The Distance

14 March 2016 | 12:30 pm | Cyclone Wehner

"Bruce's writing is unwaveringly astute — and, unexpectedly, The Distance broaches social satire."

British playwright Deborah Bruce's thought-provoking The Distance centres on female friendships when they are tested. Bea — portrayed by Susan Prior (Puberty Blues) — arrives home in the UK from Melbourne, having left her Australian husband and two young sons. Her old besties Kate (The Doctor Blake Mysteries' Nadine Garner) and Alex (Wentworth's Katrina Milosevic) immediately start talking custody battle strategy. However, Bea has no intention of returning, let alone fighting, admitting that she doesn't have that mythic universal maternal instinct. She wants out — to (re)discover her self.

The Distance alludes to Ibsen's landmark awakening narrative, A Doll's House, but it's sharper. The domineering Kate — whom Garner brilliantly plays like a Penelope Keith sitcom character — can't accept Bea's proclamation. She becomes judgy everywoman (or every tabloid-reader), decrying the breaking of social taboos: Bea should feel guilty... for being a deadbeat mum. 

Bruce's writing is unwaveringly astute — and, unexpectedly, The Distance broaches social satire. The ancillary male characters — including Kate's laddish Welsh brother-in-law Vinnie (Nathan Page, aka Detective Inspector Jack Robinson from Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries) — are sympathetically, and subtly, drawn. And the cast maintain their British accents. Nonetheless, the drama unravels in the relatively comfortable world of summer houses — and Bruce's peculiar use of the London Riots as a backdrop, and analogy, inadvertently highlights the characters' insularity.

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