Royal National Theatre
by Nick Enright and Justin Monjo, from Tim Winton’s novel.
Company B Belvoir and Black Swan Theatre
Olivier Theatre to 22 September 2001
Runs 5 hrs 20 mins. Two intervals (45mins + 20 mins)
TICKETS 020 7452 3000
Review Timothy Ramsden 6 September
A bold invigorating adaptation that is utterly theatrical and holds the attention through its necessarily long span. Covering 20 years from 1945, this immense Australian drama brings together two families, the hard-working Lambs and the feckless Pickles. Both share No 1 Cloudstreet, an address in Perth even the criminals shun. What’s surprising is that a stroke of luck makes the Pickles the owners while the Lambs are their willing tenants.
The defining moment is the near drowning of young Fish Lamb (they’re a family who go in for nicknames), after which he’s left with a 3 year old’s mental capacity. Yet amid all the families’ strife, among themselves and between each other, Fish remains the one all love and is endowed with a peculiar spiritual authority.
Injury and mutilation recur throughout the play, framed between the ghosts of an oppressive previous owner and her aboriginal victims and the serial killer who becomes the object of Quick Lamb’s crusade against evil. Running away is another motif, an attempt to hide from oneself by seeking a new existence.
But Cloudstreet draws its inhabitants back until the final reconciliation achieved in the birth of a newly nicknamed child to the former abscondee Quick and Rosie, the one of the Pickles to reach out from a cheap sensual life to the world of intellect. It’s achieved too through the apparent self-sacrifice of Fish to the sea he’s always loved.
If one relationship’s central to the play it’s that of Dan Wyllie’s Fish who returns devotion for his brother Quick’s (Christopher Pitman) guilt over the accident. Neil Armfield’s luminous production focuses on this but not at the cost to the seething life around. Often poetic, it also bursts with raw life. Its humour makes it no less profound. Anchored in reality yet also reaching into the mysterious, it’s an extraordinary amalgam deserving every one of its many minutes.