Three women, three lives, one house, one family. When a change in living conditions splits them up for the first time, the women in this family, two daughters and their mother, feel more exposed than they expected. They begin lashing out at each other and at their memories of the people they thought they would grow into. Some problems can be worked through while others just need to be let go.
Playwright Miranda Michalowski began writing Young Bodies / Somebody’s when she was 20 years old, capturing the unique precipice of early adulthood in sisters June (Lulu Quirk) and Anna (Samantha Lush). Their mother Dawn (Erica Nelson) has met a new guy and, with the end of their lease, has decided to push her daughters out of the nest, a move they respond to with varying grace. Whether this guy is a good one or just like all the rest seems irrelevant to Anna who views this as another maternal failure that can be punished with sarcasm and the cold shoulder. What she doesn’t seem to realise while she struggles with her complicated self-image, is that the three of them are a family of turbulent emotions and unspoken fears. As Dawn and Anna both pursue unhealthy and sometimes dangerous relationships for glimpses of love and affection, June is navigating patterns of disordered eating and feelings of inadequacy around her body and herself. Without the courage to look each other honestly in the eye, the women’s spiky confrontations and hidden shames will fester, eating up the love that just holds them together.
Moving in and out of the characters’ internal psychology, the script mixed monologue with realist dialogue to paint the outline of the women’s family history and their own internal struggles. Overlapping phrases and shared themes united the characters’ pain and illustrated the similar pressures they experienced as young women. Particularly in June’s thoughts and fears, the use of dramatic lighting by Capri Harris and a sound design by Daniel Herten, which incorporated heart beats and thick underwater echoes, was highly emotive and provided explanation of the stakes in June’s and Anna’s lives.
Under the direction of Jo Bradley, the tone of the production was tender with the characters laying bare their negative self-images and insecurities as young women feeling the pressure to be perfect from all sides. While June’s obsessive training and diet control were familiar territory for media aimed at young women, Anna’s complex feelings about appearance, performance, desire, and consent felt original with a fresh perspective. Disappointingly, the motherly figure of Dawn was used largely as provocation in Anna and June’s sisterly dynamic as carried over from their teenage years. This seemed like a missed opportunity to explore with greater nuance the young adult/adult divide as the sisters finally had to reckon with their mother as a fully fleshed person independent of their relationship to her.
But this did not take away from that central sisterly relationship which was at the heart of the story. June as the straight-laced, athletic sister training to be a nurse was well-conveyed by Quirk with an added layer of vulnerability and insecurity to the performance. Lush’s Anna, though, was the life of the party who captured attention by merely entering the room. This outwardly confident persona was skilfully balanced by Lush with her harsher, caustic, and immature side reserved for conversations with her mother. Quirk and Lush had a believable banter between them with set roles as the straight and funny sister, respectively. This allowed for a heartfelt emotional shift when the sisters eventually swapped roles at the discovery of June’s disordered eating. What Bradley and the cast recreated particularly well was the knife-edge of familial conversations when every line carries the baggage of a lifetime. It made all the women appropriately unsympathetic at times throughout the production in a realistic representation of watching internal family drama as an outsider.
Though not quite achieving complete emotional resonance, Young Bodies / Somebody’s was a sensitive portrayal of a fragile time for many young women coming into their own.
Young Bodies / Somebody’s is running at Flight Path Theatre from May 21st – 28th
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