Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Caravan, Oct 7, 2017 ***1/2

THEATRE - Melbourne Festival
Written by Angus Cerini, Patricia Cornelius, Wayne Macauley & Melissa Reeves, presented with Malthouse
At Forecourt, Malthouse Theatre, until Oct 22, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ***1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts in print on Oct 10 & later online. KH
Susie Dee, Nicci Wilks, pic Tim Grey

The love-hate relationship between the mother and daughter in Caravan is ugly, unpredictable and characterised by bickering, confrontations and sporadic reconciliations. 

Daughter, Donna (Nicci Wilks), and Mum, Judy (Susie Dee), live a claustrophobic existence, emotionally and financially trapped in their tatty, 1960s caravan littered with Judy’s pill bottles and a fast-emptying wine cask and furnished with mismatched fabrics, a crummy CD player and tiny TV.

Judy lies stranded on the bed like a beached seal, craving the cheap alcohol that is killing her, while Donna searches for dates on her Tinder account then dashes out to meet them for dangerous, quicky sexual encounters behind the caravan.

The power dynamic is volatile between this co-dependent pair as Donna struggles to nurse her selfish and smug mother who, in turn, whines and manipulates her daughter and refuses, after 37 years, to give her a kind word or reveal the name of Donna’s father.

The dialogue is acerbic and funny, effectively combining Aussie slang with poetic language and, although it has four writers, the tone and style are coherent and cohesive.

With humour and poignancy, the play successfully articulates the desperate plight of these two women who are bound by poverty, tragedy and hopeless dreams of a better life.

Wilks is totally credible as Donna who looks like a trapped and beaten creature that keeps returning to its abuser, while Dee plays Judy with a wry smile and an almost palpable, inner fantasy life that keeps her mood strangely buoyant as she lies incapacitated.

The audience sits outdoors – albeit under cover – peering like voyeurs into the open side of the caravan, experiencing the cramped, physical environment of the ‘white trash’ caravan and feeling the despairing atmosphere of its two inhabitants.

There are echoes of Beckett’s hapless tramps and Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern when the women play games, tell stories and torment each other to pass the endless, isolated hours.

Caravan is an unsentimental observation of this dysfunctional relationship and its leaves an audience hoping that a better day will come for Donna and Judy, but knowing that it will not.

By Kate Herber

Susie Dee pic Tim Grey
 Nicci Wilks
pic Tim Grey

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