That Boy

That Boy Adelaide Fringe 2021★★★★★

Holden Street Theatres & Martha Lott. Holden Street Theatres. 17 Feb 2021


The set is layered with a boy’s toy debris and an eight-year-old’s clothes lie strewn about his bedroom. With the theatrically missing walls, the whole shebang is like the aftermath of a tornado. Tornado Tom. Mum enters for an archaeological dig to find the cannot-do-without floppy monkey puppet and to pack an overnight bag for him. Tom has fallen off his perch again.


Holden Street Theatre’s artistic director, Martha Lott, has written, with developmental assistance from others, a forensically informative and emotionally wrought narrative for a single mother raising a behaviourally troubled boy and an older sister who is subject to collateral damage. From early days to the latest incident, Tom’s increasingly serious transgressions are revealed along with Mum’s search for help. And then there are the recriminations. Blame and well-meaning advice is always nearby, but help that leads to real change is elusive.


Martha Lott plays our heroic Mum with amazing verisimilitude. Lott’s Mum reaches the brink of emotional breakdown rather continuously only to pull back to get on with the job. Because there is no choice. This isn’t some alcoholic husband who cyclically abuses and apologises, whom you can leave; it’s your baby and you can’t give up. The subtext of being on your own, of the daily worry of the next phone call from school, and the effect on the daughter is excruciatingly palpable. Lott takes you right into the trenches with her and there isn’t much in the way of relief. The only hope is that the whole family has finally got individual mental health plans.


Director Yasmin Gurreeboo guides Lott to a wonderful balance of text and emotional import. It’s kind of heartbreaking, but great empathy for this family is automatic, and we should all know about this. Bravo to the creative team and to Lott’s first writing credit and performance in this world premiere!


David Grybowski


When: 16 Feb to 21 Mar

Where: Holden Street Theatres