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Review - Family Values: a light touch, yet seeks to discuss deeper issues

By Nahima Abraham

Family Values

By David Williamson.

Directed by Lee Lewis

Presented by Queensland Theatre

Merivale Street

West End

Season ends February 25. Duration 1 hour and 30 mins without interval. Booking

Birthday parties are always a good time to reflect on a life lived, but indeed not always well. They are a time for family, sharing, and gathering, to celebrate a day that is sometimes as special and commercialized as all other family holidays and festive seasons. However, when you look back seventy years, it’s surely no small feat, time has trucked forward, many suns and moons have risen and set and all manner of things have changed. In David Williamson’s Family Values, the life of septuagenarian Roger is considered with tenderness, and humor to great effect.

Retired Justice Roger has invited all his children, Lisa, Emily, and Michael, to celebrate his 70th birthday. You’d think that all will go well, it’s a nice and unremarkable day in Ashgrove, Brisbane, and Sue, Roger’s wife is bustling about the home, preparing snacks, drinks, and, of course, cake.

However, the festivities are as short lived as a poorly inflated party balloon. Lisa, Sue and Rogers’s daughter, brings with her more trouble than she is worth as she attempts to harbor an illegal immigrant from Iran – whose bridging visa has been cancelled. She begs Sue and Roger for the keys to their Northern SE Queensland home and from there, as you can imagine, the situation devolves into chaos. Throw into the mix Emily and her ex-Dyke-on-a-Bike partner Noeline, who are border force employees, and Michael, an overzealous Hillsong devotee, and you’ve got the perfect family drama. Almost.

Williamson delicately and artfully employs the very best and worst aspects of schadenfreude and cringe to tell a desperate story at heart.

Through his tenure as a playwright, Williamson has demonstrated a masterful insight into the very core of human nature, and how best to extract it with humor, tenderness, and life. Family Values is no exception.

It has a light touch, yet seeks to discuss deeper issues and tug on a few heart strings along the way. The play is brought together by the remarkable acting by the entire cast. Sepi Burgiani as Saba/Daniela, Leon Cain as Michael, Helen Cassidy as Lisa, Amy Ingram as Emily, Peter Kowitz as Roger, Jodie Le Vesconte as Noeline, and Andrea Moor as Sue, all masterfully brought something to the table. They each had their moments, and indeed brought to life something very real. Other notable aspects include the accompanying music, composed by Tony Brumpton, and the set design, which brought to life an old Queenslander and transported the audience into the very living space of the characters. Renée Mulder is to thank for this impeccable design.

Overall, Family Values is a great way to spend time laughing, crying, and thinking. If this is just the beginning of what Queensland Theatre has to offer this year, I very much look forward to the rest of the season.


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