Primarily based on Patricia Cornelius’ semi-autobiographical e book of the identical title, My Sister Jill is the newest endeavour from the powerhouse partnership of Cornelius and director Susie Dee, marking almost 40 years of their inventive alliance .
With a 95-minute run sans interval, the play rapidly and episodically takes us via the dysfunctional life of 1 Australian household. Set in suburban Melbourne from the Nineteen Fifties to the 70s, My Sister Jill is bookended by WWII and the Vietnam Conflict, however between these two international upheavals is a battleground fought throughout the house.
Father Jack (Ian Bliss), is an ex POW affected by PTSD and his rages thunder all through the modest, weatherboard home with its peeling paint and pale wallpaper, completely realised by designer Marg Horwell. The youngsters – there are 5 – dance on a knife’s edge when he’s round. Jack is a quintessential ocker Aussie: a superb type, cheeky and a little bit of a larrikin, however in a heartbeat, and significantly with alcohol within the bloodstream, his temper can change – one second proudly admiring his backyard produce, the subsequent screaming and walloping the children for any minor infraction.
Bliss captures brilliantly the numerous nuances of this unsteady patriarch. It could be simple to painting him as an overbearing monster, however there are occasions beneath the bravura the place vulnerability and decency stay and Bliss finds these moments and brings them fleetingly to the floor earlier than the tide of rage-despair overwhelms him once more.
As his continually put-upon spouse Martha, Maude Davey too is a revelation in her quiet dignity and love that’s harking back to the fierce loyalty that Linda Loman has for her personal troubled husband Willy in Loss of life of a Salesman. The truth is, there’s a marked similarity between the 2 performs in some methods; if Miller wrote a few man straining underneath the purview of capitalism, right here Cornelius is coping with the aftershocks of struggle on one other man. Each are assailed and assaulted by their recollections.
Martha could also be threadbare and exhausted with the calls for of working a family and coping with a pack of rowdy youngsters, however she remains to be protecting of Jack and continually reminding the brood of all that he’s been via. It’s deeply unhappy how she begs for his or her kindness within the face of his emotional and bodily abuse.
All the kids are performed by adults and, via their awkward, coltish mannerisms, naked knees and elbows and infantile inflections, they’re fully convincing. Their numerous sibling exploits, teasings and video games add a a lot wanted lightness to the play and stop it from being overwhelmingly traumatic in tone.
Christine (Angourie Rice) is the youngest and, when the play opens, nonetheless sees her father as a heroic determine: ‘He’s a survivor… He lasted. He did. He got here out the opposite facet. He’s a outstanding man.’ She desires to be identical to him and in her naivete of youth fails to see the darkish, corrosive energy that he wields over the household. All her video games are re-enactments of his personal derring-do wartime experiences, tales of which she begs to be advised repeatedly. Rice, together with her braided pigtails, saucer-eyed surprise and frenetic, chatterbox vitality is a delight to behold as Christine and, via the play’s development, we get to see her develop up and shed a few of her insouciance for hard-earned knowledge.
Although the play may be very a lot an ensemble piece; Cornelius and Dee enable every character to shine individually in a way that’s nearly filmic in execution. So we observe the closeness of twins Mouse (Zachary Pidd) and Door (Benjamin Nichol) after which witness how, many years later, their paths sadly diverge. And we see how the eldest boy Johnnie (James O’Connell), determined for the (without end withheld) validation, respect and love from Jack, lastly forges his personal, uneasy path to maturity.
Most of all although, we see the plight of eldest baby Jill (Lucy Goleby). There’s no mistaking the truth that the play is called after her. She is the one one with the wits and braveness to face as much as her father and Goleby places in a sterling efficiency of metal and rise up.
My Sister Jill goals for realism: the manufacturing is clothed within the gown of a decrease center earnings bracket of the 50s period by Horwell, with discreet lighting by Rachel Burke that features a single poetic door gentle, and a easy however versatile set that has the façade lifted to incorporate the inside of the home. On one facet of the home rests a FJ Holden, that’s additionally built-in into the narrative.
Learn: Theatre assessment: Taking Liberty, WA Maritime Museum
In such a brief length, the play economically explores a variety of topics, from the consequences of war-afflicted neurosis and psychological injury, to the love and denial of parental love, the fusing and reducing of household bonds and the politics of conscription.
It marks one other poignant and highly effective collaboration by the successful crew of Cornelius and Dee and shouldn’t be missed.
My Sister JillSouthbank TheatreWriter: Patricia CorneliusDirector: Susie DeeSet and Costume Designer: Marg HorwellLighting Designer: Rachel BurkeComposer and Sound Designer: Kelly RyallIntimacy Coordinator: Amy CaterVoice and Textual content Coach: Matt FurlaniFight choreographer: Lyndall GrantCast: Ian Bliss, Maude Davey, Lucy Goleby, Benjamin Nichol, James O’Connell, Zachary Pidd, Angourie Rice
My Sister Jill will likely be carried out till 28 October 2023.