8 February – 23 March
Belvoir St Theatre, Surry Hills
Ticket prices: Full $68, seniors/industry/group $58, concession $48
Belvoir’s production of Michael Gow’s latest play, Once In Royal David’s City, is a poignant exploration of love and loss during an age of great bewilderment and uncertainty. Having just suffered the loss of his father, Will Drummond (Brendan Cowell) is looking forward to Christmas at Byron Bay Beach. He soon learns that seeking stability in a world full of contradictions is futile as he instead spends Christmas by his mother’s bedside in a hospital room.
Director Eamon Flack tackles the thought-provoking subject matter with thoughtfulness and creativity. Despite a minimalist set and lighting design by Nick Schlieper, Flack offers innovative solutions to set changes and scene transitions in a manner that adds light to the action without detracting from the mood on stage. However it did take a solid twenty minutes of performance before the happenings on stage were made clear; Gow certainly does not ease his audience into his characters lives, and Flack’s fast-paced interpretation of Will’s recollections in the opening moments create a sense of displacement and bewilderment. Though perhaps that was the point; Once In Royal David’s City is all about the struggles of making sense of a world with no stable human condition. If Will flounders on stage, so too do the audience he is addressing.
Once In Royal David’s City is a fiercely moving and sincere production. Brendan Cowell offers a tender and evocative performance as Will; the brief moments of playfulness Cowell brings to his character are beautiful and serve to create the moments of deep loss and grief with greater poignancy. Cowell has a commanding presence on stage and is supported well by an excellent minor cast. This play is captivating and lovely, a charming exploration of how we cope when faced with the mortality of our loved ones.
Words by Rachel Sandeman