[O Sibling, Where Art Thou?]
The concept of sibling rivalry dates as far back through history as Romulus and Remus (750 BC), and the conflict it produces has been the subject of theatrical narratives from Shakespeare’s King Lear (c. 1606) to Jess Sayer’s Wings (2013). A meta-theatrical, autobiographical comedy, SIBS presents Chris Parker, an award-winning actor and comedian with a well-established presence in the New Zealand theatre scene, who must resist his desire for control and vicariousness (which began evidently early) over his younger sister, Liv, a 2017 Toi Whakaari graduate and recent resident of Auckland, as she attempts to carve her own theatrical path (which lies considerably close to her brother’s, who also graduated from the New Zealand Drama School). It’s been 15 years since the Parker siblings shared a stage, but 22 years of incidental rehearsals have provided them with a synchronised yet complementary artistic rhythm that has endured the hiatus.
Employing a similar AV-integrated format to Chris’ No More Dancing in The Good Room, home footage provides the impetus for a variety of sketches that demonstrate the dynamics of the brother-sister relationship, both universal and personal to the Parkers. From PowerPoint presentations and dance breaks, to mime and seemingly random prop gags, each vignette pays off either through plot sequence or call-back, allowing the show to snap along at a tight 50 minutes while providing a complete narrative. As far as sibling dynamics are concerned, however, rivalry is not the most apt term for the relationship Chris and Liv present. While passive-aggressive comparisons and one-up professions of adoration provide hilarious insight, the “daringly personal” sketches don’t so much stretch the bond as scratch the surface of the drama that drives the show. And though it doesn’t entirely reject the principle of peripeteia, the consequential denouement is short-lived, and the opportunity for Liv to truly achieve her moment in the spotlight is brushed over too quickly for the audience to appreciate.
Regardless, SIBS thoroughly entertains from beginning to end, and while the Chris Parker brand may be the draw card for many, the interest in how familial his comedic bones are is equally enticing. Nepotism is rife in the New Zealand entertainment industry, but Chris’ desire to work with his sister, who he deems “a cool chick whose work is genuinely funny”, and the resultant theatrical introduction for Liz to the Basement community proves that this is not the case with SIBS, because the love and appreciation between the two is what allows the honesty and humour of the show to thrive. With family like that, who needs friends?
SIBS plays at Basement Theatre until Aug 11.