Sunday July 21, 2019


June 20 2018

BROTHERS WRECK, Merlyn Theatre at the Coopers Malthouse, Sturt Street, Southbank, 8-23 June, 2018. Photography by Tim Grey

Writer Jada Alberts says when she began writing this play, “it was part love letter to my family”. It also seems to be about watching and dealing with torment and suffering.

We follow Ruben (Dion Williams) a troubled young man who slips through life full of anger and with little understanding of how to deal with it. His mother died when he was a child, his father walked out, and his brother suicided. He was taken in and cared for by his mother’s sister who he calls Mum. His cousin Adele (Leonie Whyman) is everything a loving, exasperated step-sister could be – supportive, funny, caring and anxious for him. They all love him, but his demons keep them at arm’s length. This is tested even more when the horror of his brother’s suicide is replayed in his head and his linchpin, his Aunty-Mum is rushed to hospital. 

He rails against the world around him. He belittles his appointed counselor (a powerful Trevor Jamieson), “it’s all bullshit”. It is all too much, and he rages with his new best friends: the bottle, his anger and his self-appointed worthlessness. This is an all too true and tragic tale which, coupled with relentless rain, is heartbreaking.

Set in a tin shed (design Dale Ferguson) with the classic fly wire doors, you feel the oppressive heat of the Top End – the dampness, the rain, the mould. The set and costumes take you there too in perpetually slightly damp shorts, t-shirts and thongs. Kelly Ryall’s composition and sound design delivers the rumblings of the pending storms.

Ruben is a tough role for Williams who manages the complexities brilliantly, his pain and frustration palpable. There is a knockout performance from Lisa Flanagan as Aunty Petra, Ruben’s blood mother’s younger sister, who relives the death of her sister in an horrific car crash and demands the respect her family deserves from the tortured Ruben. Flanagan commands the stage, her delivery hitting all the right notes. Nelson Baker as Jarrod and Leonie Whyman are the solid, essential ingredients of family. They care for each other and they care for those around them. And accolades to the actors for working on a treacherously slippery stage.


Roberts has given us a play about death, loss, grief, confusion, life and family. 

She has won numerous awards for this debut work and I understand why – it resonates, my tears welled up as I left the theatre.

Scenes in this production make reference to mental illness, self-harm and suicide. If the production raises any problems, please contact lifeline on 13 11 14.



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