‘Why is it so?’

LIFE’S big Cs — cancer, communism and Catholicism intertwine in the poignant Royal David’s City.

The quotidian characters in this play are instantly recognisable as anyone’s next door neighbour, mum, aunt, or those annoying religious door knockers.

And while their stories are confronting, like real life there’s plenty of laughs during the darker moments, including a ridiculously cheery song and dance number that comes out of nowhere, complete with reindeer antlers.

• Jason Klarwei and Penny Everingham in the play Royal David’s City. Photos by Philip Gostelow

Will Drummond (Jason Klarwein) had been planning a peaceful beach Christmas at Byron Bay with his mum, following the death of his father.

But she falls seriously ill, and as Will holds vigil at her bedside he questions his work as a theatre director (his mum wanted him to be a teacher) and his place in a world that has suddenly been upended.

Although for much of the play she is speechless in a hospital bed, Penny Everingham plays the moribund Jeannie Drummond with so much realism and pathos that she moved me to tears remembering my own mother’s death.

Designer Stephen Curtis and Matt Scott’s lighting creates the sterility of a public hospital, with ward-like curtains introducing set changes or providing the backdrop for a 1950s communist rally.


Once in Royal David’s City, written by Aussie Michael Gow, is life-affirming, but also thought-provoking, and the last word goes to physicist and 1960s television personality Professor Julius Sumner Miller, who poses the question we all ask.

“Why is it so?”

You might find the answer at the State Theatre, where the play is showing until April 9.


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