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Prospect Terrace (PIP Theatre) – theatre review

Three siblings, an ageing father and an impending inheritance. What could possibly go wrong? Set in a classic Queenslander in the heart of Brisbane’s Red Hill, Prospect Terrace is a bittersweet tale of a dysfunctional but relatable family.

Written by Queensland playwright Angela Murphy and first performed in Cairns in late 2020 as the debut play of Murphy’s own theatre company, Veranda Theatre Co, Prospect Terrace explores the powerful dynamics that confront us when parents age, inheritances loom and the family home needs to be sold.

 

The action starts as Jack turns 80, but his health is starting to decline. It’s been decades since his wife passed away from cancer, but the family haven’t really been the same since. Oldest sister Pepper had to step into the Mum role from a young age and she’s bitter about the way her life has turned out, (offstage) brother Rob was driven away and drinks to numb the pain, and youngest sister Bunny is 37 and still trying to complete a uni degree.

Director Bronwyn Nayler has assembled a cast of four who have an alchemy that elevates the work to “special” status. The set, designed by Brigitte Bennet, is realistic and evocative of a well-loved Brisbane family home, complete with VJ wall panelling, backlit windows with breezy curtains and a trellised front porch.

Bernadette Pryde was larger than life as Delores, the narrator, interactive observer, and special friend of Jack’s. Her performance was uninhibited, and her character was so whimsical it was like she’d just stepped out of a Mem Fox picture book. It was not until deep into Act Two that we discovered what her deal was. The twist was poignant, and only in hindsight was it pretty clearly signposted. Pryde’s energetic physicality, purity and commitment to the role was exceptional.

Sisters Pepper and Bunny were as different as night and day, and I loved all the frequent costume changes, designed by Chancie Jessop, which helped denote the passing of time and clearly defined the two sisters. Bunny was Brisbane hippie perfect in baggy pants, flowy skirts, Birkenstocks and crocheted wrap-style tops, while Pepper was shonky suburban real estate chic in business pants, shirts, stilettos, and a high ponytail with sunnies on her head.

 

As Pepper, Natasha McDonald was brilliant. She perfectly portrayed a sister in a lot of pain, palpably so, and her biting remarks were incredibly funny. She was impossible not to like, even though her character was very unlikeable. Samantha Proctor found a lot of heart in Bunny and got the balance just right between family peacekeeper, favourite daughter and flaky social worker-in-training. It was fun to watch the sisters’ contrasting agendas towards the care of their ailing father, particularly their phone call scene to garner favour from brother Rob which was played out, side by side.

Steven Grives was excellent as the gruff and increasingly doddery father, Jack. His performance was very grounded and natural, and his depiction of a man of a certain generation was spot on. His embodiment of his gradual physical and mental decline was heartbreaking.

The technical team of Noah Milne and Dan Hallen ably handled the sound, lighting and projections, as well as fun musical interludes and things falling from the sky.

All the elements were spot on; this production had me fully invested in the story and in tears by the end. PIP Theatre have produced a fabulous piece of theatre with a distinctly local flavour that Brisbane audiences are already raving about.

Prospect Terrace is on at PIP Theatre, 20 Park Road, Milton in Brisbane until 22 June 2024

Sarah Skubala

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