Bali is worth a visit

13 July 2023

It may not be perfect, but We’ll Always Have Bali could be the start of the a new wave of talent at The Blue Room Theatre, writes David Zampatti.

We’ll Always Have Bali, Samantha Hortin
The Blue Room Theatre, 13 July 2023

By its very nature, The Blue Room Theatre has peaks and troughs as waves of independent, alternative – and often fledgling – theatre makers establish themselves there, grow their craft and move on, to be replaced by the next swell.

In those transitions, what can go missing for a time are the eternal verities of great theatre – writers who peel away the onion skin of life and circumstance to arrive at the core of humanity with punchy, impactful dialogue and characters who interact meaningfully with each other, and actors and directors who bring those connections to life.

The Blue Room is at its best when that’s what we see there, no matter how nascent the attempt at them might be.

Full credit, then, to We’ll Always Have Bali and its young playwright Lily Baitup, for a recognisable story inhabited by real people that exposes actual human strengths and weaknesses, leaving enough said, and enough unsaid, to suggest that lives and relationships can take different paths.

A family sits around a heavily laden dinner table, mid-meal. The focus is on a man with a beard who appears to be speaking.
‘We’ll Always Have Bali’ is a recognisable story, inhabited by real people. Pictured are Kim Parkhill as Belinda and Joshua Crane as Red. Photo: Andrea Lim

The Wainwright family – conservative politician Red (Joshua Crane) and his wife Belinda (Kim Parkhill), her mother Irene (Emma Kirby) and their daughters Georgia (Phoebe Eames) and Charlie (Amber Gilmour) – are gathering for the family’s idiocentric annual celebration of Christmas in July, and to welcome back Charlie from a stint as a political activist in Canberra.

Red spends too long at odd hours on the phone to Rhonda from his office, Belinda is fragile and distracted, Charlie is a firebrand with a disposition to challenge and some bones to pick, while Georgia tries to navigate the jarring dynamic of her sister and parents.

Something is wrong. Something has happened. The family’s powder is bone dry, and Charlie is going to put a spark to it.

Baitup and the director Riley Jackson manoeuvre the characters and their circumstances with skill; you can sense what’s coming, and guess why, but there’s still an uncertain tension at large in the Wainwright living room (captured splendidly in all its deluxe and delicious suburban splendour by William Gammel’s soap opera set design).

Look, We’ll Always Have Bali is far from perfect; the clashes between characters become irksomely repetitious and predictable, and the positions the Wainwrights’ take on everything from politics to personal responsibility are often one-dimensional. There’s also a difficulty throughout with Parkhill’s incongruous Canadian accent that could and should have been solved with some explanatory sleight-of-hand in the script – surely the Wainwright’s Christmas in July tradition could have had some Northern Hemisphere backstory to explain it away.

Otherwise, though, Kirby’s brittle performance is very impressive, and it’s matched by those of the rest of the cast.

I look forward to more trips to Bali and other islands like it as the next wave of theatre talent rides into Perth’s most productive and important theatre.

We’ll Always Have Bali continues until 29 July at The Blue Room Theatre.

Pictured top: There’s still an uncertain tension at large in the Wainwright living room. L-R: Phoebe Eames (Georgia), Amber Gilmour (Charlie) and Kim Parkhill (Belinda). Photo: Andrea Lim

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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