Once We Lived Here

All That Jazz. Food Glorious Food. Gotta Fix The Pump. In an increasingly strange game of “guess the odd one out” most will probably come to the conclusion that the latter is the oddity, owing to the fact that the first two are songs from musicals. They would be wrong on both counts (it’s actually Chicago’s offering as I haven’t seen it performed live – I’m a cruel kind of question master) because GFTP is in fact a song from the new Australian musical now hitting UK shores – Once We Lived Here.

Although there’s mystery and intrigue and romantic triangles, there’s also great warmth and plenty of that aforementioned rough Aussie humour too.

The song title may give clues as to what to expect from this original production – its brash, in your face down to earth cheerfulness is so Aussie I almost expected Harold Bishop to pop by asking if he could borrow the Vegemite, mate. It all occurs (give or take some dreamy flashbacks) over a long hot weekend in Victoria, as the three children of the McPherson household are united for the first time in years at their family home, a sheep shearing station in the outback. Their mother Claire (Simone Craddock) is quietly falling deeper into illness, whilst Amy (Melle Stewart), the headstrong eldest who has battled to save the farm through drought, bush fires and recession, must finally face up to the reality of her situation, and some family truths along the way.

So far, so Australian Chekhov, those with a theatrical disposition may think. But “The Kookaburra” this is not – for although there’s mystery and intrigue and romantic triangles, there’s also great warmth and plenty of that aforementioned rough Aussie humour too. Whilst slacker brother Shaun (Iestyn Arwel) jokes about not having any herbs “in liquid form”, wannabe socialite Lecy (Belinda Wollaston) greets old flame Burke (Shaun Rennie) with the to the point “Well thank God I got a Brazilian last week”. Each actor deals well with hopping from light comedy to brooding solos to quirky numbers, Wollaston in particular nailing the self-centred Lecy to hilarious effect.

The songs in themselves range from the toe tapping to the somewhat indistinguishable, but given some pep by a live band. It’s unlikely that people will be holding up the song list in years to follow as the benchmark for all musicals to come - apart from GFTP, obviously, which will become Australia’s new national anthem.

By the time the second act comes the plot begins to feel more predictable, and everything rushes quickly into a melodramatic conclusion. Writer and director Dean Bryant’s script shines most when the characters are given space and time to reveal their quirks and eccentricities, which are nearly forgotten amongst the ramped up drama of the final half hour, saved only in the last few reflective minutes. However, the sheer enthusiasm of all on stage, and the likability of the characters created makes this musical a hugely enjoyable watch, and certainly the best musical about pump mending I’ve seen in at least a year. 

Reviews by Laura Cress

The Courtyard

King Lear with Sheep

★★★
Soho Theatre

Bears in Space

★★★★
St Paul's Church, Covent Garden

Twelfth Night

★★★★
International Anthony Burgess Foundation / Underground Venues

After Party

★★★★
Arcola Theatre

Clarion

★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Amy runs Emoh Ruo, the family sheep station in northern Victoria. She’s held onto the property through drought, bushfire and falling wool prices, determined not to let it slip out of the family grasp. But when the family gathers over a scorching long weekend, Amy has to face up to the myths and lies the place has been built upon. Is she holding on, or is she stuck?

Most Popular See More

The Lion King

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Back to the Future - The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

My Fair Lady

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mary Poppins

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Frozen the Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets