Sunday 14 May 2017

Spencer review

Regardless of how crazy your family members make you, they're always going to be your family so you might as well learn to put up with them. Presented by Lab Kelpie, Spencer spends a day with the Priors who are busy planning the arrival of the newest addition to the clan. Youngest sibling and AFL player Scott is about to meet the son he never knew he had, a result of a one-night stand two years earlier. The entire family seems to live through Scott's successes, but what happens when the most accomplished member of the family is the most unhappy and confused? 

Jane Clifton is absolutely marvellous as Marilyn, the matriarch of the Priors, who despite her harsh criticisms and comments to her children simply wants nothing but the best for them, which becomes tricky when her ex-husband Ian (Roger Oakley) returns. Initially coming off as insensitive and selfish, Oakley shows that even though Ian was a husband and father, he was still a person who needed to find happiness, even if that went against the traditional notion of what that should be.

Lyall Brooks' portrayal of Ben is hilariously obnoxious yet he manages to find depth and vulnerability to him so that he's not just the annoying older sibling who eats Coco Pops in his underwear. Fiona Harris as Jules brings an air of despondency as her inability to let go of the past and her unfulfilled dreams of being an artist prevents her from building any sustainable relationships. Jamieson Caldwell as Scott, the beacon of hope for the Priors, does a great job of not only showing Scott's innocence and naivety but his realisation that life isn't always going to work out the way you want it to. Under the watchful eye of director Sharon Davis, the interactions between siblings and parents is energetic and she creates a highly convincing portrait of a loving yet dysfunctional family.

Katy Warner's script is intelligent and funny and brings to life a dynamic family full of history and in-jokes. Even though Spencer takes place over 24 hours, she cleverly ensures that the story moves forward at a steady pace and doesn't rely on exposition to tell it. The audience is trusted enough to be able to put things together and make reasonable assumptions about what has happened in the past and how those events have got the Priors to where they are today.

The detailed set design by Rob Sowinski and Bryn Cullen's perfectly represents the tone of the story and reflects the lives of the family members. It's clear much time and effort has been spent on creating the Prior's living room and ensuring that what we see resembles an authentic suburban home with various photos and trophies placed throughout, dirty clothes lying around and furniture that is more about comfort than style.

Warner and Lab Kelpie's first collaboration was the impressive A Prudent Man, and with Spencer they have created another winning production. Funny at all the right moments and honest in the others, it's a poignant reflection of a family trying to do the best with what they've been given and what they've got left.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Season: until 28 May | Wed - Sat 7pm, Sun 2pm
Tickets: $39 Full | $34 Conc | $29 Under 30
Bookings: Chapel Off Chapel

Photo Credits: Pier Carthew 

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