This 2010 Australian comedy-drama continues the year's mini-trend of realist, real-time shows, but it's refreshing to see contemporary anxieties onstage rather than historic ones, and to see dilemmas for people over 29 taken seriously.
Playwright Tommy Murphy's questions are spot-on for an ageing society: what is the family fallout from a matriarch's increasing frailty? Whose independence rises and falls with the matriarch's - and whose power grows as hers (supposedly) shrinks? Who gets to decide which risks - a glossy floor, a game of tennis - the matriarch is allowed to take? And who gets the Holden if she isn't allowed to drive? (Only a few of the Aussie references are obscure.)
The action is slow but occasionally amusing for the first half of this gentle and simply-staged production, as Gwen (Elizabeth McRae) battles with phones, and talks to her grandson, a "knight" in shining fluoro vest (Ryan Richards).
A priest from Nigeria (Tawanda Manyimo) arrives to give Gwen's new house a blessing - and to give the family an excuse to explain their history to the audience. He improvises appropriately (let us "knit together" in the sewing room).
Gwen's nervy daughter (a cracking Michele Hine) and florid son (Bruce Phillips with fabulously gel-greasy long blond hair) join the party - and that's when things get interesting.
Directed by Kathy McRae, the performances are all very good. The characters vie for our sympathy and take turns at being wise or misguided. Murphy shows how unacceptable behaviour in public can sometimes be forgiven and forgotten very quickly en famille - even as grudges are held for longer.
The play could be more ambitious; it skirts some harder questions, about rest homes, for example. But it breaks new ground and is a good start - rather than the last, definitive word - on what I hope will be a theatrical discussion about getting older. You could take along several generations of the family and swap notes afterwards.
What: Gwen in Purgatory
Where and when: Tapac, Motions Rd, until September 29