Written by Green Room Award winning playwright and actor Peta Brady, Strands explores the challenges of family dysfunction and what happens to disabled young adults when their carer passes away.
When researching for Strands, Brady had been working in a community health centre and was discovering the cracks in our public health system and the fact young adults are forced to live in aged care nursing homes because there is simply nowhere else for them to live. During that time Brady came across an article about how the sound of the violin had changed over the years due to various environmental factors. She began to see the parallels to her research into Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. But it was a painting on the wall of a friend’s house during a dinner party that seemed to tie together all the strands that had been swirling around in her head.
The end result is Strands: a play that explores the impact of dysfunctional families, of poor decisions made by a pregnant woman that can cause devastating and lasting affects on her unborn child, as well as the emotional impact on a healthy child when abandoned and left feeling unloved by her mother, the challenge of raising a child with special needs and what happens to that child when the primary carer grandparent passes away. There is no easy solution and Peta Brady has presented a poignant story that, wisely, doesn’t attempt to resolve the complexity of the situation.
Set in the intimacy of the [email protected], Strands is one act play with a running time of about an hour and produced by Chris Proctor for The 1812 Theatre and Swampfox Productions. A detailed set (design by John Bishop) immediately captures the attention of the audience upon arrival into the presentation space.
Strands tells the story of two sisters: Destiny and Hope. Hope was born with “holes in her brain” and, as a result, she forgets things. Hope relies on story-telling to help her remember her life events. It is Destiny who has the memories of what has happened and through these stories we learn about their dysfunctional family background, their non-existent fathers and the mother who was not able to adequately care for them.
This two hander play is superbly presented by Angela Ellis and Danielle Payet.
Experienced actor Angela Ellis plays Destiny, the older sister of the two. Ellis delivers a strong and convincing performance as a woman who understands the needs of her younger special-needs sister, but it not capable of providing the adequate level of care she requires. Destiny herself is emotionally damaged from her past and Ellis’ portrayal of this character is handled beautifully.
In the role of Hope, Danielle Payet is outstanding, delivering a compelling portrayal. Payet portrays the special-needs younger sister with incredible realism and it is worth the price of a ticket for this performance alone. In 2012, Payet made her theatre debut in The 1812 Theatre’s Centrestage Youth Theatre in Cosi and has since established herself as a credible actor in the adult theatre, demonstrating the importance of youth productions within the theatre industry.
Director John Bishop has delivered a beautiful and poignant play that finds some gentle moments of humour and warmth, whilst exploring the challenges of family dysfunction and the impact on our health system with sensitivity. The subject matter is complex and there is no easy resolution in real life for these family situations. The closing of the play was powerful (no spoilers) and a few tears were being wiped away through the audience.
The only real criticism of this play is that, given the complexity of the subject, it feels like the story could be fleshed out much further into a full length play.
Strands is a thought-provoking play that will remain with you long after you leave the theatre.
Strands is playing at the [email protected] until May 13th. It’s worth a look.