Son, Sand and Surf. At last – live theatre, with an audience. Bille Brown Theatre is open for business and The Holidays means back to work for Queensland Theatre.

The Holidays is certainly value for money – there is so much crammed into 80 minutes, it’s difficult to know where to start. Award winning playwright David Megarrity explores the relationships between fathers and sons and the problems of aging parents. The plot is simple. The Holidays are not on holidays. They are visiting Grandad Holiday’s seaside shack. But there’s no grandad – he’s in an aged care facility and the family is there to sort through the detritus of a lifetime. We know little about him except for the fact that he was an artist and that he has amassed an art collection from his eccentric arty friends.

While grandson Oliver (wonderful debut performance by Matthew Ianna) and Mum (Louise Brehmer) get the house in order, dad Bob (Bryan Proberts is great as always) is largely absent both physically and emotionally. Ollie controls the narrative; we learn the family history through his memories via the objects he finds. Hints are that he has some artistic talent. But he’s bored, bored, bored. He is 12 and wants the beach: the sand to play in and the sounds to sooth him.

Symbols abound—the most obvious is the soundscape; the music is Australian (Go-Betweens, Australian Crawl) with the occasional Billie Holiday (groan). One of the engaging aspects is … well you will just have to go to find out. Paintings are both present and absent– the frames are there, and the artists named, but the images are missing. Are we to inscribe our own? Sand slips through grandad’s figurative hourglass and encroaches on his house; it’s play for Ollie but work for Summer. (By the way, I was fascinated by the kinetic sand on stage). I told you there’s a lot going on in this play.

Where the play particularly excels is in the stagecraft. Kudos to Jason Glenwright for the effective lighting and Nathan Sibthorpe’s projection adds depth to the narrative. The Holidays has a lot of emotional baggage to unpack – it skims the surface of paternal relationships, touches on dementia and reminds us of our familial mortality and obligations. The final scene is moving; anyone else think of Matisse’s Dance?

Finally, a trigger warning: Dad jokes, misheard lyrics (listen for “she don’t like that kinda of a baker”) and puns (terrible, bad, inexcusable puns) abound. It’s almost as if the play is aimed at children, and certainly there is nothing that would be inappropriate for a 12 year-old. This is a play for boys and men; by and large women are marginalised and that’s okay. Because a woman steals the show: watch for Mum’s (Louise Brehmer) cool moves– way to go Mum.

The Holidays

14 November to 12 December

Bille Brown Theatre, 78 Montague Road, South Brisbane

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