By Eric Scott
Pictured: Louise Brehmer, Matthew Ianna and Bryan Probets. Image by Morgan Roberts.
By David Megarrity
Directed by Bridget Boyle
Bille Brown Theatre
Season: November 14-December 12. Duration: 80 minutes without interval. Bookings: 1800 355 528. firstname.lastname@example.org
This for me was a play of confusion. It took an overnight sleep for my subconscious to sort out exactly what was happening on the Bille Brown stage and even then I was asking why and trying to pull together all the floating strands. The program tells us that Dad (Bob Holiday) and Mum (Summer Holiday) have suddenly plucked 12-year-old Oliver Holiday from school and have taken a five hour road trip to visit Grandad’s beach shack.
Dad is agitated and upset; Mum plays with her phone and Oliver wants to know what’s going on. This is his first trip back since he was five.
When they get to the shack sheets cover furniture, paintings lie all over the place and there is no sign of Grandad.
Grumpy Dad tells Oliver not touch anything, specifically an old record player and vinyl records, and not to enter the shack. “I don’t want him to see Dad like that” Bob tells Summer. Then Oliver is banned from going to the beach on his beach holiday.
The inference to me was plain: Grandad is dead and somewhere in the shack. But I was wrong: Grandad had in fact had a stroke, was seriously ill and reduced to mumbling incoherence in hospital.
It was a difficult play to follow and to understand the motives of the characters as they progress through the storyline. Why was Bob so angry with Oliver? We know he was worried that he had to find the money somehow to pay for a nursing home for his father, worried, sure but why angry? Summer tells us that “Granddad was gaga long before he had his stroke” so obviously they knew it would come eventually. I didn’t see the need for so much anger.
Author David Megarrity did well in his switch to an actor talking direct to the audience as Oliver told us his thoughts and dreams. I am always wary of a script that includes a prepubescent boy, they are so difficult to cast. The actor either overacts to overplay youthspeak or looks much too old. As Oliver Matthew Ianna did well to play the youngster convincingly and turn the audience participation into something of charm. His was the best drawn character in the play.
Bryan Probets as Bob and Louise Brehmer also handled the somewhat uneven script well and director Bridget Boyle brought out the best in it and her actors
There were several filmed sections too through the mind of Oliver and, projections of paintings on the shack wall when we discovered that Granddad was an artist and had famous names in his own collection. These diversions were effective.
After the ups and downs of characterisation and wrestling with all the loose ends it was a relief to see such a poignant and satisfying ending to the production. It was a beautiful finale.