Review | Laura Money
Talk about a show that packs a punch! Kangaroo Stew written and performed by Zac James, directed by Bruce Denny and played at The Blue Room Theatre is the ultimate family story. It takes good, hard working people who are dedicated to each other and their sacred land and posits the question – what would happen if this was all taken away? Featuring a five-person cast of phenomenal actors, Kangaroo Stew takes you back to your roots and educates while entertaining – and it will probably leave you with a lump in your throat.
The set is dynamic, providing clear zones where each dramatic section occurs – Denny’s direction is smooth when each character moves from area to area alongside masterful lighting design from Peter Young. There are earth toned screens that demarcate the separate areas, a kitchen table with cupboards and hob in the heart of the stage as with the heart of the home, and a bedroom to the right for privacy that plays an important role throughout. Young’s contribution is highlighted during a dreamtime story in which actors move and dance in a sinister fashion behind the screens with a powerful light casting creepy shadows of the characters in the story to accompany Maitland Schnaars‘ hypnotic storytelling.
Schnaars plays John, father and husband of the struggling family. He is also dead. Returning guiding spirits are an integral part of Aboriginal culture and John’s spirit is interwoven into the story just as seamlessly as Dreaming and the spirit of the land are into culture. Cutting a dignified and sometimes solemn figure, Schnaars gently but firmly teaches country and story to his children. He jokes with his son, Jack (Micah Kickett) who shares banter with the cheekiest of grins, but is serious when addressing David (James) providing a gravity that cultural significance merits. Kickett and James share a brilliant chemistry that is every sibling relationship. They love each other fiercely but also have the capacity to hurt each other because of it. Jack sees David’s moving away as a betrayal – which is nothing compared to what is about to come.
At the heart of Kangaroo Stew is a strong bond and intense relationships. There is a beautiful moment between CJ Hampson and Rayma Morrison as mother and daughter in law that will leave you unsure if you should laugh or cry. The family’s utmost dedication to its newest member is heartwarming. Hampson plays the peacekeeper well, shifting seamlessly from playful language with Jack and respectful yet friendly tones with Lilly. However, it is Lilly’s relationship to John that is the most harrowing. Morrison’s Lilly is strong on the outside but falling apart with emotion inside. She shifts from capable, funny, caring matriarch to vulnerable, insecure, quiet alcoholic. Lilly drinks to ‘banish’ John’s spirit as she feels she can’t move on until he’s gone. Schnaars and Morrison share a touching moment that is so perfectly performed there isn’t a dry eye in the house.
Kangaroo Stew is wonderfully uplifting, a stunning insight into the everyday understanding of spirituality and culture. It’s connections to land and family are strong, tangible threads that prove that much like the stew itself, every element is different but when it comes together it works better than ever. And it’s a bloody good show, too!
Kangaroo Stew is playing at The Blue Room Theatre from 27th April – 8th May 2021. You can get your tickets HERE