“Happy families are all alike,
but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” wrote Tolstoy. Across the
theatrical canon – from Shakespeare to Chekhov to Tracey Letts - there are
hundreds of examples of how theatre can effectively utilise the drama and
comedy inherent in the family unit. Unfortunately, Z Theatre Company’s
Relationships are miraculously repaired, fall apart and then repair themselves again for very little reason.
Two estranged sisters, Diane and Denise, meet in hospital over the body of their father, who has been injured in a car accident. Diane is a homemaker, Denise an ex-drug addict and their respective partners, Kevin and Keith, attempt to mediate between the warring sisters. Diane’s daughter, high-powered divorce lawyer, Katie, and her ‘posh’, un-macho husband, Andrew, arrive later and add further tension.
There are multiple problems. This is a university production and everyone looks the same age. Of course, actors can play roles very different to themselves very successfully, but in Rants, Bantz and Comas, nothing in the performances indicates the larger life experience that some characters have. There isn’t even an indication given in costumes or make-up. This is confusing: for half of the play I thought I must have got things wrong and that Diane, Denise and Katie were all sisters. Additionally, Diane and Denise (the sisters) have different accents, which is never explained. I can’t help wondering why a more suitable script, one that worked for the ages and backgrounds of all the cast, couldn’t have been found or written.
The script itself is dull and full of clichés. At one point someone mentions that the sisters are acting as if they are in a soap opera; this is exactly what it feels like we are watching. No themes or issues are explored outside the little dramas of this family, and even this drama is unsatisfying: it meanders along, never building to anything cathartic. Issues crop up – for example, Kevin has spent £300 on something unknown and Diane thinks he is cheating – but they do not appear to have any impact on large sections of the play. Relationships are miraculously repaired, fall apart and then repair themselves again for very little reason.
Every unhappy family might be unhappy in its own way, but the family unhappiness of Rants, Bantz and Comas has all been done before and in most cases, done much better.