Most widely known as a 1994 film starring Jack Thompson and Russell Crowe, The Sum of Us is an exciting revisioning of the tale, back in its original form and gracing the stage of The Subiaco Arts Centre as part of the Perth Festival.
It is still a very timely and relevant plot, as although the content is not remotely shocking and overt as it was to much of the audience of the 90’s, LGBT rights and issues and acceptance is still at the fore almost 30 years later.
This is a gorgeously frank story about a widower who lives with his openly gay son, both of whom are searching for true love. It is a warm and touching comedy and this first nations cast does the work full justice.
‘This is a gorgeously frank story about a widower who lives with his openly gay son, both of whom are searching for true love.’
What is truly lovely about Yirra Yaakin in association with Perth Festival presenting this piece, is that although they normally focus on traditional stories and topics, this is a poignant Australian piece that shows how no culture is exempt from these topics and concerns.
The Sum of Us is a tale of a strong family bond, ageing, queerness and the dance we all do when searching for love and is Yirra Yaakin’s first queer work.
This is Eva Grace Mullaleys first main stage production for Yirra Yaakin and she states that it has always been an inspiration. ‘A lot of the issues and attitudes around queerness are still the same and I want to show that Aboriginal and First Nations people are and should be included within the conversation.’
Mullaley wants the plays take away to be “’hat Aboriginal people are a part of society in all of its issues – we don’t exist outside of the contemporary world.’This is a powerful statement and it is actually really refreshing to see such a story portrayed on this stage, as it does bring a bigger and broader meaning to the piece.
Mathew Cooper plays the son, Jeff Mitchell, in a gentle and convincing manner that is a joy to watch. His relationship with Bruce Denny who plays his on-stage father Harry rings true in so many ways and really warms the heart cockles. The script is so of its time in relation to its sheer daggyness and use of colloquialisms of the day, but being Australia, much of the slang is still in use and it doesn’t feel forced or fake in any way. Both actors perform powerful soliloquies that show strong understanding of character and connection of the roles to the underlying narrative.
‘Mathew Cooper plays the son, Jeff Mitchell, in a gentle and convincing manner that is a joy to watch.’
The staging is simple and timeless and could be any Aussie home from any generation or location. The actors shine within this scenery as their banter is stripped back and almost unfiltered in its candour.
The choice to incorporate dance within the transitions is a cute idea as we of course all do perform a metaphoric (and often literal) dance in our hunt for love, but it’s the conversations and revelations between the characters that provide the highlights of this play.
The Sum of Us has a clear message of love and is gentle theatre at its finest. A fine directorial debut for Mullaley and a clever choice of work that shows promise for the future of Yirra Yaakin and showcases how it can tackle diversity in so many different ways.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 ★★★★
The Sum of Us
Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company
Playwright: David Stevens, Director: Eva Grace Mullaley
Perth Festival 2021
25 February – 7 March 2021