Written by Ashley Rose Wellman, You Are The Blood is the story of the Boden family coming to terms with their father's imprisonment, public criminality and heinous crimes against women. The Boden's appear as a regular middle-class family from Brighton Victoria, however, within the bloodline lies dark and morbid secrets.
Ex-wife Linda Boden (Vivienne Powell) drinks to cope, Shelby (Jessica Stanley), her daughter, turns to stand-up comedy, whilst Ben (James Cerche), her brother, is caught in the emotional vortex between them.
It's not easy when your father David Boden (Andrew Blackman) is a serial killer and attracts media attention, even when locked up. What's worse, is when he becomes engaged to Sylvia (Jem Nicholas), who is not only younger than you but is also a 'performing artist', stealing the limelight from the father-daughter relationship, you could have had. However, as much as you hate it, you know the only way to resolve this discontent is to confront it straight on, much to Ben's embarrassment and Mum's dramatic denial.
Despite scoffing at her semiotic trash performance, Shelby seeks out Sylvia to try and learn more about her father. At first, it's a dare, an immature high school prank to get back at the floozy, who is ripping her family apart. However, subconsciously Shelby realises Sylvia may be the only way to get close to her own father and resolve some of her childhood trauma.
So what about Sylvia? It's a bizarre fact, that many people fall in love with 'people on the inside', and often the relationship starts with a letter.
Sylvia's love for David Boden is not only poetic and literary, it is a fantastical and loyal marriage, despite never being consummated in the flesh. Such is the skill of the manipulative serial killer to lure an emotionally sensitive artist drawn to rescuing forgotten and turgid souls. At least that's what Shelby thinks until she realises that Sylvia and herself have something in common - 'unresolved Daddy issues'.
Directed by Peter Blackburn, You Are The Blood is a dark bizarre tale which attempts to resolve or understand the dynamics of family trauma and violence. Rather than banishing the slight of criminality to the underclass, Ashley Rose Wellman questions the existence of serial killers throughout humanity and seemingly 'regular' families.
It's great to see risk-taking independently produced work like this right now in Australia. Although You Are The Blood is staged at a time when family violence is a 'hot topic' in Australia, it is possible to miss this intention altogether, as the characters are fascinating without assigning any specific political message to the performance.
The magic of this production is the adaptation of the play into middle Australia, with a stellar cast, design and production team. The Stables at the Meat Market is an excellent choice of venue for this play, given the history of the building, the tales of murder and morbidity, which have given costume and set designer Abbie-Lea Hough license to experiment with the space, with an elevated 'glass' stage sitting on sand (you have to see the show to fully understand the effect). The elevation of David Boden is experimental and highly effective in symbolising his solitary confinement from the emotional world, and his power within it. Despite the size of the venue, the audience remains select to increase the intimacy of the performance which adds to its intensity and darkness.