Ask Audrey Ask Audrey
Review

Family Values

"a no-holds-barred dinner table shit-fight"

Audrey review: David Williamson's combustible cocktail of viewpoints on the Australian government’s refugee and asylum policy is the angriest play he's written in years.

Text size
Text size
Category: Theatre
Book Now
Add to favourites

Family Values

Date: 24 Jan 2020

David Williamson’s penultimate play is a combustible cocktail of viewpoints on the Australian government’s refugee and asylum policy. Shake and stir and off it goes.

Retired judge Roger (played by Andrew McFarlane) is being thrown a 70th birthday party in his Pymble home.

Supervised by his wife Sue (Belinda Giblin), it’s meant to be a family-only affair, though that in itself is enough to guarantee acrimony.

Roger and Sue’s children are poles apart, their views seemingly irreconcilable.

Eldest daughter Lisa (Danielle King) is a left-leaning activist concerned with refugee rights.

Michael (Jamie Oxenbould) is a born-again Christian and prosperity gospel evangelist.

Emily (Ella Prince) serves aboard a Border Force patrol boat.

To this already unstable mixture, Williamson adds two catalysts. The first is Emily’s partner and patrol boat commander Nolene (Bishanyia Vincent). Second is Lisa’s surprise guest, Saba (Sabryna Walters), an Iranian asylum seeker on the run having made it to the mainland for psychiatric assessment in the wake of a suicide attempt.

What should be a celebration turns into a no-holds-barred dinner table shit-fight in which old grievances are weaponised by people desperate to hold the moral high ground. A microcosmic representation of the hardliner vs progressive stoush playing out in Australian culture and politics emerges.

Family Values is as angry a play I’ve seen from Williamson in 20-odd years. His conflict is overly diagrammatic, but there’s palpable heat in his writing this time.

Directed by Lee Lewis, the production is brisk (the play is just 90 minutes long and played straight-through) and matters come to a head entertainingly.

McFarlane and Giblin holding the centre strongly and Oxenbould wrings every last comic drop available in the role of Michael. Vincent carries the role of antagonist-prime effortlessly and Walters makes a powerful late statement through Saba’s depiction of life in a Nauruan detention camp.

The ending doesn’t entirely satisfy. The proposed solution to the problem of Saba’s presence is convoluted and strikes as unlikely to succeed were this real life. That it does here suggests the privileged have less to fear when it comes to voicing and acting on their disquiet than they imagine.

Content
Australian Open
Add to favourites
TheatreKings Cross Theatre, Kings Cross, Sydney 14 - 29 Feb 2020

Australian Open

Audrey review: Angus Cameron’s new play unpacks ideas of marriage and commitment in a frisky, queer and broadly appealing rom-com with a sporting bent.

No Pay? No Way!
Add to favourites
TheatreDrama Theatre, Sydney Opera House 10 Feb - 28 Mar 2020

No Pay? No Way!

Audrey review: Featuring stellar comic talents, this production of Dario Fo's satirical farce is among the funniest shows Sydney Theatre Company has put to the stage in years.

The Rise and Disguise of Elizabeth R
Add to favourites
TheatreHayes Theatre Company, Potts Point, Sydney 13 Feb - 1 Mar 2020

The Rise and Disguise of Elizabeth R

Audrey review: Gerry Connolly leads you on an enjoyably twisted trip to that realm where performance and performer become inseparable.

See More

More to see

View All
Crunch Time
Add to favourites
TheatreEnsemble Theatre, Kirribilli, Sydney 14 Feb - 9 Apr 2020

Crunch Time

David Williamson’s final play before retirement, Crunch Time tackles pertinent social issues head-on in a story of family and duty.

Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam
Add to favourites
TheatreBelvoir, Surry Hills, Sydney 6 Feb - 8 Mar 2020

Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam

The rational world and an irrational love collide in Steve Rodgers's stage version of Peter Goldsworthy's heart-rending novella.

Shepherd
Add to favourites
TheatreBelvoir Downstairs, Surry Hills, Sydney 19 Feb - 7 Mar 2020

Shepherd

Belvoir's third 25A season opens with an absurd play for these absurd times.

The Campaign
Add to favourites
Sydney Mardi Gras FestivalReginald Theatre, Seymour Centre, Chippendale, Sydney 11 - 28 Feb 2020

The Campaign

The Campaign chronicles Tasmania’s journey from exclusion to inclusion, from opposition to acceptance, and from hatred to embrace.

Top