This is Living - Malthouse Theatre (VIC)
Writing by Ash Flanders. Direction by Matthew Lutton.
Reviewed by Vito Mattarelli
A Malthouse Theatre production, Melbourne
7th to 30th July 2023
- An intelligent take on taking chances, told with developing finesse from its writing and direction -
Hugh and Will have been together for a few years, but things are not going well. Recently diagnosed with leukemia, Hugh is in recovery from a recent transplant but does not expect to be around in the longer term. The strain on the relationship has taken a toll and the couple are back together after a brief separation.
The separation was Hugh’s choice. Hugh has also decided (and planned well in advance) a 3-night getaway to Daylesford to celebrate New Year, and invited their three single, slightly older female friends, Jo, Alex and Sharleen. This selected ‘family’ has been together some time, enjoying regular getaways and catching up on each other’s lives. Like most families there is a lot of love, but also tensions, secrets and jealousies.
Cast & Crew of Malthouse's This Is Living. Photos: Pia Johnson
Based on personal experiences, writer Ash Flanders has written a very entertaining script, littered with some very funny one-liners that allow the characters to spit them out with relish – as one would expect in a typical queer comedy. His challenges are to balance the laughter with the seriousness and complications of dealing with a loved one with a chronic medical condition.
The trio of Jo, Alex and Sharleen works well, with the writing giving the actors (Maria Theodorakis, Belinda McClory and Michele Perera respectively) much to work with, and strong, feisty female characters. All three performers superbly balance the drama with the comedy and are the highlight of the play.
The central characters of Hugh (Marcus McKenzie) and Will (Wil King) are much more complex. Flanders attempts to switch between the ongoing tensions and frustrations from both (in particular with Will's story) as well as the humour of the show itself. Will’s ongoing attempts to please and be there for his lover are obvious, but the constant rejections from Hugh make this an uneasy path. These two characters however seem somewhat underwritten, and their relationship doesn’t gel as well as it should.
King and McKenzie both deliver fine performances under the direction of Matthew Lutton. While the focus is often on the illness, the script and direction succeeds in delivering an ensemble piece that entertains.
a funny, intelligent take on not just dealing with severe illness, but on taking chances, letting oneself be vulnerable and allowing people in.
Set and costume designer Matilda Woodroofe has created a large, open set for the rental house which intriguingly shows the audience the front and the rear sections of the set, creating the illusion of going behind the scenes, particularly as all the characters have a link to showbusiness. Paul Jackson’s lighting suitably compliments this with the benefit of a sound and music design by Joe Paradise Lui.
This is Living is a funny, intelligent take on not just dealing with severe illness, but on taking chances, letting oneself be vulnerable and allowing people in. While it is entertaining it ultimately falls slightly short of the mark that it strives for.
CAST & CREATIVES
Writer - ASH FLANDERS
Director- MATTHEW LUTTON
Will - WIL KING
Alex - BELINDA MCCLORY
Hugh - MARCUS MCKENZIE
Sharleen -MICHELLE PERERA
Jo - MARIA THEODORAKIS
Set & Costume Designer - MATILDA WOODROOFE
Lighting Designer - PAUL JACKSON
Composer & Sound Designer - JOE PARADISE LUI
Stage Manager - CECILY RABEY
Assistant Stage Manager - GEORGIA SEALEY