THE EISTEDDFOD @ State Theatre Centre gets 7.5/10

The Eisteddfod @ State Theatre Centre until July 9
Directed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler
Starring Brendan Ewing and Natalie Holmwood


Leave your dreams of high school Rock Eisteddfod glory at the door. Writer Lally Katz has arrived and she’s going to obliterate those memories with genius hilarity. The Melbourne based playwright delivers nothing short of magnificence from go to woe in Black Swan’s production of The Eisteddfod. It’s a delightfully twisted tale with flavours of arrested development, subtle notes of incest, full-bodied co-dependency and a bouquet of the woes of ill-begotten love. It’s worth more than a tasting. Invest in the bottle and gulp the goodness.

Siblings Abalone (Brendan Hewing) and Gerture (Natalie Holmwood) have resided together in a world of fantasy and theatre since childhood, derived from a need to make sense of the world after a “pruning accident” left them orphaned and agoraphobic. As with many siblings, they have drifted apart in their respective journeys into adulthood, with Gerture embracing it through an underwhelming career teaching German and indulging in a problematic relationship, while Abalone obsesses over winning just one Eisteddfod. Abalone lures Gerture back into his life and their shared bedroom with promises of Eisteddfod triumph through a two person performance of Macbeth.

Abalone’s increasingly obsessive need for his sister’s attention culminates in a rather glorious scene set to one of many nostalgic tracks that won’t be spoiled here. The score is one of the stars of the show, full of joyous, toe-tapping surprises that will elicit as many grins as the script. Superbly directed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler, Brendan Hewing’s melodramatic Abalone is a polarising scene stealer, but Natalie Holmwood doesn’t break a sweat keeping up throughout. The chemistry between the two is palpable, and their ease with one another makes the performance deeply engaging as their relationship ebbs and flows as easily as the tides, making for some disturbing moments as the audience is reminded of their familial relationship in pivotal moments.

Kudos is well deserved for the beautiful set design, in its stark nothingness of cardboard and grimness. Lighting was impeccable, and the finale? Sublime. The Eisteddfod is irreverent, cheeky, impeccable theatre worth venturing into this winter. Dip your toes in the weirdness, and let the warmth envelope you in a very weird embrace. But hurry, they’re only playing until July 9.