Above – Justine Clarke. Photo – Matt Byrne

Starts like a stand up, ends with a knock down, Girls & Boys is funny, furious, effervescent, unflinching and fearsome.

Written by Dennis Kelly, Girls & Boys is presented like a story book read by an attentive, imaginative parent, and who better to present such a play than Play School veteran, Justine Clarke. Her years on Play School have honed her skills telling a story complete with character vocalisations and their physical traits, and she demonstrates a dab hand at imaginary kid wrangling as well.

Every gesture an articulation, carefully crafted and calibrated, yet with the sense of spontaneous delivery, conversational, confident, confessional, infused with adroit nuance in both physicality and vocalisation giving terrific texture to the text.

Base camp of the play’s seemingly sunny expedition seems benign, bubbly, buoyant, sometimes bordering on the banal. It’s cheeky, chirpy and cheerful, sometimes bordering on bitchy.

It’s an origin love story of supportive spouses and proud parenthood, eclipsed by an unexpected termination notice. Nevertheless, it’s also a tale of optimism in tragedy, hope in catastrophe, reflecting on actions and outcomes, and observations about society and individuals, what they create, what they protect, a celebration of achievements and a recognition of flaws and faults.

The power of Girls & Boys is in the performance, which is totally compelling. You don’t want a review strewn with spoiler alerts, you just need to know that the journey to the summit is thrilling and devastating, led by a towering talent.

The play reminds us, terribly, that from the summit there’s always the risk of a plummet, imagining the unimaginable, conceiving the inconceivable.

A knock out performance by Justine Clarke takes the audience to the peak, a pinnacle of emotional experience, that will have you clinging to the precipice of reason, as the frayed rope of the irrational unravels and a plunge into the abyss appears unavoidable.

Directed by Mitchell ButelGirls & Boys sets the bar high and produces high vaultage at every turn. Shockingly good.

Event details

Sydney Festival 2023
by Dennis Kelly

Director Mitchell Butel

Venue: Seymour Centre, Everest Theatre NSW
Dates: 5 – 15 January 2023
Tickets: $39 – $69
Bookings: www.sydneyfestival.org.au

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