Review | Twisted siblings steal the show in The Eisteddfod

The Eisteddfod | State Theatre Centre: Studio Underground
Ends July 9 | ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Black Swan State Theatre Company’s latest production takes audiences into the home and minds of Abalone and Gerture – two demented siblings forever damaged by the loss of their parents, whose only solace is in one another’s company.

Director Jeffrey Jay Fowler brings Australian playwright Lally Katz’s twisted and touching tale of familial love, loss and even a hint of incest to the WA stage for the first time, with actors Brendan Ewing and Natalie Holmwood as the play’s two leads.

The play begins with Fowler’s voice introducing the characters as Lally Katz, as she does in the text. The audience is introduced to Abalone (Ewing) and Gerture (Holmwood) in their private sanctuary, a sparsely furnished home where they spend all of their time.

Abalone, the brother, is obsessed with the theatre and hopes only to win the local Eisteddfod, while his doting sister Gerture takes pride in teaching in her private classroom, lusting after her gruff boyfriend Ian and caring for her peculiar sibling.

Abalone’s quest to finally win the Eisteddfod draws ever closer, as he commands his sister’s undivided attention. Gerture slips away from her lover, takes time away from her classroom and focuses all of her energy into her brother’s dream to play the titular characters of MacBeth – discarding all of her own desires for her increasingly needy sibling.

Ewing perfectly captures Abalone’s arrested development with his bent smile and puerile tantrums, and while Holmwood initially appears to be the ‘straight man’ by comparison; the pair’s unusual relationship becomes more clear as the story unfolds.

The pair have an incredible chemistry, which had the audience reeling as they switched in an out of a number of characters they had concocted to keep themselves entertained in their lonely home. MacBeth rehearsals had the audience in stitches as the pair riffed on one another with thick, bellowing Glaswegian accents.

Watching the couple’s absurd antics makes for an incredibly engaging 70 minutes, as you’re left wondering what insanity Abalone will create next and how Gerture will cater to her brother’s next whim.

A word of warning; Be prepared to be ambushed by real emotion among the lunacy as the siblings realise they may need to escape the beautiful, mad world they’ve created.

The Eisteddfod will be at the State Theatre Centre until Sunday July 9th. Tickets and more information available from

Leigh Andrew Hill

Images:- Daniel James Grant

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