Lamb isn’t quite a musical, it isn’t quite a play. To be fair, the subtitle does read, “A new play with songs,” so there really shouldn’t be any surprises once the Front of House (FOH) staff give a thumbs up to the back, the house lights drop to black and the show starts. Yet, the show does surprise.
Lamb is a moving story of three children struggling in the wake of their mother’s passing (the father died years before). Now orphans, they need to find some way to speak and reach each other, before they can begin to think about what happens next.
How they do this best is through song. Their father, Frank, was a songwriter, something his only son Patrick has quietly taken up. Meanwhile, Patrick’s sister, Annie, has arrived under somewhat of a cloud, leaving a successful singing career to come back home. To Kathleen, their other sister, being raised around music rests mostly in the memory of a lullaby that she struggles to remember.
This was lovely work, Mark Seymour’s songs weaving in perfectly with Jane Bodie’s script. Transitions from silence or talking to singing were organic and only served to bolster the story being told. Simon Maiden played both Patrick and Frank in a fine performance. Patrick isn’t his father, but there’s something of Frank’s anger, frustration and violence that has to be hinted at, which Simon did very well.
So too with Brigid Gallacher, who played Annie and the mother, Mary. Like Simon, Brigid had a difficult task in playing two characters where one comes from the other. Also like Simon, Brigid was brilliant on stage. Brigid is one of the best actors working today and nothing about these compelling, at times heart-wrenching, portrayals would give any cause to think otherwise.
Emily Goddard was terrific as Kathleen. While the surface friction is obviously between Patrick and Annie, it’s in Kathleen’s relationship to the two of them and with her parents that the heart of Lamb really comes through. Kathleen’s journey is also what drives the play to its climax and Emily does splendidly in making those moments truthful and not merely a function of the narrative.
Lamb was a beautiful show that will find its way inside. Your heart may break, but it will piece it back together again.
Lamb (a new play with songs)
Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre, Rear 2 Chapel Street, St Kilda East
Season continues to 16 December 2018
Information and Bookings: www.redstitch.net
Image: Simon Maiden, Brigid Gallacher and Emily Goddard star in Lamb – photo by Jodie Hutchinson
Review: David Collins