Photos – Noni Carroll Photography
An impressive towering book book case, filled with well thumbed volumes, is the central feature of Emma Vine's remarkable set for National Theatre of Parramatta's world premier production of Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam. The bookcase is the spine of the set and books are the spine of the story.
Linda and Rick get together over literature, the fait accompli of enduring love being Rick reading aloud to Linda. Intimacy through literacy, between the covers times two, dulcet tones reading myriad tomes from Steinbeck, Dickens and Milne. Rick and Linda produce a family, a first born son, Ben, then a daughter, Wol, so named after the dyslexic Owl of the Pooh stories. It's a story book happy family unit until Wol is diagnosed with leukaemia. The happy ever after story turns grim as parents, grandparents and siblings struggle with this seismic shift.
Based on Peter Goldsworthy's novel and adapted by Steve Rodgers, Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam examines the extremities of parental love and the pressures and schisms that families endure in the face of unimaginable grief. Fundamental beliefs are shattered – faith in God fails, blame laying falls at the feet of fathers, trust in the medical profession falters. Rodgers finds the moral and intellectual concerns within the puddle of raw emotion in his theatrical distillation of Goldsworthy's story.
Director Darren Yap continues the extraction of the essentials with clean and clear staging, serviced by a distinguished cast.
As Linda and Rick, Emma Jackson and Justin Smith are grounded in reality and truth, a foundation that serves their progression through a changing reality with a passionate resolve. Grace Truman, in her professional theatre debut, is quietly affecting as the story's catalyst, Wol. Liam Nunan gives a beautifully nuanced performance as Ben, confused and conflicted as the active observer of the fractures and fissures of the family, journeying from happiness to haplessness and hopelessness, witness to both irrational hatefulness and sheer, selfless heroics. Valerie Bader doubles as Grandma and Wol's oncologist and Mark Lee doubles as Grandpa and a Roman Catholic priest.
Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam is theatre with a tender heart and a hard head, confronting, conflicting, complex and compelling.
National Theatre of Parramatta presents
Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam
by Peter Goldworthy | adapted by Steve Rodgers
Director Darren Yap
Venue: Riverside Theatres | Corner of Church and Market Streets, Parramatta NSW
Dates: 18 – 27 October 2018
Tickets: $54 – $49
Bookings: (02) 8839 3399 | www.riversideparramatta.com.au