Review | Laura Money
I cannot stress how perfect Blueberry Play is. Ang Collins‘ brilliant coming of age piece is Puberty Blues meets Silver Linings Playbook – it takes the small Aussie town sensibilities and fuses them with wider issues of mental health. Julia Robertson struggles with the typical trials and tribulations of being 17 years old – she like likes Jono, and he seems pretty into her. Her best friend is a fast-talking gossip, and her mate Brandon tries to school her in old-style music – in other words, she is just trying to find herself in a sea of strong personalities.
Being 17 in a small town would be enough for a play, but Collins throws the father into the mix. He is dying of prostate cancer, and that wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for his bi-polar. Robertson’s delivery is flawless – she stands awkwardly in her blueberry costume and explains, shy smile ghosting her lips:
It’s Jono’s 18th tonight and you’re going as a blueberry because the theme is ‘childhood memories’ and you want to look like Violet Beauregard from Willy Wonka…but sluttier.
Blueberry Play is genuinely funny – it captures the awkward moments living in a small town brings, from grabbing a grubby pink house towel and hightailing it to the local pool, to seeing a friend the morning after a rough night because he works at the local Maccas. Collins’ writing and Robertson’s delivery create an intense story that pulls at the heartstrings and is so tremendously real it resonates through the whole audience like a wave. There is a vulnerability in Robertson. She pokes around the wound of her father’s mental illness as if probing her tongue against a cavity. Her versatility as an actor is remarkable in one so young – Julia Robertson is one to watch!
It’s poignant and beautiful – each character is played to perfection – from the hard, yet accepting mother who is staving off her own breakdown, to the teenage lust felt by Jono ‘frothing’ his crush. However, it is Robertson’s depiction of her bi-polar father that is a tour de force. His erratic energy is tinged with sadness and instability and you can’t help but love and resent him at the same time. The language is sublime – common Aussie slang mingles with larrikin phraseology, high school passion and teenage awkwardness.
All the icons of childhood are there as Robertson navigates the end of an era in every aspect of her life. Icy poles, the pool, Maccas, killer pythons, chugging a choc milk, a designer backpack all interweave to create a distinct picture of Australian teen suburbia in the perfect play about the challenges we must all face in life.
WHEN: 18 – 27 January 2019 | 6:00pm
WHERE: The Studio | The Blue Room Theatre | FRINGE CENTRAL
Don Russell Performing Arts Centre | THORNLIE
INFO: Tickets $13 – $22 | Duration 60m | Age suitability: M | Content warning: sexual references, mental health | THEATRE