I'm a freelance writer living in Sydney. I have a Bachelor and Honours degree in Theatre and work also as a freelance director.
Sink your teeth into a unique piece of theatre
The Big Meal, written by Dan LeFranc, is an authentic depiction of a typical, middle-class life and family. Set in America, the audience is taken on a journey through nearly eighty years; meeting five generations of the same family and witnessing the highs and lows that accompany an ordinary life. The story is easy to follow and audiences will find themselves laughing along while potentially finding a piece of themselves and their families in this very clever and heartfelt piece of theatre.
Directed by The Depot Theatre's co-founder, Julie Baz, The Big Meal opens in a typical pub where we witness the initial blossoming of a young relationship. David Jeffrey's set design uses The Depot's unique space in such a way as to ensure every audience member is engaged in the piece, while allowing the setting to remain authentic and real. As the piece progresses, we see various conversations take place around different table settings as the families grow and life continues. Baz's direction superbly encapsulates the reality of a family dinner conversation with overlapping discussions, and the audience is surprisingly able to easily follow the table chatter through each scene. The actors communicate the anarchy with ease, and grant the audience a genuine depiction of middle-class family life.
Tasha O'Brien and Brendan Paul personify the young Sam and Nicole (Nikki) and we watch sparks fly as their initial relationship blossoms. Baz's direction allows the audience to easily follow the consistent jumps forward in time, and we witness Kaitlyn Thor and David Jeffrey morph into the middle age versions of the young couple. Thor and Jeffrey continue the mannerisms developed by O'Brien and Paul with ease as Sam and Nikki move forward into married life with kids. O'Brien's ability to make subtle changes to each character she plays is impressive, and while there are obvious costume and hair changes, her craft shines through in each new scene. Her portrayal of Robbie's wife, Steph is impressive, and her ability to communicate such an overwhelming heartbreak is moving. While O'Brian is centred from the beginning, Paul takes a while to find his rhythm, however when he does there he provides a great performance. His best characterisation comes in his depiction of Sammy – Sam and Nikki's grandson – and his engaging monologue that created an audible gasp from the audience in its conclusion.
While Thor and Jeffrey individually display their characters with ease and truthfulness, it took a while for their relationship to display the chemistry needed for a couple getting married and having children. It felt as if they were still in the initial stages of a relationship long after their anniversary. However, when their children arrive, the pair display eerily accurate depictions of a couple doing the best they can to navigate life with each other and their new-found family. Jeffrey performs well as Sam, but his best performance comes when he encapsulates Sam's son Robbie as a grown man. Thor's depiction of Nikki is stunning, and her performance as Sam and Nikki's daughter, Maddie, is beautifully heartbreaking with her exit bringing tears.
Playing the children throughout the piece are Angus Evans and Emily Dreyer. Both perform the roles with ease, although at times the volume can become overbearing as an audience member. Evan's effectively communicates a new trait with each character, and his physicalisations of a young child are incredibly realistic. Dreyer also adapts to each new character and portrays the characterisations of a young child effectively.
David Jeffrey, Angus Evans, Kaitlyn Thor & Emily Dreyer
Arguably, the best performances of the night came from the older duo – Cormac Costello and Suzann James. James showed beautiful light and shade in her performances and the chemistry with Costello was beautiful. Costello was a crowd favourite with his performance as Sam's father and then Sam himself. His comic timing and characterisations drove the performance, with each subtle nuance delivered with impeccable precision. Together, the pair delivered impressive performances and took the audience on a wonderfully life-like journey.
There are highs and lows, laughs and tears, but most importantly this is an entertaining night out at the theatre. The Big Meal is a piece of theatre not to be missed. Running for 100 minutes with no interval, there was no time where it felt as if the show was lagging. This is both due to the wonderful direction by Baz and the professionalism of the eight cast members. Do yourself a favour, and grab a ticket to The Big Meal before they are all devoured.