Stories of rifts between children and their high-profile parents are common. For many, Gina Rinehart’s name will come to mind, owing to the heavily publicised legal battles in which she and her children have been engaged in recent times.
As part of its remit to nurture new Australian works, Sydney’s Brave New Word is currently presenting the world premiere of Resolution, a play written by the company’s founder and artistic director, Luke Holmes about an estranged mother and daughter.
In Resolution, Abigail Woods (Jacqueline Marriott) has spent her life separating herself from her mother, Diane, the public and formidable CEO of a prominent media organisation. By her peers and the general public, Diane has been revered, but her daughter has never shared that adoration or even admired her mother. But when Diane suddenly dies, Abigail’s life changes profoundly. Named heir to the company, she must learn the ropes once controlled by her mother.
Taking on her mother’s role reunites Abigail with her brother, Ian (Peter Bass), already working within the organisation. Abigail is quickly made aware she may face some resistance from another senior executive, Tracey (Deirdre Campbell), who appears to be unilaterally making decisions that strictly require the CEO’s consent. But as she learns more about the inner workings of the organisation, Abigail discovers what has motivated Tracey’s course of action and, in turn, comes to learn more about her mother and the manner in which she has led the media conglomerate.
At its core, Resolution is a story of dealing with dramatic (perhaps, traumatic) change, and the impact that change can have on one’s closest relationships. But while it tells a worthy story of characters to which audiences will likely relate, it falls short in its efforts to convey the emotional impact you’d expect when one finds him or herself in Abigail’s situation. It also remains a mystery precisely how and why the relationship between mother and daughter was strained, as does the specific catalyst for Abigail’s decision to pursue a life totally removed from that of her mother. There’s a brief reference by Abigail to her mother favouring a ‘tough love’ approach, but there’s no real insight into the origins of their estrangement, which prevents the audiences from truly empathising with the character.
Woods is tremendously likable portraying Abigail but, to some extent, that’s an issue. At one point, Rosie tells Abigail she’s perhaps more like her mother than she thinks. But it’s difficult to see the character – who we’ve come to see as kind, cool, calm and collected in her dealings – as having taken on the persona of her mother, a formidable leader. Woods ups the emotion in her performance towards the end of the piece, but the audience would likely benefit from a more emotionally varied portrayal of the character from the outset, which is crystal clear in its depiction of a woman grappling with where she finds herself.
As Abigail’s partner, Cameron, Nicholas Starte is the standout cast member. His is a convincing performance, his characterisation feeling the most multi-dimensional. Starte’s portrayal is particularly effective during a heated argument with Abigail towards the show’s end.
As Rosie, a long-time friend of Abigail, Lauren Lloyd Williams provides good comedic moments, care of her entertaining turn of phrase, but it feels as though there’s a greater role needing to be carved out for the character; how could Rosie more meaningfully contribute to the development of the narrative?
Resolution tells a story deserving of examination and reflection on the contemporary stage. It’s been through a development process recently and, with further development, could become something that will resonate more strongly with audiences, perhaps serving as a reminder of the need for all of us not to rush to judgment before knowing all of the facts.