One of the most universal features of human existence is that of family life. Every culture possesses pockets of kin that form a social and support network as we navigate our way through the vast uncertainty of life itself. So Paper Fortunes unfolds, a quirky tale by first-time writer Roz Wyllie and astutely directed by Cameron Harris, which demonstrates what happens when the tensions of family life supercede the ardent principles and enthusiasm of youth.
Paper Fortunes harbours a simple plot. Listless Mum Mandy (Claire Porter), dad Bill (Drew McKenzie), daughter Chloe, a tomboyish teenager whose comic interjections are effortlessly nuanced by Amy Newton, and her pretty friend Bex (Lily Phillips), all go on holiday. The trivialities of embarking on such an excursion give rise to a continual chatter that pervades both the scene changes and the episodic scenes themselves, providing the ‘background music to [Mandy’s] life’. The constant bickering that underscores most interactions contrasts with the direct address to the audience that effectively enables each character to relay their inner monologues and feelings, aided by slick lighting and sound changes. It is here that we begin to see the deeper cracks that threaten to dismantle this family set up, and the precarious relationships within it. Whether this involves coming to terms with unrequited love, mourning the loss of direction and youth, combatting external stereotypes armed with feminist ideals, or simply trying to find enjoyment and pleasure within the present despite the hankering of the past – each carefully-crafted story is touching in both its execution and its universalism.
Technically flawless, directed with creative flair, and performed with passion and humanity
The actors have an evident chemistry on stage; they work well together as well as alone, performing their characters with an insightful and often humourous precision and ease. Given the small space in which the play is performed, the stage is cluttered with every kind of prop imaginable, yet this only serves to add to the sense of clutter that the characters needlessly attract in order to disguise their real needs. In their search for something more – ‘the itch you can’t reach’ – the characters slowly reveal their true selves, and come to realise their reliance on and fulfillment gained from each other – a poignant and applicable conclusion to this snapshot of family life. Technically flawless, directed with creative flair, and performed with passion and humanity, Paper Fortunes provides enough witticisms to ensure this tale is both heartening and humourous, even in the midst of family despair.
**** (4 stars)
Runs until 3rd September