Spencer by Katy Warner. Directed by Sharon Davis. Lab Kelpie. The Q, Queanbeyan. Oct. 19-21
Spencer is a sort of soapish four letter word laden domestic Aussie Rules brawl of a play out of which emerges a bit of comedy and some serious themes.
At first it’s chaos. In fact it stays chaos.
Larger than life matriarch Marilyn (Jane Clifton) presides over three adult children. In the case of Ben (Lyall Brooks) there’s very little of the adult. He coaches junior football but does not seem to do much else other than sprawl about and be a loud mouth. His brother Scott (Jamieson Caldwell) has, on the other hand, a promising AFL career but seems to be troubled by the imminent arrival of Spencer, the infant son he did not know he had from a relationship he does not seem to remember too well.
Daughter Jules (Fiona Harris) arrives, jobless and restless, and unwillingly back in the family home. Then the long absent father of the family, Ian (Roger Oakley) turns up unexpectedly, having fallen out with his current love and family and needing, like Jules, somewhere to stay. Or somewhere to be. Meanwhile mother Marilyn prepares for the arrival of the unexpected grandchild Spencer with an orgy of gift buying, decorations and the making of sausage rolls.
This can all feel a bit off putting, particularly given what feels like the repetitive poverty of the characters’ language. But out of this emerges some interesting character development, especially after the arrival of Oakley’s very laid back, vulnerable but manipulative dad. Jules reveals something of what it has been like for her as the only daughter in some nicely careful work from Harris. Even Clifton’s Marilyn displays a well played moment of care for her.
The tensions surrounding Scott seem to swing to and fro and the ending is a bit of a deus ex machina but Caldwell makes us care somewhat about the young footballer’s dilemmas. Only Ben among the siblings remains a lost soul who knows he’s lost but can’t summon the energy for a course of action, like moving out and moving on.
It’s really a collection of minor tragedies, compounded by various kinds of inertia, in an Australian lounge room that increasingly mirrors inner turmoils. Funny, well done and ultimately depressing.