David Williamson’s Family Values

Staged in Canberra recently, David Williamson’s play, Family Values (Lee Lewis (director); Griffin Theatre Company) presented a mix of poignant and lighter moments, its wonderful cast laying bare some of Australia’s not-so-pleasant aspects about the treatment of refugees and boat people. Just to set the scene. Recently-retired 70-year-old federal court judge, Roger (Andrew McFarlane) clearly hopes to enjoy some birthday celebrations with his family including his lively (very much a “doctor’s-wife” type), Sue (Belinda Giblin). But when their refugee-advocate daughter, Lisa (Danielle King) and her refugee friend Saba (Sabryna Walters) arrive, followed by Sue and Roger’s other daughter Emily (Ella Prince) and her partner, Noelene (Bishanyia Vincent), and their son, Michael (Jamie Oxenbould), the festivities are soon sabotaged. These grown-up “children’s” divergent life experiences and social beliefs are soon exposed. Fuelled by one of David Williamson’s renowned clever storylines and dialogue, various cringeworthy and heart-wrenching exchanges make it a very entertaining and amusing play. With home truths recalled from childhood days, the siblings are clearly still “maintaining their rage” towards each other. But the quest to help Saba becomes their focus. And along the way, a lot of great lines and worthy sentiments are delivered (especially by Sue). At a post-play Q&A session, a suggestion that the production be made into a film where it would likely reach a much wider audience across Australia, was strongly supported by the audience and cast members alike.