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Review: The Boxing Day BBQ at The Ensemble Theatre

Review by Nola Bartolo


Who hasn’t been to a Boxing Day BBQ where there are family feuds, cricket on the radio or TV and uncomfortable discussions between the generations? It’s an annual event for most of us and its not one we always look forward to. The Ensemble commissioned this piece of work and it was a World Premier for Sam O’Sullivan’s play under the direction of the Ensemble’s Artistic Director Mark Kilmurry.


It’s Sydney. It’s Christmas time. And it’s stinking hot. Wine snob Peter and cynical Connie reluctantly get the family together for round two of festivities – they’ve survived the chaos of Christmas but Boxing Day is set to pack a punch. In raising a toast to their parent’s memory, old grudges and family tensions sizzle to the surface. Surely they’ll be able to stop grilling each other for one day. No. They don’t.


The cast really were an exceptional line-up of talent. The BOXING DAY BBQ cast included Danielle Carter (The Norman Conquests), Harriet Gordon Anderson (Bell Shakespeare’s In A Nutshell), Aileen Huynh (The One), Jamie Oxenbould (The Woman in Black, Baby Doll), and Brian Meegan (The Odd Couple). They all did a good job but for me the energy between them lacked a little. I really didn’t believe their relationships. I think that this needed to be explored more than the actual topics that were being discussed. The premise for the show really had me excited but it just missed the mark. I think that there could have been further edits and some more tenderness especially between father and daughter.


The set was a typical Aussie backyard – not one that probably was in Kirribilli though. I could absolutely relate to the traditions that we feel we need to continue, even though the ones that started them are gone. Sometimes in doing this the pain and the sadness simply takes away from the original motives. I wish that this was explored more in the show. When the adults were dressed as Bees – it lost me. It wasn’t funny to me at all even though it is a very important environmental issue – it just made me feel uncomfortable.


Yes, there were funny parts, I really liked the cricket commentary that went from the cricket to commenting on the Boxing Day BBQ. This was clever. For me the standout was Aileen Huynh. She has comedic timing that is exquisite. However, I felt uncomfortable with the stereotype that her role portrayed. Why was the only person of colour in the play the butt many of the jokes?


I really wanted to enjoy this production and I think with further edits and more development time it will and can be what it set out to be. Yet as it stands it really only works for a particular audience and unfortunately I’m just not in that genre.


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