16 September, 2022
Hilarious and charming tragedy
I have got to admit, I am a sucker for family stories and the classic father-daughter tale, but I Ought To Be in Pictures directed by Narelle Shorey, made me fall in love with it all over again, with a funny and heart-warming story of love and estrangement that went to common places without being a cliché.
Struggling screenwriter Herb Tucker (James Mousa) has settled within his comfort zone and stopped trying to change his life; his writing and his relationship with his longterm girlfriend Steffy (Heather Baker) have become stagnant. However, this all changes when the daughter he left behind in New York 16 years ago, Libby (Morgan Elliston), returns to ask his father to help her get into the movies.
The introduction to trailblazing daughter Libby is charming and hilarious; the interpretation Morgan Elliston gave to the role was beautiful with those nuances of youth and the humour behind the tragedy of her story.
The chemistry between Elliston and Mousa on stage made for a compelling and believable story that was entertaining and humorous but always so full of love and sadness and all of those little details that make families... well, families.
The way the play takes us through the perspectives of the child abandoned by her father and the father who decided to leave his family and never look back makes for a nonjudgmental and compassionate narration. I Ought To Be in Pictures aims not to demonise one another but to feel for their loss, grief and ultimately, the joy, challenges and lessons of their reunion.
Main character Herb is a compulsive pessimist who has given up before even trying; he is too afraid of commitment, failure and vulnerability, as proved by his relationship with Steffy.
Only the arrival of the estranged daughter Libby will force him to take a good look at himself, as this daughter of his is a dreamer, a fighter, open-minded, opinionated and full of life, traits that Herb once saw in himself as he once made the toughest decision to leave his family for the sake of his own dreams.
Throughout this journey and with Steffy’s gentle pushes to both characters, we see them rediscover their life purposes and be kinder to each other and themselves.
Herb learns to move on from his guilt and chooses to be a father because he wants to, and Libby figures out it is not about becoming an actress or avenging her younger self but about having closure, understanding why her father left and learning to love him again.
Although Mousa and Baker were amazing, my heart goes to Elliston and her superb interpretation of Libby, which was so youthful, hilarious, and raw. She captured those feelings of growing up, not feeling at home within yourself, and feeling everything so intensely.
If you are looking to laugh, maybe even cry a little and relate to the fears and challenges of ordinary people, Narelle Shorey’s I Ought To Be in Pictures is the play for you. It has memorable one-liners, relatable and lovable characters, a beautiful set and tells a story about a family’s complexities.
I Ought to be in Pictures opens this Friday, September 16, until Saturday, September 24. To book tickets, visit https://bit.ly/3qKc7E0