Sydney, Sydney Fringe Festival 2014

Aunt Agony, SFF 2014

0 Comments 23 September 2014

Aunt Agony, written by Richard Black, is a story about that one psycho relative we all have and whether it is possible to love them despite their manic, crude and occasionally violent temperament. When Christine (Sasha Dyer) goes to live with her Aunty Lynette (Taylor Owynns), the differences – and similarities – between them are brought into sharp, and often laugh-out-loud-funny, focus. But the familiar archetypes sometimes fell a little flat, and the play never really teases out what could have been some truly original insights into dysfunctional families.

The lights go up to reveal Lynette in a floor length skirt and cardigan, hastily scooping up empty wine bottles from another lonely bender. Meet Aunty Lyn – the archetype of every crazy relative who has ever forced you to sit through a long conversation about their bowel surgery and worrying bladder leaks over dinner. The opening soundtrack, ‘Que Sera’, encapsulates the type of ‘modern’ spinster Aunty Lynette represents. The kind who will polish off a bottle of wine, lament her barren uterus and gleefully cast herself in the lead role of the tragedy that is her life.

Taylor Owynns possesses the stage whenever she is performing. She is pitch perfect in the psychotic mood swings of Lynette, delivering lines like “we can be like two happenin’ gals in this big crazy city…” with a sad self-awareness that elicits humour and pity in equal measure. Meanwhile Sasha Dyer’s best moments are often reactionary, whether through a well-timed glance towards the audience or a self-deprecating aside (“can’t wait for the money to start flowing in from my poetry blog”).

The funniest moments are in the back-and-forth exchanges between them, when a pause is worth a thousand words. The entrance of Tom the caretaker (Dave Kirkham) provides interest and an extra dash of weirdness, but his constant references to “the age of entitlement” being over grow a little tiresome. Still, there is no denying that a man in his underwear and leather chaps is going to make you laugh.

The political references that boil down to the clichéd ‘young people vote Greens, old people vote Liberal’ detract from the production’s real centre. The humour is finding something to love in our most selfish and absurd relatives, and Aunt Agony manages to touch on some great observations (and plenty of laughs) when it steers true.

 

Aunt Agony was part of the Sydney Fringe Festival’s theatre program. More information about the production can be found at the New Theatre website.

Reviewed by Emily Meller

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