A serial killer is caught and spends the rest of his life in jail. While the victims' families might feel like justice has been served, what happens to the family of the serial killer? In Ashley Rose Wellman's You Are The Blood, the spotlight turns to the wife and children of David Boden, a man convicted of murdering seven people.
Shelby (Jessica Stanley) works as an office manager at a comedy club whose life is quite a mess, both literally and figuratively. Her mother Linda and brother Ben (Vivienne Powell and James Cerché) seem to be doing somewhat better but things reach a tipping point when it is reported that their murderous family member (Andrew Blackman) has recently become engaged to performance artist Sylvia (Jem Nicholas). Unfortunately, the story does not go much deeper than that and after almost 2.5 hours, you are left scratching your head and wondering how this production ended up much like Shelby's life.
Wellman's script is clunky, repetitive and prevents the story from progressing beyond the surface. The first act gives little insight into the lives of Linda or Ben and while the story indicates that Shelby's aspirations to be a stand-up comedian will play a purpose in this story, it ends up focusing on her relationship with Sylvia. As an audience member, we expect to see how being a wife or child of a murderer has affected their lives and this is hardly looked at, and when it is, it's awkwardly done. At one point, Wellman has Linda inappropriately compare her reasons for staying with her serial killer husband as being similar to Hillary Clinton staying with her cheating husband.
After an inexplicable personality change from her first scene as an arrogant and narcissistic artist, Sylvia becomes the most intriguing and sympathetic character. Frustratingly, her story ends abruptly without a satisfying conclusion. Instead we revert back to the Boden family but as they are not given enough material or opportunity to explain themselves, you ultimately just don't care about what they are feeling.
With all this in mind, it's inevitable that the performances will be impeded. Powell, Cerché and Stanley show dedication to their characters but there is only so much they can do when there is no development to their characters. Blackman is effective as the menacing and controlling David and his scenes with Nicholas intriguingly explore this power dynamic. Similarly, Nicholas brings great depth to a person that initially appears to be played for laughs and her absence in subsequent scenes is felt.
The staging is well considered however, with Abbie-Lea Hough's set design taking advantage of the large space, displaying Shelby and Sylvia's bedrooms, Vivienne's dining room and the prison that David is held in. This allows director Peter Blackburn to keep characters in scenes after we have moved to another, indicating they are all connected and unable to be completely free of each other and their past. This is further highlighted with Blackman positioned on a chair above the performers for the entire first act, staring blankly into the audience, a representation of the hold he still has over his family. The entire performance space floor is covered in sand, a reminder of where David buried his victims after murdering them.
For You Are The Blood to connect with audiences and draw them in, we need to understand more about the psychological impact of what the characters are going through. While it is certainly a dark and morbid tale on serial killers and people's fascination with them, sometimes you need more than a unique idea to make a story interesting.
Venue: Meat Market, 5 Blackwood St, North Melbourne
Season: until 26 Juy | Thurs - Sat 7:30pm, Sat - Sun 5pm
Tickets: Adult $30 | Conc $25
Bookings: Meat Market
Image Credits: Jack Dixon-Gunn