I went to see The Season by coincidence on the same day MLA released its annual Australia Day lamb ad; our country both simultaneously proud and up in arms over the way our national holiday is represented, with indigenous suffering at the centre of its debate.
Following a day spent in the online opinion vortex, a spirited indigenous family comedy was the last thing I expected to see, but it was reinvigorating.
The Duncan family meets every year at Big Dog Island on the Bass Strait to hunt muttonbird. Since the beginning of time, their ancestors have met in the same spot to ‘bird’, thus also managing flock that returns there to roost after a long migration from Alaska. Ageing Ben (Kelton Pell) and Stella Duncan (Tammy Anderson) are parents to Lou (Nazaree Dickerson) and Ritchie (Luke Carroll). Lou and her teenage son Clay (James Slee) are returning to the island after many seasons away in Melbourne, while the remaining family along with Stella’s sister Marlene (Lisa Maza) arrive on the island from Tasmania.
What’s striking about this play is that the plot is not driven by a central complication; there is no one major challenge to overcome, only the unfolding of the life of a family over the course of the birding season. Marlene is tired of her ongoing affair with Ritchie’s rival Neil Watson (Trevor Jamieson), 30-year-old Lou is navigating parenting her teenage son, while Clay himself is learning to ‘bird’ while also courting another family’s daughter. It’s the stuff of family getaways; the excitement yet familiarity of being away and together at the same time, a celebration of family life.
Throughout, you can’t help but fall in love with the Duncans. Ben and Ritchie’s blokey humour, the frank filthiness of all three women, and Clay’s sincerity not only show in the ensemble’s performances but also in Nathan Maynard’s writing. It’s an excellent debut with an autobiographical tone and he captures the yarns and family dynamic perfectly. Isaac Drandic’s direction is fluid and lyrical, and creates imagery larger than the stage.
With the ongoing opinion mill at fever pitch, it was a treat to see an indigenous story for what it was; human, vulnerable and compassionate.
The Season was reviewed on Thursday January 12 at the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House as part of Sydney Festival 2017.