Saturday 2 July 2022


>> Read all Stella's reviews.


Down from Upland by Murdoch Stephens   {Reviewed by STELLA}
It’s Wellington — Upland Road to be precise. It’s the civil service with all its quirks, and it’s a magnifying glass on a millennial couple. Yes, this will make you squirm, especially if you are on the cusp of forty, a public servant with a teen at Wellington High, feeling a bit like a cog in the wheel, looking for a little excitement but not too much drama. The geographic parameters may be set, but the relationship map is all over the place in Murdoch Stephens’s satire about a millennial couple, Jacqui and Scott, with a teenage son. Said teenage son, Axle, has recently transferred from Wellington Boys to High after a miserable couple of years and is hoping for a kinder reception. Happily, he strikes up a friendship with Pete which gets him a foot in the door of that much-wanted teen accessory — a group. And the group’s okay — the kids are fine — some drinking, a science experiment with low-alcohol beer (hilariously supplied by Dad, Scott), budding relationships (wonderfully innocent), a scrap, and a general shrugging off of their various parents and adult authority — especially the heart-to-hearts and the morality tales. So far, so normal. But watch out for his ever-so-liberal parents. They are having a spell of relationship dullness, and when Jacqui’s friend gifts her a ‘hot’ young Brazilian, Joāo, it’s all on for a try at an 'open relationship'. Scott is keen — he’s got a slight wandering eye and tends to the obsessive in his infatuations. There’s a colleague at work who he’s keen on. His instrument is blunt though, and it is with a cringing inevitability that his attempt at striking up a relationship with this young woman will be a disaster and a tad creepy. Stephens handles this harassment with the right balance — such an awkward encounter at the bar, it's blackly funny — yet Scott’s not off the hook with his inappropriate behaviour. HR has something to say about it, and it’s not what you might expect. The satire keeps rolling and the new guy on the scene is keeping Scott occupied. He’s not the only one being bedded. Jacqui’s quite pleased with her Brazilian lover, although you get the impression that there’s not too much else that interests her. Asking no questions of the lovely Joāo will deliver her no lies. And why is she looking at Rothman, her boss, in that way? As things heat up in the bedroom and at work, both Jacqui and Scott find themselves in various pickles — some of their own making. Axle takes the various visits from his parents’ love interests in his stride — he’s got better things to fixate on. Down from Upland is excellent satire, it clips along at a fine pace. You will like the teens, but you might find the adults a little empty-headed. Uncomfortably microscopic and very funny.

No comments:

Post a Comment