Premiere poignancy

Yielding (That Production Company)

Metro Arts, The Lumen Room

May 2 – 5

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“Yielding” is an affecting show about relationships, which is fundamentally at the heart of all quality theatre. Dot was once bold, strong and in control of her life. Since she suffered a stroke while attempting to cut out her back-yard Bougainvillea she is still strong in mind, but has been betrayed by her body. Liz, Dot’s daughter, has since sacrificed her life and career to care for her mother. There is no colour left in their tumultuous lives now, reflected by the muted tones of the show’s staging and costumes, which also rightly allow the performances to be at the fore of the sensitive and daring production that arcs in and out of recollection and reflection as the duo endure a crappy car ride home from visit to the doctor.

Talented performers Jessica Veurman-Betts and Joey Kohnke give gripping performances as the mother and daughter duo, each grappling with their circumstances. Kohnke effectively takes us into the fractured and frightening world of the still-spirited stroke victim in her language and movement, bringing both pathos and humour to the tricky role. The show is a physical one, as the characters move around and with each other, but also as they ripple across the stage together in stylised dances of haunting lyricism. But is in their silences that so much is also said and Timothy Wynn’s skilful direction wisely allows them (and us) to endure in them. Through the rich performances of both actors, we don’t pity them so much as empathise with their unyielding desperation to be seen and hear above the frustration of seeing themselves, their homes and their relationships through a different lens.

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The play is also beautifully realised through a cohesive design aesthetic. Daniel Anderson’s lighting works in conjunction with a delicate soundscape to transition scenes in and out of present experience, warming merry memories of when their roles were long-ago reversed. Its honesty and simplicity are, likewise, revealed in the craftedness of its script. In particular, its ‘beautiful but thorny’ bougainvillea motif works well as a metaphor for each woman’s sense of self, once regarded as attractive but now just annoyingly scrapping the side of the house.

Developed in consultation with Carers Queensland by Queensland playwright Emma Workman, “Yielding” is the first in a series of six one-act plays under the banner ‘Let’s Speak of the Unspoken’. And it doesn’t shy away from tackling the realities of the experiences it is representing, with some ongoing references to euthanasia and suicide. Indeed, there is an obvious, appealing authenticity to the show, which comes from its research, including meetings with many Brisbane support groups and with people who have family carers in their homes.

In That Production Company’s careful hands, “Yielding” is a powerful, poignant, raw and uncomfortably real play that, on a number of occasions, sees absorbed audience members wiping away tears, perhaps in their own reflection on the reminder of what is important in life. As daughter Liz says early in the piece, “because she is my mum”. It’s a short but prevailing proclamation upon which the show’s premise so perfectly hangs, leaving audiences subdued upon exit from the theatre, weighed by the profoundness and performances just experienced in premiere of this remarkable piece of work.

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