Review: The Humans (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Sep 5 – Oct 7, 2018
Playwright: Stephen Karam
Director: Anthea Williams
Cast: Di Adams, Madeleine Jones, Arky Michael, Diana McLean, Reza Momenzada, Eloise Snape
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
It is Thanksgiving and as is customary for American families, the Blakes gather to mark the occasion. All do their best to make it a joyous evening, but each have individual lives that are not going at all well. Stephen Karam’s The Humans talks about the hardship of modern existence for our lower-middle classes, and explores the resilience required to survive, with family being a source of strength that can provide some degree of support and grounding. It is an exceptionally subtle work, but intensely intriguing, that lures us deep into a discussion about concerns that are perhaps not immediately apparent.

The show is surprisingly entertaining, considering the coyness of its approach. Director Anthea Williams introduces a generous quotient of dramatic tension to accompany the deceivingly mundane goings on, and comedy aspects are certainly very well executed under her supervision. Family dynamics feel authentic, with a bitter-sweetness that many will find strangely comforting.

An ensemble of six likeable personalities take us through the messy business of celebrations at home, with Di Adams especially compelling as Deirdre, whose suffering is demonstrated palpably alongside a zest for life, for a splendid depiction of human spirit at its best. Similarly poignant is Eloise Snape’s performance as Aimee, a young woman with little to be grateful for, but who we see sustained by an extraordinary inner strength. The actor delivers some gloriously funny moments, whilst portraying, terribly convincingly, a painfully tragic character.

These people face considerable challenges, but loneliness is not one of their problems. They are unable to fix each other, but their love does try to conquer all. For those who have family to rely on, it is a refuge that can soothe the ravages of life, and that provides the assurance that for all the anxieties we must endure, an embrace is always there waiting. Home is where the heart is, and those who have a way back, must count themselves lucky.