The Fugees sing a song about a woman who hears a man play guitar. Each strum of his guitar slices through her as she recognises her own pain in every word he sings. Having lost a parent to cancer there is little wonder why Killing Me Softly is the song that ran through my mind, when I drove home after watching Once in Royal David's City at The Playhouse - QPAC.
Directed by Sam Strong and written by Michael Gow this play is a powerful story about a universally shared sorrow.
Will Drummond (Jason Klarwein) is a theatre director who after abandoning a production midway feels his career nosedive. Six weeks ago his father passed away. His own heart break aside, he endured the painful experience of watching his mother Jeannie Drummond (Penny Everingham) struggle through it all. Unaware of his mother's deteriorating health, he organizes for them to spend Christmas at Byron Bay believing it would do them both a world of good.
Although the stage is close to bare, the life played out feels entirely real. Gow cleverly laces humor as he navigates through a topic we rarely like to address. There were some laugh out loud moments - Jason Klarwein and cast in Santa hats dancing to a Christmas Carol was like watching the personification of joy.
What really hit home for me was the realism when watching Jeannie argue with the doctor (Adam Booth). Incapable of recognizing her husband deterioration through her own state of denial. Jeannie fought for him until his last breathe, for his life, for his dignity and to not have to let him go. Will then finds himself reacting the exact same way when Jeannie is the one lying on the hospital bed.
The despair felt at that moment, mixed with the shock and denial was something I recognized after we received the news of my father's terminal condition. The brain and heart wasn't built to compute that kind of information. The writing, directing and performance of this part of 'LIFE' couldn't have been more spot on if it were an arrow hitting its heart shaped target.
Penny Everingham portrayal of Jeannie is heartfelt and honest. Kaye Stevenson was brilliant as Molly and a wonderful part of the ensemble. Steve Turner delivered the religious element of the story paying dues justly to all sides. Honourable mention to Emma Jackson for brilliantly providing the light moments. Jason Klarwein seems to be able to play it all. I believed every word he said and felt every emotion attached to each facial expression.
Another successful collaboration between Melbourne's Black Swan State Theatre Company and Queensland Theatre.
Congratulations to Sam Strong on a brilliant directorial debut with Queensland Theatre.
Once in Royal David's City is a wonderfully entertaining yet profound story. It will leave you with a sense of hope and realization that we are never alone in this. Everyone goes through it - sooner or later. It will have thinking about what is really important in life and you will hopefully find yourself starting conversations with the people you care about.
A good story makes you think and a great story also forces you to feel.
Jason Klarwein (Will Drummond)
Penny Everingham (Jeannie Drummond)
Kaye Stevenson (Molly)
Adam Booth (Andrei / Doctor)
Emma Jackson (Jess)
Toni Scanlan (Gail)
Adam Sollis (Boy)
Steve Turner (Bill/Wally)
Ash Gibson Greig
Choreographer & Movement Director
Jason Barry Smith
Assistant Stage Manager
Katrina Irawati Graham