REVIEW: Sunset Strip at New Theatre

Suzie Miller's Sunset Strip, currently playing at New Theatre in Newtown, blends humour and heartache that delves deep into the complexities of family bonds. Directed by Annette van Roden, it's a raw and authentic look at how we face life's most daunting challenges.

Set in the fictional struggling lakeside town of Sunset Strip, the play centres on sisters Caroline and Phoebe, whose divergent life paths converge in a moment of celebration and crisis. Caroline, returning home after undergoing cancer treatment, finds herself confronting not only her illness but also the realities of her sister's life. Phoebe, who never left their hometown, grapples with caring for their father, now in the grips of dementia, while battling her own personal demons.

Miller's script, true to her reputation as one of Australia's most celebrated playwrights, navigates heavy themes with a deft touch. Addiction, cancer, dementia, and grief are all explored, yet the play never feels overwhelmingly bleak. Instead, Miller infuses the narrative with moments of levity and warmth that ring true to the human experience. As one character poignantly states, "Look, I'm messed up, but maybe there's some beauty in just surviving."  This sentiment sits at the heart of the play's core – finding hope and even humour in life's seemingly darkest moments.

The four-person cast, with all but one (Erica Nelson) making their New Theatre debuts, breathe life into Miller's characters with nuanced performances. Shane Davidson, Molly Haddon, Vincent Melton, and Erica Nelson navigate the emotional landscape of the play with skill, bringing depth to their portrayals of a family in crisis. The sisters' relationship in particular is portrayed with a compelling mix of tension and tenderness that certainly resonates with the audience.

Director Annette van Roden has crafted a production that honours the delicate balance of Miller's writing. The staging makes excellent use of the intimate New Theatre space, creating an environment where the audience might almost feel part of the family's struggles. Van Roden's direction allows the actors to explore their characters' vulnerabilities, resulting in performances that feel entirely authentic and deeply moving.

Sunset Strip excels in its ability to tackle difficult subjects without becoming too maudlin or preachy. Instead, it offers a sometimes steamy-eyed look at how families cope with adversity, celebrating the resilience of the human spirit without glossing over the very real pain that comes with life's hardships. The play serves as a powerful reminder of the strength found in the closest of relationships, even when – or perhaps especially when – those relationships are tested.

While the subject matter might seem heavy, Sunset Strip is far from a depressing night at the theatre. The script is peppered with genuinely funny moments delivered wonderfully by the cast that provide welcome relief from the more intense scenes. This balance reflects the reality of how many families use humour as a coping mechanism in trying times.

Sunset Strip is a deeply human play, and this performance at New Theatre invites audiences to reflect on their own family dynamics and how they navigate life's challenges.

Cast: Shane Davidson, Molly Haddon

Vincent Melton, Erica Nelson

Director & Set Designer: Annette van Roden

Lighting Designer: Casey Moon-Watton

Sound Designer: Jay Murrin

Assistant Director: Martin Kelly

Stage Manager: Radhika Lal


Until 3 August 2024


Thu - Sat 7:30pm, Sun 2pm

Sat 3 August 2pm only


Full: $37

Concessions, Groups: (6+) $32

Thrifty Thursdays: $25

(booking and transaction fees apply)



Images:   © Chris Lundie