The agenda is made even more intense by Lewis’s deft shoe-horning of a cast of seven and an eight-seater dining table onto the tiny stage of the Stables Theatre. The arguments repeat and overlap, becoming a melee of voices shouting to be heard.
While the sibling rivalries and knee-jerk ideologies are instantly recognisable, the laughs generated by this rich soup of stereotypes aren’t free. We flinch at the petty outbursts and childish behaviour. We laugh at jibes against the Minister for Home Affairs even as runaway detainee Saba (Sabryna Walters) sits silently, trying her best to be invisible. It is only when she speaks, describing her treatment in Iran and Nauru in a devastating monologue, that we reach the heart, the driving purpose of the play. Comedy becomes tragedy.
Finally Sue, the family matriarch, played with crisp energy by Belinda Giblin, cuts through the political posturing and comes up with a plan to use Roger’s public profile as a magic bullet. A happy ending ensues, but Williamson’s message is anything but lighthearted. In this, his penultimate play, he is urging his fellow not-yet dead, white males who have enjoyed the benefits of the patriarchy and reached comfortable retirement to use their influence to step up and speak out against the moral vacuum at the political heart of Australia.
Until March 7