Theatre Review: Year of the Family – Kings Cross Theatre (Performances until 20th February)

A homeless man sits in a chair with a woman behind him.

Tooth and Sinew in association with bAKEHOUSE Theatre present Year of the Family, written by Anthony Neilson. This production is an incredibly dark comedy that had me laughing at what could arguably be described as rather inappropriate circumstances. Highlighting how truly dysfunctional families can be, the play follows the relationships of half-sisters Fliss and Claire as they navigate through life one stumble at a time. Year of the Family forces you to question the traditional perceptions of family so often portrayed by the media, and renders the line between ‘normal’ and ‘insane’ rather ambiguously.

Fliss (Nicole Wineberg) has kidnapped a homeless man (Brendan Miles) and is convinced he is her father – Henry – who died in a car accident when she was two. She has fed him, clothed him and is teaching / reminding him of the man he was, the man she thinks she remembers. Despite being fairly freaked out and potentially not her actual father, he stays – he even plays along. It makes her happy. Is that family?

Dickie (David Woodland) cares for his son Sid (Peter-William Jamieson) despite discovering he’s been sleeping with his girlfriend for three months. Is that family?
Claire (Brooke Ryan) spends Christmas Day with a sister she can’t stand, an ex-boyfriend she cheated on, the man she cheated with and a homeless man pretending to be her crazy sister’s father. Is that family?

Is family the one you’re born with or the one you make for yourself?

Praise needs to be given to Tegan Nicholls for sound design and to Liam O’Keefe for lighting design. With such a small space it is these two aspects which created the different scenes that flowed seamlessly throughout. With just a few benches, a table and some chairs different scenes were created – a café, a pub, a bus stop – and through the clever use of sound and lighting, these were incredibly authentic.

Each member of the cast presented a standout performance and rarely have I seen such raw emotion acted out on stage with such conviction. Given the size of the theatre, it became a very intimate performance, the audience becoming the voyeur’s into a family’s private drama. Director Richard Hilliar has done an exceptional job at presenting a play that resonates with a multiplicity of emotions – grief, loss, anger, lust, betrayal, sadness, pain, laughter, love. Year of the Family is a roller coaster of emotions – you’ll be grateful you were taken along for the ride. Just don’t forget to hold on.

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Year of the Family enjoys performances at Kings Cross Theatre until February 20th. For more information and to book head to the website http://www.toothandsinew.com/current/

The reviewer attended the opening night performance on the 10th February, 2016.