Queensland Theatre - The Holidays

‘The Holidays’ // Queensland Theatre

‘The Holidays’ was retrospective.

Queensland Theatre is inviting audiences to go on holiday at the Bille Brown Theatre in their latest production, ‘The Holidays’. After a year where most crave time out from 2020, this new Australian script, presented by an all-Queensland creative team, provides a desired escape in a night of connection and recollection. 

Winner of the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award 2018-19 and written by David Megarrity, ‘The Holidays’ is a touching experience that wistfully resonates with audiences members. The script flickers through fragmented scenes, metaphors and puns, allowing onlookers to ride the waves of memories and feel connected in their realistic undertones. Dialogue and context slowly build to a very emotional and compelling ending, which easily impacts the hearts of many who share similar experiences.

The storyline follows the Holiday family who are embarking on, coincidentally, a holiday. Only-child, Oliver, has been pulled out of school for an unexpected road trip with his dad, Bob, and mum, Summer. They’re on-route to their eccentric artist and grandad’s seaside shack, although when they arrive, he’s not there. In this unkempt place lay many memories, which consequently turn this family break into one they won’t forget. 

Director, and Matilda Award-winner, Bridge Boyle, crafts an explosive world full of intrigue and dynamics. Technology, live performance and a large scale projected display combine in a production that washes over the audience. Scenes traverse between old and new memories, delving into the past, present and future, until the timeline reaches its heart-rending conclusion. Boyle navigates these changes in a seamless dance that moves around the stage with purpose. 

Design has been entrusted to Sarah Winter, who creatively constructs a fractured beach shack, with weathered wooden set pieces framing the staged area. Sand builds to the edge of the stage and additional props are covered with white sheets for a later reveal. What’s clever about this design is the empty frames that climb up the coastal-inspired walls; made symbolic with memories past, present and future within the progression of the show.  

Lighting design by Jason Glenwright, floods the space with tones that depict the timing of the day and scene location. Spotlights are used to focus in on action and draw the audience’s attention around the various spaces. At times, this effect makes it feel like the world is crashing in on the Holiday family. Glenwright’s work, which has previously been seen in ‘City of Gold’, is meticulous. A particular highlight was where the collective audience became the sea with a ‘ssh-ing’ noise and his lighting illuminated the entire space in a blue watery brilliance. 

On that note, ‘The Holidays’ wouldn’t achieve its visual spectacle without Projection Design by Nathan Sibthorpe, who’s use of isolated videos on the broken wooden set enhanced the impact of scenes. Sometimes these displays would engulf the entire backdrop, making dreams or tough memories standout in full force. A nice parallel was also presented in Sibthorpe’s work, with photos and memories cast inside the picture frames on what was perceived as the insides of the shack. This showed the aging of memories due to the innovations of technology. That is, the memories once reflected in paintings were now captured on a mobile phone. It was a clear link between two eras, ironically presented with digital finesse.

Composer Sean Foran and Sound Designer Matthew Erskine collectively create a soundscape that in a way jedi-mind tricks its audience. The cool and calming beachside sound effects allow the audience’s mind to relax, and in turn, this mental state improves our focus on the context of the play. While this peacefulness has the potential to make the audience too comfortable with their engagement, it’s clear that if one joins Oliver’s imaginative world, then they’re successfully along for the adventure. It’s also worth mentioning that Aussie rock songs also compliment the production to give it a localised feel. 

The three-hander cast drive the storyline and collectively give a realistic portrayal of your average Aussie family. Louise Brehmer as Summer Holiday brings a true to life photo-capturing, memory collecting mum, who is equally nagging as she is endearing. Brehmer is warm in this role and acts as the go-between for father and son. Bryan Probets is contrastingly cold and emotionally conflicted as Bob Holiday. Dealing with grief, Probets’ broken portrayal has a great amount of ebb and flow; depicting a strong man crumbling like a sand castle. 

Rounding out the family is Matthew Ianna as Oliver Holiday. In his debut with Queensland Theatre, Ianna’s performance is the standout, with the young artist driving the majority of the storyline and scenes. Ianna is a fresh talent that brings a great truth to an emotionally naive boy still discovering who he is and eager to find answers. Ianna is comical, compelling and creates an innocent dynamic. He connects with the audience, which is clearly the intent of the playwright. 

While ‘The Holidays’ isn’t one’s usual or expected summer getaway, the production does reiterate the importance of family in our lives; especially the memories held with loved ones, whatever their complexity. In a time where border closures and pandemics prevent us from seeing those we hold dear, Queensland Theatre’s show wholesomely reminds us that home is where you make it, and the best thing about memories is making them.

‘The Holidays’ performs until Saturday, 12 December 2020 at the Bille Brown Theatre in South Brisbane. For more information visit Queensland Theatre’s website. 

Photography by Morgan Roberts.

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