The Genesian Theatre: My Family and other Animals - Review by Jordan Anderson
Director’s Elizabeth Munro and Mark G Nagle have not given themselves an easy task with this play based on George Durrells memoir and early life. Combining a cast of 20, multiple beautiful Greek island locations and 25 short vignette style stories having a consistent vision and storyline is trying for any production team. Luckily the two of them were more than up to the challenge and created a enjoyable piece of theatre, full of poignant moments, memorable characters, and crazy fun.
For such an ambitious project to be successful it rests entirely upon the family dynamic of the Durrells. They need to have an almost controlled chaos, that no matter what happens they’ll always fit together and help lift each other up even if they drive each other crazy. George Durrells siblings are competently performed by Gordon Carroll as Larry (Lawrence), Joash Stuivenberg as Leslie and Deanna Ruseska as Margo (Margaret), between the 3 of them they accurately display the nature of a loving family that still manages to drive each other crazy. A particularly noteworthy performance is done by Cindy De Wet as Louisa Durrell, the widowed mother. The best way I can describe her is perfectly pompous with an obvious deep love for her children.
Of course, the show hinges on Gerry (Gerald) Durrell, remarkably performed by Dominque Nesbitt. This role is filled with flowery language and grand ideas that would not feel out of place of a C.S. Lewis novel. Nesbitt manages to capture these ideas and leads the audience through the islands of Corfu and through the gardens of her families many villas with a practiced ease, never faltering or breaking character. The show is viewed through the lens of an increasingly curious child and Nesbitt handles the task beautifully.
Other performances of note were Jordan McCabe as Roger the dog the faithful companion to Gerry who mirrored Gerry’s curious nature without saying a word. Theo Hatzistergos as Spiro Hakiaopulos performed with a brash charm and provided many laughs and an excellent contrast to the more serious Durrell family. Andrew Cougle as George, plus other roles, took well practiced command of the stage every time he came on.
Both directors have done a fantastic job of allowing the comedy to come out in the physicality of the show and whilst being a rather bare stage, very clever set pieces were used to create many different scenes to excellent effect. This was also true of how the ensemble of actors were used on stage creating moments and tableaus that were instantly recognisable. I do wish that the sound design was pulled back slightly as it did get hard to hear the actors on stage in certain scenes, but I appreciate that they added an extra layer to help craft the story.
All in all this was a very fun night and the Genesian Theatre should feel very proud that they have managed to create a fine piece of theatre that doesn’t take itself too seriously but just allows the audience to enjoy the fun of it all.
I give this piece 3 escaped scorpion babies over the dinner table out of 5.
(Images provided by Vicki Skarratt Photography)