Theatre review: The Roof is Caving In, La Mama Courthouse

A very topically-themed play about share housing.
The Roof is Caving In. La Mama Courthouse. Three young women on a stage draped in fabric. In the middle is a woman in white and light blue with her arms around a woman dressed in orange on the left and purple on the right. They are crouching under the middle woman's grasp and hold their belongings in boxes.

The Roof Is Caving In explores the awkwardness and challenges of living out of home for the first time. Hester (Marlena Thomson) and Bronwyn (Bek Schilling) are fresh out of school and move into a two-bedroom share house. The two characters are distinguishable by their colours: Hester’s clothes and possessions are all orange, while Bronwyn’s are purple. This initial contrast is indicative of the differences that will lead to conflict as the play progresses. 

The presence of a live band on stage is inspired and the music itself is worth the price of admission. While there may be a bit too much music in relation to the rest of the show, it is so well played that this can be forgiven. The band performers double as additional cast members.

These characters provide a means to further explore the main characters, but apart from some light comic relief do not add much to the overall storyline. This is not the fault of the performers who do their best with what they are given, but the ancillary characters are a bit too one-dimensional to be really engaging. 

The set design is a highlight of the production. Belle Hansen and Brigette Jennings have put together a clever stage design that allows for all the key components of a share house to be accessible on the one stage, from the living area to the kitchen/laundry and the respective bedrooms. This enables the action to move across the stage at a fast pace with many different moving parts in the background.

The band regularly appears from the back of the stage to entertaining effect, but this can also distract from the action occurring in the foreground. Hansen, who is also the director, manages to make all the moving parts work with a lot happening in just over an hour-long production. 

The storyline of two young people living together in a share house is particularly relevant in the current housing crisis. The set-up is intriguing, and the script works best when it focuses on the comedic elements of the situation. The development of the characters across the play, however, does not work as well. The psychological examination of the two characters’ personal issues falls flat and the monologues they deliver are much less engaging than when they are interacting.

Thomson and Schilling provide energetic performances and fully embody their respective characters. This provides the possibility for the inevitable conflict between the two to be more impactful, but by the end of the play it feels as if the characters haven’t been developed fully enough to make the clash between the two meaningful. 

This production is worth seeing for the set design, music, performances and the clever direction of the action. Unfortunately, the script doesn’t fulfil its potential and that leaves a feeling of a missed opportunity. 

The Roof is Caving In, by Matilda Gibbs with Belle Hansen and Jack Burmeister
La Mama Courthouse
Director: Belle Hansen
Producer: Frenzy Theatre Co

Composition and Sound Design: Jack Burmeister
Stage Manager: Brigette Jennings 
Cast: Marlena Thomson, Bek Schilling, Joanna Halliday, Karen Yee, Linus Finn Mackie, Joshua Mackie, Daniel Kim

Composition and Sound Designer: Jack Burmeister
Set Designer: Belle Hansen and Brigette Jennings
Tickets: $10-$40

The Roof is Caving In will be performed until 19 May 2024.

Kim Hitchcock is a freelance writer based in Melbourne who has an interest in all art forms and enjoys exploring them locally and abroad. He has completed a Master of Art Curatorship at the University of Melbourne and can be reached at