Boxing Day

Christmas day is around the corner and 10-year-old Freya (Holly Austin) has one thing on her wish list – for her family to enjoy a traditional lunch together. With her mother recently passed away and her father (Alan Flower) a beer-guzzling, TV-addicted, mostly absent oilrig worker, Freya’s Nana (Annie Byron) tries to rule the roost and create a normal home life for the vivacious little girl. But when Freya witnesses a woman wash out to sea, the sleepy Tasmanian town turns upside down with search parties, TV crews and murder theories making this one Christmas they’ll never forget.

Phil Spencer has written a script so rich in character and plots that you’re hooked from the get go. The 90-minute play, part mystery and part coming-of-age tale, so cleverly mixes comedy and drama that it feels like you’re riding an emotional rollercoaster. There are too many laugh-out-loud moments to mention, sitting alongside moments so excruciatingly uncomfortable it’s as though the walls are closing in on you.

Director Scarlett McGlynn has secured strong performances from a strong cast: AFI Award-winner Annie Byron (STC’s Hedda Gabler) switches flawlessly between playing Freya’s 9-year-old best friend and 70-year-old grandmother, and Alan Flower (Rake, version 1.0) creates the kind of tension you could cut with a knife. But the true star of the show is Austin, a co-founder of MakeBeLive productions and a former student of French clown-master Pierre Byland. Her portrayal of the 10-year-old Freya is the perfect balance of cheeky liveliness without being too OTT. And not since Kick-Ass has a child dropping the c-bomb been so damn endearing.

Published in The Brag online and in print on October 3, 2011

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