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A FAMILY OUTING – 20 YEARS ON @ State Theatre Centre gets 9/10

A Family Outing – 20 Years On @ State Theatre Centre
Friday, February 8, 2019

9/10

Is it about a family vacation, someone coming out about their sexuality or, as the promo shots suggest, about straight up nudity?! On entering the auditorium, a message on the wall reads: “Warning – contains nudity and coarse language.” However, the big reveal in this delightfully tongue-in-cheek theatre piece for Perth Festival turned out to be less corporeal and more of an emotional nature.

Twenty years ago, Ursula Martinez took to the stage with both parents for the first embodiment of A Family Outing. At the top of the performance, she declares with joyful, sardonic British humour, that the original piece featured herself and her parents “sitting on a crappy couch arguing”. She goes on to say the recreation will also feature sitting on a crappy couch but, this time around, her dad is no longer with us and her mum can’t remember her lines. What unfolds is a deeply sincere portrayal of the passing of time through the lens of one family.

As Martinez and her endearing 83-year-old mother Mila sit on the couch, the spectre of what their family used to look like literally hangs above them via a showreel of the first incarnation of the show. While they recreate the original conversations, jokes and physical queues with uncanny timing, viewers are entranced by the poetry of the juxtaposition of past and present. The naked truth of the passing of time is simultaneously full of reverence and sadness for what has gone before.

With boundless energy, Martinez cracks wry one-liners throughout the piece with the use of anecdotes and what appears to be general chit-chat with Mila, but is actually cleverly scripted dialogue. At one point and while Mila is wearing headphones, Martinez embarks on a frank discussion about her mother’s dementia, concerns for the future and fears about eventually being alone in the world. This is followed by a bitter-sweet rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive as both past and present Mila dance and sing along in karaoke fashion.

Both versions of the show explore what makes a family a unit and represent an attempt to keep it together despite the blurred lines of life and death. In essence, Martinez has succeeded in making a permanent record of something impermanent. Like a family photo album or video, A Family Outing – 20 Years On is the intimate portrayal of one woman’s desire to always keep close those she holds most dear. A spellbinding homage to the love of family.

JO CAMPBELL

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