It is a bit hard to figure out why this family gathering is occurring (although it turns out to be an engagement party), but just before everyone arrives the mother (Katereios) discovers something very important which will affect everybody. Of course, in the style of family secrets - which is what this play is about - she doesn't want anybody to know.
Sunday's Roast is a humorous drama and the fun throughout the play lies in the unexpected discovery of secrets which shake the foundations of relationships. This is slightly uncomfortable ground because the secrets are serious and there is always a bit of a tricky line between dealing with something as humour yet treating it with respect.
Driver is not afraid of the big issues but because the tone of this play is light he tries to cover too much and so rather than investigating family dynamics in any depth and building to a climax, the issues get pushed aside and muddied and often sold out to the pun or one liner.
This show has an emphasis on the female dynamics and I became curious about Driver's other works. He seems to like writing for women, which is laudable, but he deals with deep and troublesome issues using humour and that tends to leave his characters a bit shallow. I don't know why he chooses to write women but I suspect if he would lean more closely on what he knows from his own experiences his writing would have more depth and honesty and be far more impactful.
Driver also writes for very large casts, which suits his television aspirations well, but is cumbersome on stage. Smaller casts with a focus on one or two major issues would see him shoot to the top of his craft because his writing is punchy and intimate - it just gets lost in the volume of what he is trying to do.
Ruth Katereios, Pat Moonie, Shanon Kulupach, and Lucinda Barratt
Sunday's Roast is a fantastic ensemble piece with a cast of eight. At first I was going to try and pick out one or two of the best actors but there is something to love about most of them.
James Rosier stands out as the long suffering (and very inebriated) husband of Amalia (Jennifer Monk). Pat Moonie's portrayal of the middle child grows into something of brilliance, and Shanon Kulupach gives a good performance as the pot head youngest, Bonnie, although the writing really does let this character down.
Lee McClenaghan is a crack up as the never quite fitting in daughter-in-law and Lucinda Barratt is brilliant as the 'full gay' guest. Barratt has very few lines, but her facial expressions say it all. She becomes mesmerising to watch as everyone chatters around her.
Nick Casey's set is a wonderful adaptation of the Courthouse. One of the things I love about La Mama is how they truly allow their spaces to be adapted and Casey has flipped the Courthouse space to create a layered and textured multi-storey house. He has also played creatively with 3D and 2D, emphasising one of the major themes of the play, which is about knowing our family on the surface and knowing them in depth.
James Rosier, Lucinda Barratt, Shanon Kulupach, and Jennifer Monk
At over an hour and a half with no interval this play could feel like it drags, but it really doesn't. I barely noticed the time and was surprised how long we had actually been in there when I got out.
Driver chose to direct the play himself (with the assistance of Samantha Cunningham) and in some ways this was a good choice and in some ways not. By directing it himself he was able to fill in the writing gaps with acting choices (such as the character of Bonnie). On the other hand he has denied himself the ability to see what needs to be edited by standing back from the play.
Regardless, Sunday's Roast is a fun and ambitious play. Well worth going to see.