Left – Bishanyia Vincent, Sabryna Walters and Danielle King. Cover – Andrew McFarlane. Photos – Brett Boardman
In Family Values, David Williamson softens us up with a string of rib tickling zingers, the dialogue dancing like a butterfly, before the zingers become stingers, a swarm of recriminations and rebukes, fanning out from the familial and into the wider world.
In the programme notes, Williamson states: “From my earliest days as a playwright, as in Don’s Party and The Club, I’ve loved to put people in the same room who are obliged to be together, but shouldn’t be together, and don’t want to be together. Humans being humans, this inevitably results in drama and comedy. Much as the siblings in Family Values dislike each other, they can’t not turn up to their father’s birthday, and unfortunately for their father Roger and their mother Sue, things don’t go smoothly, to say the least.”
To say the least.
Roger is a retired Federal Court judge in trepidation of his seventieth birthday party, a rallying of the family organised by his wife, Sue. Their three children are coming, along with daughter Emily’s new same sex lover, Noeline, which grates with his conservative views. Their son, Michael, fugitive from a failed marriage has embraced Hillsong and become a proselytising bore. Eldest daughter, Lisa, is a refugee advocate, and brings the bombshell surprise guest, Saba, an Iranian refugee and fugitive, in Australia on Medivac, rubber stamped for return to Nauru. To up the ante, Noeline is an officer of Border Force.
Family Values is a grumpy old man writing at his cheerfully angry best. Clearly pissed off at Australia’s border protection policy and the shabby way we as a country process refugees, Williamson let’s fly in an already imploding family – a microcosm of contemporary Australian society.
There’s a lot of bullying in Family Values. Sue bullies Roger, Noeline bullies Emily, and it is revealed that both sisters bullied their brother when they all lived at home. And the authorities are bullying Saba.
Lee Lewis directs a smart ensemble cast led by Andrew McFarlane and Belinda Giblin as Roger and Sue, with Jamie Oxenbould as Michael, Danielle King as Lisa, and Ella Prince as Emily. Bishanyia Vincent is bullishly bombastic as Noeline while Sabryna Walters seems the sole voice of sanity and compassion.
Griffin Theatre presents
by David Williamson
Director Lee Lewis
Venue: SBW Stables | 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross NSW
Dates: 17 January – 7 March 2010
Tickets: $38 – $62