Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam by Peter Goldsworthy, adapted by Steve Rogers and directed by Darren Yap ~ explores a family’s journey of love, deep connection, and loss.
When confronted with harsh realities, our perspectives shift and change and we tend to focus on what we feel is most important. Those closest to the ones suffering, even though are not experiencing illness themselves ~ carry fear, and deeply feel the emotional reverberations that come with seeing trauma happen to those we love.
The play begins from the perspective of 18 year old Ben relaying to his family doctor the family’s past. He reveals his mental health has suffered as direct consequence to his family’s experience and actions during a devastating time of disease and grief. The audience then meets the family ~ father Rick played by Matthew Whittet, his mother Linda played by Emma Jackson and grandparents (Mark Lee and Valerie Bader). Interestingly, the play’s perspective quickly shifts and changes from Ben (Liam Nunan), to his parents as they then relive and retell directly to the audience: falling in love, having children, and their response to illness. Scenes interweave and move quite rapidly in the play’s 80 minutes, proving a family life that was uniquely complex, individualistic, loving, and overall playful ~ even amidst pain.
The play on a whole felt quite fast paced, which also seemed the predominant energy of the parents and perhaps their coping mechanism during the family’s hardship. More pause would have been welcome to reflect the space, time and tension of ongoing treatments and the constant waiting for the next diagnosis, perhaps.
I would have also been interested in hearing more from the children’s perspective on their journey. Big brother Ben, who was always near and observing, became somewhat subdued and ignored after his first scene. I wondered why the presentation of the story moved away from him to his parents, as Ben seemed the quiet observer of everyone. I also would have especially loved to have heard more from the daughter Wol, portrayed earnestly with joy and play by Grace Truman. One scene in particular led by Truman, left the audience feeling her fear and pain and seemed there wasn’t one dry eye in the house after her heart felt delivery in the scene.
The set designed by Emma Vine is delightful, encompassing a child like imagination and lightness. In her designers note she mentions her intention of wanting to portray imagination and innocence, she definitely attained this. In turn, this wondrous setting makes the harsh reality of the family’s journey even more impactful.
Every human has experienced, either directly or indirectly the trauma of life threatening illness and grief. In turn, every audience member will be able to connect to this production ~ tissues are recommended.
Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam is on at the Belvoir Theatre until March 8, for more information and tickets see: https://belvoir.com.au/productions/jesus-wants-me-for-a-sunbeam/
Director: Darren Yap
Featuring: Valerie Bader, Emma Jackson, Mark Lee, Liam Nunan, Grace Truman and Matthew Whittet.
Above image by Brett Boardman