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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Claire Come Home (Theatre Works) - 65 minutes

Some pieces of writing are straight forward. Others are open to interpretation. Claire Come Home is the latter.

 

Written by Amelia Newman, it deals with relationships and mental health.

 

Beth (Lucy Orr) met her best friend Claire (who is continually referenced but not seen) in year 7. Claire tells Beth everything.

 

Claire’s boyfriend is Jared (Sam Dolan), the eldest of three sons and he is worried sick about Claire because she is in hospital and will be for some time.

Photos by Phoebe Taylor


You see Claire tried to kill herself by taking two weeks of antidepressants in one hit, washed down with booze.

 

Now laundry is piled high and Jared is spending a lot of time with his roommate Beth, who appears to have feelings for him.

 

Both are awkward and nerdish. Saying the wrong thing can see Jared rage and yet all topics seem to be on the table. Sex, for starters.


Then there are their respective family situations, as well as Claire’s.

 

Beth gives a good massage. Perhaps too good.

She gets to know Jared’s movie tastes. They visit Claire in hospital.

 

Beth chucks a wobbly when she loses a necklace and when she uncovers a dead mouse.

 

Jared spins out when he hits a possum with his car.

 

They navigate their lives as best they can, but vulnerability seems to be a constant.

 

That includes uncertainty about whether Claire will attempt suicide again, even after she has recovered from this latest episode.

 

Unfolding as a dark comedy, I can’t say I warmed all that much to what I saw. Perhaps it is a generational thing.

 

While the play had its moments, I found it too episodic.

There were vignettes aplenty, representing a series of short scenes from Beth and Jared’s decidedly ordinary daily lives.

 

I would have liked less fades to black and more development of at least some of these scenes.


That is something I believe director Sarah Hartnell could have addressed.


I always look for authenticity and naturalism in theatre and fortunately Lucy Orr and Sam Dolan showed large glimpses of that.

 

Still, their performances were uneven.

 

Initially Orr was too softly spoken, delivering so fast that words appeared to have been all but swallowed. That improved markedly as the play progressed.

 

For his part, Dolan expressed Jared’s anger too loudly. It was “shouty” and seemed forced.

Although the tower of washing that formed the centrepiece of the set could be seen as a clever device, I found it divisive and distracting, as characters moved around it.

 

In the end, I am afraid I was left with a quizzical expression on my face thinking this was a play that had unrealised promise.

 

To me, it barely brushed the surface of its subject matter, when greater depth was warranted.

 

Claire Come Home is playing at Theatre Works as part of its Sooo Fresh Summer Fest until 6th January, 2024.

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