On an island at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago, a boy complains that his mother feeds him only rice, and is sent fishing. When he doesn’t return, the distraught parents enlist the help of an ageing local fisherman with a reputation for knowing his way around the sea. So begins a compelling retelling of a story that got lost in the 24 hour news cycle.
Sandra Thibodeaux’s engaging script was developed with the help of the Indonesian families unwittingly caught up in a political game that could hardly be more remote from their world. Rather than a land girt by sea, this Australia, as experienced by this unprepared boy, is as confusing and hostile as a sea girt by ocean. Thibodeaux’s play utilises both Indonesian and Australian traditions and iconography as reference points, anchoring this confused boy’s experience for the audience.
The result is stunning. Set, costumes, video and puppetry combine smoothly to create a sense of simplicity that belies the many modes of communication being employed. The old narrator’s declining memory and eyesight provide slapstick relief from the story’s tragic ebbs and flows, and help to link us back in to the unfolding tragedy. Indeed, the play as a whole is inviting and riveting, and truly a joy to see.
You don’t have long left to get in to see it in Canberra, but if you miss it, you’ll be able to see it in Sydney next week. Don’t muck about.
Tags: Alex Galeazzi, Budi Laksana, C Block Theatre, Dann Barber, Deri Efwanto, Ella Watson-Russell, Gorman Arts Centre, Imam Setia Hagi, Imas Sobariah, Iswadi Pratama, Jaman Belulang, Kadek Hobman, Kadek Krishna Adidharma, Made Gunanta, Mic Gruchy, Mohammad Gandi Maulana, Panos Couros, Performing Lines, Philip Lethlean, Pippa Bailey, Sandra Thibodeaux, Teater Satu, The Age of Bones
I laughed along heartily at The Addams Family, mainly because the cast worked so well to engage their audience. If only the musical itself was a little more innovative, this would be a brilliant show.
There was a palpable shift a little way into this opening night. It felt to me like nerves were very raw at first, but within twenty minutes or so, that was gone, and the receptive audience had warmed them up. Tim Stiles, in the role of Uncle Fester, seemed to be at centre stage when they clicked into gear, but the whole cast rallied beautifully as an ensemble and it was a beautiful thing to see this shift.
I loved the sharp attitude Lainie Hart brought to Morticia, and Gordon Nicholson delivered plenty of laughs as a trapped Gomez (I am impressed that he balanced the script’s stereotypes with some more subtle characterisation). In all, the cast and orchestra delivered a receptive audience with a truly engaging night of entertainment, despite working with a second-rate script.
I felt slightly uncomfortable about the paradox of a Spanish-American family who’d apparently migrated in the eighteenth century but still had a a Spanish accent and identified themselves as immigrants two hundred years later. Writing in 2009, I think Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice could have attempted to be more respectful, but it probably didn’t occur to anyone involved to consider the imperialism inherent in classifying anyone who isn’t an Anglo American as an immigrant. And it’s hardly a central element of the plot.
Regardless of the unfortunate stereotyping, the story and the values it espouses remain strong, and this, after all, is a light, fluffy musical comedy that trades on the reputation of a classic sitcom rather than the competence or cultural awareness of the writers for its success. It’s not an exploration of metaphysical significance or even a reimagining of a classic, but a vaguely-reasonable attempt to capitalise on nostalgia and turn a profit. It’s fun, and this cast enjoyed themselves enough to take the opening night crowd on a bit of a romp.
Perhaps these characters don’t ring completely true to the TV show I grew up with, but do we really expect them to? In the fifty years since The Addams Family ceased filming, our culture has shifted dramatically. Certain values have held fast, and this musical makes a valiant effort to be relevant… I’m just not convinced that remaking classics just for the nostalgia value is a worthwhile pursuit. Profitable, perhaps: but hardly insightful. And as much as I appreciate the odd bit of fluff, these times call for insight. And the book just doesn’t deliver however much the cast attempts to redeem it.
Tags: Andrew Howes, Andrew Lippa, Anglo American, Annette Sharp, Barbara Denham, Brian Sudding, Caitlin Schilg, Callum Doherty, Casey Minns, Charles Addams, Christine Pawlicki, cultural imperialism, Deanna Gibbs, Eclipse Lighting and Sound, Emily Geyer, Gomez Addams, Gordon Nicholson, Hamish McConchie, immigration, Jesse Sewell, Joseph McGrail-Bateup, Joyanne Gough, Lachy Agett, Lainie Hart, Liam Downing, Liam Jackson, Madelyn White, Marshall Brickman, Matt Black, Matthew Webster, Miriam Miley-Read, Morticia Addams, Nathan Patreach, Nathan Rutups, Queanbeyan, Rachel Thornton, Rick Elice, Siodhan Hansen, Sophie Hopkins, Spanish American, Stephen Pike, The Addams Family, The Q, Tim Stiles, Tristan Davies, Uncle Fester, Wednesday Addams