By Anja Bless
You are the blood is a dark, raw, and beautiful comedy by playwright Ashley Rose Wellman. The work is in its Australian premiere at the Melbourne Meat Market after being a finalist for the 2017 O'Neill National Playwrights Conference and the 2018 Blue Ink Playwriting Award.
The piece is grounded in the lighter themes of family, friendship, love, and laughter. But on its exterior prowls the more gruesome sides of humanity; addiction, betrayal, fear, and murder.
Centring on a family still reeling from the crimes of the father sentenced more than a decade before, Wellman flips the narrative of a biography of a killer, to consider what happens to the ones who loved them, and were left behind.
The lives of the Boden family are once again flipped upside-down as the father (and convicted serial killer), David Boden reappears in news headlines. While his ex-wife, daughter and son still try to understand how they could have loved and lived with a stone-cold killer; a local performance artist is announced to be his fiancée.
David’s comedian daughter, Shelby (Jessica Stanley) carries the burden of her father’s victims, hiding her pain and her fear with jokes and drinking. Stanley paints a captivating Shelby, one who draws the audience through the story with laughter, fear and tears. Her interactions with her family, in particular her brother Ben, (James Cerche) are raw and heavy with the years of strain, yet lifted by the familial bond, love and shared experience. Cerche and Stanley play well off each other, their lighter moments contrasting beautifully with their conflicts. Their scenes with their mother, Linda Boden, (Vivienne Powell) are at times so real it feels you really are sitting in their dining room in Brighton. Powell effortlessly treads the line between comedy and the desperation of her character’s situation, an accomplished woman who is in many ways still in love with her convicted ex-husband.
The family are complimented by the quirky performance artist, Sylvia (Jem Nicholas), who writes to prisoners in maximum-security facilities. Nicholas provides some excellent comic relief, and wins over the audience for Sylvia. This is particularly important in building the tension and trepidation you feel when you watch Sylvia meet her fiancée, David Boden (Andrew Blackman) for the first time. Blackman’s portrayal of Boden is chilling and fascinating in all the right ways, he captures both Boden’s madness and charm.
The strong cast is aided by elegant sound design, lighting and set. The dynamics of the performance have been crafted well by director Peter Blackburn, not burdening the audience too heavily with some of the more graphic content (though not shying away from it either), and bringing it always back to the dark comedic nature of the play. There were a few times where under-rehearsed interactions and changes stilted the performance, however the cast always recovered quickly and drew the audience back into the fold of this enthralling tale.
You are the blood is a daring, funny, and dark piece that is well worth the watch. The pairing of talented actors, a killer (pun intended) script and a well put together production makes it a great piece of independent Australian theatre to enjoy. Though it may make you want to double check your door’s locked once you get home.
Photo Credit: Jack Dixon-Gunn
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.