As a writer takes the “tell your story” advice literally and writes about being a writer, I wonder how much of the abundant dialogue about stories and half-written stories that are looking for a beginning and have no end is the writer trying to tell people what she does or is it begging for another writer to write about her writing.
Actor and writer Kate Mulvany was most recently seen in Melbourne in Bell Shakspeare’s wonderful Julius Caesar, where she was as Cassius and the dramaturg; she knows how to tell a story. The Seed is her semi-auto-biographical work that was developed through the 2004 Phillip Parson’s Award and has seen productions at Belvoir and in her home town of Geraldton.
This production is the mainstage direction debut of Hayloft’s Anne-Louise Sarks (who was also assistant director for the remarkable The Wild Duck currently at Malthouse) and pops local favourites Tony Martin and Max Gilles on stage for us.
Thirty-year-old Rose (Sara Gleeson; played by Mulvany in previous productions) has arrived in Nottingham, UK, with her father (Martin) to see his childhood home and meet his formidable father (Gilles). With a shared birthday, the balloons, mystery boxes and Guy Fawkes night fireworks, help Rose to burst, unwrap and explode the stories of her IRA-supporting grandfather, her ten-pound-pom and Vietnam conscript father and her childhood cancer.
It’s a deeply personal piece about guilt and betrayal and trying to connect to family through secrets and silence, but it seems to be so personal that there isn’t enough distance (writing, direction and performance) to take it from a great family tale to a story that will outlive its characters. The story is gentle and loving, but its black humour and inherent humanity are cocooned in a kind of writing that is loved in a novel, but feels over-written and self-indulgent on a stage.
For a production having everything going for it, the result is disappointing and it might be best to grab a new Seed from this crop and give it some time in loving goodness of a dark compost heap before it sprouts again.
More of Anne-Marie’s writing is at sometimesmelbourne.blogspot.com.au