Patrick Livesy’s portrait of his mother Naomi is a mosaic of voices and characters given life via writing and performance. They create the eight characters, moving about, standing still, sitting, speaking in each of the voices. What we experience, so movingly, is a series of monologues from different characters in Naomi’s life. Some talk at length, some are brief, some are loving, some a bit affronted, some uncomprehending, some defensive, some funny, and some achingly sad.
Under Bronwyn Coleman’s empathic direction, Patrick glides, barefoot, from one side of the dim lit stage to another, creating these characters and their voices. There’s an armchair to the right, an armchair to the left. It’s as if Patrick sheds one character as they move and becomes another by the time they reach the other armchair, or the cigarettes. At the back, there’s a triangle picked out in lights. Interspersed with the varied characters’ stories, Patrick pauses to add iconic mementoes within that triangle: a beach hat, a child’s dress, a photograph…
Naomi was a girl of enormous vitality and potential, but what she wanted above all else was to be a mother. And so, she grew up - and became a devoted mother too. But her partner Vincent was not up to what she needed - although he vehemently denies any violence. But the dream was confining for someone so full of life and laughter and unrealised ability; it was not enough, it repressed her; it depressed her. She drank. She was wild. She broke out… But subtly, almost as if ashamed, or avoiding pity, she began to destroy herself. And for those who loved her, there is the inevitable shame and guilt at not seeing, at not having done more.
But Patrick does not ‘play’ or become Naomi herself. Here, that would be macabre or worse disrespectful. Naomi exists via the voices, verbatim reminiscences, impressions, and regrets of others: friends, sister, husband, daughter, stepdaughter. And, quite early in the piece, we feel we know her. We can practically see her. It is gay Lex who, in a mock flippant, funny way, stopping for the occasional ciggie, speaks of Naomi in the most loving, the most admiring way. In this way, Patrick brings her most vividly to life. Two things are intensely moving here. First there is the sad, sad waste. Second, there is Patrick’s grief: it pierces to the heart.
At times, it’s true, we are uncertain just which character Patrick is playing as each can melt so seamlessly one into another. But it doesn’t matter. The character of Naomi and her story emerges, carried by the power, the naked emotions, and the utter, utter sincerity of the performance. This show has already won two awards at the Adelaide Fringe; it’s not hard to see why.
Photographer: Jack Dixon Gunn