath, it has emotional power and resonance and more than a few audience members were affected by this unpretentious lively work; losing a parent is a common enough scenario and poignancy underpins the play right the way through. As Dad realizes that he’s rushed through ‘the nice moments’ in life’ we become aware of our own lack of presence and failure perhaps to treasure our connections. The scenes with the sisters and brother together, especially the last one, had this reviewer feeling homesick and tearing up.
Red Stitch Actors Theatre presents
YOU GOT OLDER
by Clare Barron
Directed by Brett Cousins
Venue: Red Stitch Actors Theatre | Rear 2 Chapel St, St Kilda
Dates: 31 August – 2 October 2016
Tickets: $25 – $45
Bookings: www.redstitch.net | 03 9533 8083