The Joan, March 13,
Lamb is dotted with songs the way dry dams dot a drought-struck sheep farm. Penned by Hunters and Collectors’ Mark Seymour, they frame the play’s sepia tone of love and life and gone wrong, and the slow pace at which this happens. As Kathleen, the mentally ill but wisest family member, says, “If they can’t go up, where do hopes go?”
Emily Goddard’s Kathleen instantly grabs you with her outer helplessness and flashes of a glowing bonze core, while her feet and fingers draw circles in the air in a constant dance of uncertainty. Kathleen wanted to be a lamb when she was a girl, which merely amused her farmer-father, Frank, but troubled her mother, Mary, who hated the farming life, and dreaded dying there. She fell into it when she fell pregnant to Frank.
“Why did she keep me if she didn’t want me?” Kathleen asks her siblings, and you feel your heart splinter, as it does again when she recounts the story of finding their mother dead in a field. In fact so potent does Goddard make Kathleen that you wish writer Jane Bodie had built more of her into this absorbing play, in which all the early scenes cycle backwards, and the ending’s rounded with a halo of optimism.
When Frank died, broken by having to shoot his own sheep, his son Patrick (Darcy Kent) took over the farm and built it up. Meanwhile he cared for both Kathleen and his dementia-afflicted mother, and it is only upon the latter’s death that his younger sister, Annie (Brigid Gallacher), a successful singer in the big smoke, shows up. Patrick’s less than thrilled, having borne all the burdens, and she’s a stranger in her own home: a vegetarian on a sheep farm, with no mother, a hostile brother and her career now on the rocks thanks to late-onset stage-fright.
Patrick deals in realities: “Sheep have this uncanny knack of finding new ways to die,” he says, and Kent comes closest to matching Goddard’s potency in this Red Stitch production, intelligently directed by Julian Meyrick. Gallacher can’t quite rise to that level of truth, but she does enough to keep the play bumping on its slow way down a dry country road, where romance is only a song on endless repeat in your head.