|Emily Goddard as Kathleen, Darcy Kent as Patrick and Brigid Gallacher as Annie|
Lamb by Janie Brodie, Music and Lyrics by Mark Seymour. Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre (Melbourne) and Critical Stages Touring at The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, March 4-6 2021.
Reviewed by Frank McKone
Directed by Julian Meyrick
Music and Lyrics: Mark Seymour and the Undertow, Hunters and Collectors
Dramaturgs: Ella Caldwell and Iain Sinclair
Set and Costume Designer: Greg Clarke
Lighting Designer: Efterpi Soropos
Assistant Lighting Designer: Jacob Shears
Sound and AV Designer: Justin Gardam
Cast: (in order of appearance)
Darcy Kent – Patrick / Frank
Brigid Gallacher – Annie / Mary
Emily Goddard - Kathleen
This is a play about coming, going, and staying, not necessarily always in that order, from one generation to the next.
Mary and Frank have three children: Patrick, Annie and Kathleen. The structure of the plot in time-shifted scenes is intriguing. Like the characters, as they work out what they understand to be truths past and present, we find ourselves putting the pieces of their puzzle together – and unexpectedly picturing the parallel puzzles in our own lives. Lamb, for us, is like going on an uncharted bushwalk without a map or compass (and certainly no GPS). Yet, mysteriously, we manage in the end to reach a place where we no longer feel lost.
On stage everything seems small scale, yet the implications about how relationships start, how children are born, and how families form are of great importance. This play, including especially the songs, is an original work of art – Australian in attitude to life; universal in empathetic understanding.
The performances are outstanding. Emily Goddard’s representation of Kathleen’s mental disability calls upon our sympathies but keeps our sentimentality at bay. Brigid Gallacher’s Annie is clearly Mary’s daughter, not just in her recognition of her agency as a woman but as much in her rationality and common sense. And she sings like her father had. While Darcy Kent shows the subtle development from a father whose emotional sensitivity is his strength, yet leads to incapacity to cope; to a son who successfully finds his way by drawing upon both his mother and his father – even though he can never quite sing as well as Frank had.
The quality of performance is, of course, also an indication of the clarity of Julian Meyrick’s direction, and is supported by strong designs of lighting, sound, set and costumes.
The presentation of such original Australian work, local and on tour, has long been a feature of The Q – a tradition that those of us in “the big smoke” of Canberra next door thoroughly appreciate. Even the Lonsdale Street vegans who would feel sick at the smell of cooking lamb. See the play if you possibly can in this very short season, and you’ll understand my meaning.