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Review: You’re No Good at La Mama HQ

Review by Emily White


A woman is asleep on her couch. Her hair is a mess, her living room is a mess, her entire life is a mess. 


Co-created by Melina Wylie and Cat Holder, You’re No Good is a dark comedy that really delivers on the laughs while unpacking layer after layer of an adult child’s grief for a parent. First developed as part of La Mama’s Explorations in 2022, the care that has gone into this show is clear. There is a depth to the comedy that suggests this is a well-nurtured piece of theatre. 


Linda (played by Wylie) is deep in a spiral of grief, calling in sick to work on the day her mother’s ashes are delivered. She drowns herself in red wine, vodka, and tins of tuna, while reminiscing about everything she loved — and hated — about her mother. 


Wylie’s performance is all raw energy and commitment to her character. She commands the audience with an intensity that often had me literally on the edge of my seat. The show does not shy away from the visceral reality of a woman at the bottom of a pit of grief — you will be hit by the smell of tuna along with a healthy dose of feels. 


The show’s tagline, “when the one you loved most is the one who fucked you up the most,” perfectly encapsulates the complexity of the mother/daughter relationship explored throughout. Linda loved her mother, idolised her, but also hated and resented her. In the end she is not sure whether she even liked her mother, whether her mother liked her, or if that matters. 


Again Wylie’s performance gets props for her seamless portrayal of both mother and daughter. She perfectly captures the figure of an Australian mother — frugal, stubborn, often the way she shows that she cares is by being judgemental. The show also deals with the added complexity of getting older as a family of one parent and one child — with no other support network, when the tables turn and the parent is the one who needs to be cared for, it all falls on Linda’s shoulders.


The use of set and costume was fun and clever. The layers of clothing mirroring the emotional layers, the stage gets messier and messier until the climax involving a cordless vacuum cleaner brings a satisfying sense of domestic catharsis.


Everything about the show was disarmingly clever. The action of the play takes place over only one morning, but with a non-linear structure darting between memories that span half a century. The moment of satisfaction was palpable when we came full circle to the delivery bag dropped off at the beginning of the show — initially assumed to be a hangover breakfast — containing the ashes of Linda’s mother. The physical comedy that followed as Linda fails to navigate the messy space with the precarious prop was a highlight. 


The sound design by Anthony Jacobson also reflected the circular and non-linear structure, as well as complimenting both the moments of comedy and darker emotional honesty. 


You’re No Good is an honest exploration of grief that doesn’t feel the need to present platitudes about the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes things are tough for a while, and sometimes your life will go off the rails. With Wylie’s powerhouse performance, this is everything you want from a one woman show and more. 


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