Review: All His Beloved Children (KXT on Broadway)

Venue: KXT on Broadway (Ultimo NSW), May 5 – 20, 2023
Playwright: Frieda Lee
Amelia Burke
Cast: Tel Benjamin, Melissa Gan, Sam Hayes, Lukas Radovich, Kavina Shah
Images by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review

Yamuna has died, but her mouth refuses to shut. A chain of posthumous events suggests that a woman may very well be silenced with her tragic demise, but there are unexpected forces that can arise, possibly from metaphysical realms, to make things right. Frieda Lee’s All His Beloved Children could be a story about ghosts, or karma, or it could simply be about the stranger aspects of human behaviour, that sometimes makes existence on this plain, seem a curious phenomenon.

The obscure humour of Lee’s writing, explores some of our morbid recesses, taking taboo ideas and transforms them into subversive artistic expressions, about relationships that we have with one another, and with things pertaining to the spiritual realm. Directed by Amelia Burke, the production alternates between delivering twisted pleasures that are genuinely delightful, and youthful irreverence that can feel somewhat inane. Burke’s commitment to a theatre that is unpredictable and intriguing however, is beyond doubt.

Set by Adrienne Andrews and costumes by Moni Langford, transport us somewhere timeless and geographically indeterminate, as though this weird story could take place anywhere on earth. Frankie Clarke’s lights are whimsical and detailed, creating varied textures within an atmosphere that is unmistakably sensual. Sound design by Daniel Herten is inspired by a certain exotica, to help us consider the play’s themes outside of Western conventions and values.

Embracing the quirky qualities of the staging, is an ensemble cast comprising Tel Benjamin, Melissa Gan, Sam Hayes, Lukas Radovich and Kavina Shah, who are challenged by a requirement to depict a persistent sense of truth, within an unremitting eccentricity that informs the overall tone of the production. It is a tricky balance that does not always prove effective, but the show’s intentionally bizarre sensibility, is unforgettable.

People die, but slates are never wiped clean. We will always have to evolve along with inevitable inheritances, taking on the baggage that others leave behind; things we can never pretend not to be tainted by, and things we can never completely disassociate from. The separations between “us and them”, are as tenuous as the distinctions between those dead and alive. The sooner we come to terms with the indissolubleness of us, the better our chances at life.