Friday, June 21, 2024


Riverside Theatre Digital
Writer: Jane Bodie
Director: Julian Meyrick
October 30 – November 14, 2021

Jane Bodie’s generational saga Lamb is a play with songs rather than a musical and an increasingly popular genre. Nevertheless, the original music and lyrics by Mark Seymour of Hunters and Collectors are integral to the narrative and integral to its success as theatre.

While the rationale of the play is rather cliched – siblings who are reunited at a parental funeral – the formulaic opportunity of re-assessment is given an extra interest by making the issue of personal creativity central to the family’s story. The guitar is positioned almost at centre stage between Greg Clarke’s minimally evoked well-worn home kitchen and country pub, its warm colour and gleaming strings drawing our attention.

As the play opens it is obvious that Patrick (Darcy Kent) is deeply resentful of his sister Annie’s (Brigid Gallacher) success as a singer as she “deserted” the family farm leaving him to manage the sheep, their ageing parents and their mentally disadvantaged eldest sister, Kathleen (a touching Emily Goddard). From there the narrative moves backward in time unravelling the tangle of love, anger, frustration and lost dreams that has led to the present fraught relationship between the three siblings, all of whom feel rejected and abandoned in some way.

It is not until we meet with their parents, Mary (also Gallacher) and Frank (also Kent) that we encounter the heart of the play. As Frank is shyly and slyly wooing Mary through the singing of a duet, he is envisaging her as a sheep farmer’s wife but she has “other plans”. As she says flailing for the right words after admitting she is pregnant “I want to do things … I want more than this”. An uncomprehending Frank feels that she should be sufficiently gratified by his declaration that he loves her. It is after all the ’70s, and he lyrically evokes the birth of a lamb – “the most natural thing” – and the ewe’s licking of life into her vulnerable young.

Wife, mother and helpmeet, a secretive Mary sinks her ungratified ambitions into achieving her lost dreams through her daughter Annie, who, despite success, feels her life is empty. Frank’s life becomes a constant battle to maintain his sheep farm, but nevertheless, he envisages that Patrick, a secret songwriter, as inheriting the farm despite the family’s bitter suffering. The sad Kathleen drifts like a ghost between the kitchen and the pub, placeless, self-diagnosing her condition as the consequence of having a mother who did not want her.

Ultimately, the three siblings find their own creative destinies with the support of each other, and in ways that surprise. There is significant change but also continuity, and rather than sacrifice for the sake of others there is commitment to working out the best outcome for all. While it sounds like a glib recipe for a happier global society, Seymour’s music and lyrics give Lamb a greater emotional impact than it might otherwise have achieved.

Lamb is a streamed experience and will not be available on YouTube after November 14: › show › lamb-ondemand



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