Monday, 4 June 2018

my sister feather, June 1, 2018 ***1/2

Written by Olivia Satchell
At La Mama Courthouse, until June 10, 2018 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ***1/2
 Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Mon 4 June 2018 & in print on Tues 5 June 2018. K

L-R_Belinda McClory, Emily Tomlins_pic Sarah Walker
Siblings can be the kindest or the cruellest to each other, and sometimes are both in a matter of minutes – and so it is with sisters, Tilly and Egg, in my sister feather by Olivia Satchell.

When, after decades of separation, Tilly (Belinda McClory) visits younger sister, Egg (Emily Tomlins), in prison to inform her of their mother’s death, the pair must find a way to communicate as adults and address their shared past, lost years and why their mother abandoned them as children.

Satchell’s intense, brooding production explores the intimacy and alienation of Egg and Tilly's relationship as they negotiate the dangerous terrain of rebuilding their relationship and reliving their past.

The play shifts between the grim, present day in a sterile prison room, and the sisters' childhood when Tilly protected little Egg, entertained her with fairy stories, or bullied her as only an older sister can do.

McClory is persuasive as Tilly, her nuanced performance shifting from nervous blathering to caring professional to critical, controlling big sister.

Tomlins captures the vulnerability lurking beneath prison inmate Egg’s brittle exterior, revealing Egg's true self as she opens up to her long-lost sister, expressing her guilt, blame and shame.

The play balances poignant scenes with the sisters’ playful interactions, past and present, and their repeated reference to The Owl and the Pussycat nonsense poem that amused them as children epitomises their need to bond and rediscover intimacy.

The stark design (James Lew), furnished with only an immovable table, benches and vending machine, encapsulates the bleak emptiness of Egg’s world, and the sisters’ every move is watched through CCTV, while their minor transgressions trigger a jarring siren.

Some childhood scenes feel awkward, and some unresolved issues warrant answers to render the play more coherent: what was Egg’s crime, why did Tilly abandon Egg, and what’s in mum’s letters to her daughters?

Perhaps not all these questions need answering, but some, at least, would fill the gaps in this otherwise compelling production.

by Kate Herbert

 Cast:  Emily Tomlins, Belinda McClory

Directed by Olivia Satchell
Sound by Tom Backhaus
Lighting by Jason Crick
Design by James Le

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