There is something quite fascinating about watching a text that is virtually unknown in the UK but a classic in another land.  Cloudstreet is ‘an epic stage adaptation of Tim Winton’s enormously successful and much-loved novel of the same name. Set in post-war Perth, Australia, Cloudstreet follows the fluctuating fortunes and changing relationships of two families’.  The play works at the intersection of three sets of ‘characters’, the two families and the land and people of Australia.

The Lambs work hard, do good deeds and try to make the most of what they have, despite their son Fish (James Farley) suffering the life changing effects of a near drowning.  But whatever they do, they will always feel uncomfortable in their relationship with their home.  The Pickles take what they can, when they can, hope for luck, and live for gambling and sex; their only hope for a better future is their daughter Rose.  In an often crowded stage, each family is well constructed and performances are strong.  Perhaps most fascinating is the role of the wider environment, which is beautifully presented with superb imagery and clever staging.  No more so than in the huge vistas during boating trips, with dramatic evocation of sky and water.  There is a fascinating central thread of the constant moral conflict with the earth, the water and the indigenous people.

Performances are impressive throughout, and characters convincing, compelling and real.  Whilst it is the men that think they are controlling the future, it is the key women – Oriel Lamb (Rachael Gill-Davis), Dolly Pickles (Fiona Munro) and Rose (Andie Morgan) – that provide the energy and focus to drive the story.  But this is very much a full cast performance and each and every actor plays their part well to create the rich themes in the story.

One of the pleasures of watching Manchester School of Theatre performances is to see how strongly the actors develop over the year.  Beautifully staged and with superb direction, any flaws rest in the challenge of translating a sprawling narrative for the stage. And yet this is a talented cast that have produced a memorable performance of a very ambitious play.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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