3 Min Read

A Multi-sensory Suburban Tale: We’ll Always Have Bali

We’ll Always Have Bali is a suburban story, written by Lily Baitup, that feels like watching something which could have been a family Christmas reel of my own memories. It’s quintessentially Australian, with an American character for that multicultural element.

Phoebe Eames as Georgia and Emma Kirby as Irene both deliver touching performances, in their warm exchanges as grandchild and grandmother. So much of their dialogue goes unspoken, and the undercurrent of their conversations runs deep. Their engrossing performances mean, at times, it’s hard to pay attention to the vocal arguments of other characters which are meant to be at the forefront, despite how well written and performed they are.

There’s one moment when Georgia is outed by her sister and you can see a look of fear in Phoebe’s eyes that’s all too relatable for a coming out story. Their ability to gender bend between the two characters in the different storylines makes their performance as both Georgia and Benjamin a standout for me. Playing their sister Charlie, Amber Gilmour encapsulates the meaning of dramedy that results in eruptions of laughter especially when the siblings have a disagreement.

We’ll Always Have Bali. Photography by Andrea Lim.

Initially Kim Parkhill’s performance as Belinda, the American matriarch of this Australian family, feels a bit disjointed. It’s as if she was plopped onto the stage and told to act, taking a minute to get into the flow of it. Then you realise that’s exactly her character. Director Riley Jackson ensures that the performative, ingenuine politeness of this American character is meant to be out of place. Kim’s most intense lines are presented with a guttural delivery, yet somehow make you laugh. 

We’ll Always Have Bali. Photography by Andrea Lim.

This show has made me realise we have reached that point where millennials have tropes. It seems that one of those tropes is anachronism. A story with a boxy tv and voice activated domestic appliances provides a typical example of this phenomenon. However, this time it is done differently. It serves a purpose. This intergenerational story switches between timelines to tell a different facet of their genealogy.

Lighting designer Amber Lorenzi has crafted seamless transitions flawlessly executed at every cue. Whether it be the voice commands for domestic apps, or the sudden flickers to instigate a switch between the alternating storylines, the intentions emanated throughout the crowd with each luminary gesture.

We’ll Always Have Bali. Photography by Andrea Lim.

There is so much going on with William Gammel’s set design, yet it isn’t overwhelming. Looking like a familiar suburban home the set feels very authentic with great care and detail in each element.

It always amazes me how theatre can sometimes make smell resonate with the story. A musty carpet smell transports you to the suburbs. We’ll Always Have Bali is truly a multi-sensory experience, with the slamming of doors moving the air and making your tactile sense aware of the angsty moments. It’s something that you can’t really get with other art forms in the same way.

We’ll Always Have Bali is written by Lily Baitup, Directed by Riley Jackson and presented by Samantha Hortin at The Blue Room Theatre from now until July 29.