BWW REVIEW: Competitiveness And Consumerism Challenges The Real Meaning Of Christmas In Mary Rachel Brown's SILENT NIGHT
Tuesday 14th November 2017, 7:30pm Eternity Playhouse Darlinghurst
As society has moved further and further away from the real meaning of Christmas, Mary Rachel Brown's new Australian play SILENT NIGHT is a shamelessly absurd expression of the worst of a time that was supposed to be about family, love and goodwill to all. With her detailed ability to examine society, this satire asks the audience to consider the real meaning of Christmas, beneath the veneer of fairy lights and tacky tinsel and forced family obligations.
Director Glynn Nicholas' cast of 4 inhabits Hugh O'Connor's cutaway of a living room of a suburban house which has been overtaken by a life-sized nativity whilst middle class parents Anne and Bill Lickfolds sleep in the car. The multi-locked door to emo son Rodney's bedroom come taxidermy studio and Bill's doomsday bunker remain the only spaces uninfected by Anne's decorations which included bedazzled Joseph and Mary and a hay strewn manger awaiting the arrival of the prized replica of the Christ child, the much awaited final piece of the puzzle that will secure a best display award at the Australian Regional Christmas Excellence competition. Ensuring that the audience understands that Anne's competitive obsession has spilled out of the home, Santa surfs on the roof along with festive lettering and animated ornaments occupying the font lawn. The Lickfolds are representative of the white middle class masses where everyone wants the latest gadget; children are raised without cross words and any understanding of consequences apart from bribery to achieve compliance and families want to outdo each other in the race to appear better than their neighbours, regardless of the dysfunction behind closed doors.
For those ready to embrace the absurd storylines and caricature of contemporary middle class Australia, SILENT NIGHT is an often amusing work, if for no other reason than the question of "they can't really be saying or doing that". With bestial necrophilia, substance abuse and Satan worshiping, this story of one family's disconnect with the true meaning of Christmas as their obsessive personalities cloud rational behaviour is very bizarre. The questionable contemporary parenting styles and the inability for a mother to cut the apron strings and see the need to deal with her only child as an adult resonates with anyone who has become frustrated watching helicopter parents coddling children rather than disciplining the obnoxious brat. Anyone who has questioned the excess of Christmas light displays that suck up the power of a small city will recognise the caricature that Brown has created along with her commentary on the consumer culture that sees a need for the latest technology regardless of cost and actual need.
Whilst the work could be tightened as many motifs are repeated to the point of losing their humour, this is an entertaining work for anyone with a more cynical view of contemporary Christmas celebrations. It is acknowledged that there is a high degree of crassness to the work and this is not an evening of sophisticated entertainment by any stretch of the imagination which means that it wont appeal to all audiences (some of whom did not return after interval), but will amuse others (with a possibly warped sensibility) as the burst of laughter will attest to.
Amanda Bishop has created a caricature of a suburban housewife who is harbouring secrets and substance abuse problems in her portrayal of Anne Lickfold. Many will know Bishop from her apparances in Sydney Theatre Company's Wharf Reviews over the years and her ability to create caricatures of stereotypes which are somewhat overplayed is utilised in this work with amusing effect. Richard Sydenham plays husband and father Bill Lickfold as a straighter character whilst still having an absurdity as the doomsday planner who times his access to the family bunker and his testing of apocalypse prevention equipment with an unsettling zeal. Aaron Glenane presents the overgrown man child Rodney Lickfold with a looming intensity that draws out the humour of the absurd character that only shows affection at the production of a $100 note and has a strange obsession with inanimate objects, particularly dead animals. Uninvited guest, Michael Denkha presents the incorrect online order with a sensibility, if sense can be found in this crazy work, providing a gravity as he lifts the lid on the difference between image and reality, impression and intent.
If you appreciate the absurd, have a somewhat cynical view of contemporary Christmas, are comfortable with poking fun and exposing the flaws of the middle classes, and don't mind a bit of bad behaviour, SILENT NIGHT might be the type of entertainment that won't have you dry retching at saccharine seasonal sentiments.
10 November - 10 December 2017