Blessed Union

Kate Young
17th Feb 2023

Maeve Marsden has always been a word warrior when it comes to telling the stories of queer people. Maeve is an independent artist who has worked across theatre, comedy, musical theatre and of course what she’s so well known for... her storytelling. Whether it's too a sold-out live audience at the Giant Dwarf Theatre (Queer stories) or via her podcast, flowing through the headphones of listeners during the pandemic, what has always remained true is her campaign for people to be able to tell their stories. Not the ones that society deems acceptable and wants to hear but the ones they are never asked to be told.

"Let's have a lesbian divorce comedy,” said no one ever and well I'm guessing Maeve saw that as a challenge excepted. Based on her own growing up with lesbian mothers, Blessed Union tells the story of Ruth (Wentworth's Danielle Cormack, however, will always be Xena Warrior Princess's Ephinay, Amazon Queen) and Judith (Maude Davey) who have been together for 30 years. They are parents to two beautiful children. Their daughter Delilah (Emma Diaz) is currently studying law at university, with the dreams of following in her mother's activist ways, determined to improve the world and their son Asher (Jasper Lee- Lindsay) who is in his final year at a catholic high school and feels day by day that his larger-than-life personality is being suffocated by its institutional walls. When we are introduced to the family, its easter time and what would have be a usual weekly family lunch, is about to turn this tight knit family's world upside down as both Ruth and Judith share the news: That they are separating.

It’s not the end of the world they try to reassure the children. Together, as a family they are going to process and devise a plan of what this new life might look like. With both Ruth and Judith having years of experience when it comes to organization, Ruth a Union Leader, and Judith a schoolteacher, this should be an easy task, right? Wrong, being able to conceptualize a plan is one thing but you can't rationalize thoughts and feelings and what begins, as a sweet idealistic proposal soon becomes a chaotic mess as the ramifications of this union ending finally hits home.

The play unfolds over the time span of nine months and slowly as the months pass, things start to unravel. Plans are made, flow charts drawn up (with the help of an arts and craft session with Judith's 2nd graders). They say the heart of the house is the kitchen, so it’s no surprise that this is where the prime action is set, with that being said Food is at the centre of every conversation, for food is the language of love, it’s what brings family’s together. But for this family each meal threatens to be the last supper. One lunch sees them discussing how they will now choose to address each other. No longer will they be using terms of endearment, those emotionally charge pet names we call each other such as darling and love, it's sad and hilarious at the same time as they make their way through a thesaurus of suggestions only to shake hands and settle on the simple term comrade. Another lunch see's the woman exchanging gifts, a letting go of shared pasts. In Ruth's box are gifts that Judith had made, like a mini lesbian she knitted or the Mardi gras Marshall tool belt that even Mary Poppins would be envious of. Judith on the other hand hands back all of Ruth's love letters, stating that to love someone you must set them free, So Judith sets her free of all written promises made, she doesn’t want Ruth to lay awake at night burdened by her own failure to fulfill the pact. In the end after failed pasta making sessions, burnt bacon and aggressive hummus blending, the only thing being prepared is taking the top off a wine bottle.

Cormack's Ruth and Davey's Judith are so well matched - their characters are so opposite that you can see how they came together a whole, a Ying to her Yang and vice versa. Ruth at times can be unlikable she's strong willed, self-centered, emotionally detached and seemingly held together. We come to understand why she is the way she is, the pressures to be the bread winner, being the only female in a male dominated career, being cut of from her own family as a result to her own coming out. Life has been all about the fight for her. On the other side of the coin is Judith, she’s easy going, the peacemaker in the family and unlike Ruth, wears her heart on her sleeve. Both Actors play their parts with sensitivity, honesty and thoughtfulness; you care what happens to this family and rooting for them to get through it. Emma Diaz and Jasper Lee- Lindsay round out this family with warmth and humor. Jasper plays the perfect younger brother to the letter, he's annoying, obnoxious, and self-obsessed yet could charm the pants (I'm sure he's tried) off of anyone. Diaz's Delilah was a standout for me, it was hard to watch her character take on the role of parent and trying to keep everyone together while she was not so quietly falling apart, but with all other characters wrapped up so tightly in themselves, no one was looking after her. But as the way of Maeve Marsden those uncomfortable feelings don't get to sit for too long cause next, you're laughing at panic attack named Thomas, why Thomas? Cause at the time you feel like your being hit by a train. Which just about sums up how you feel after walking away from Blessed Union.

Maeve Marsden's debut play is witty, charming, enjoyable, and funny as all hell, which is a strange feeling to take away, especially when the characters on stage are going through such turmoil (well except for Asher who is too busy just being fabulous the whole time). On the flip side it's heartbreaking, frustrating and numbing. Watching as each character verbally expresses their despair of the situation at hand. Ruth feels invisible to those closest to her, Delilah has the awaking that the dreams she once had no longer fulfill and wants or needs and Judith puts her ethics into question with the world seemingly against her. Jasper seems to be the only one with his life together, maybe its youth or maybe its his lack of trying to be anything more than what he is.

This play is important for many reasons but for me it's to see queer stories being told that show the rest of society that we are all the same when it comes down to it. For a long time, I was in my own Rainbow family and every year we had to “come out” to the kids teachers and make them aware of the makeup of our family unit. We used to joke that we were the “straightest” gay people we knew. It's funny when you feel like you have to justify or present yourself to the world for acceptance. Maeve shows that we are that family living next door to you; we have the same problems, the same concerns, we do the same mundane things like homework with the kids, taking them to soccer training, planning the week’s meals. We are all just trying to take care of one another, loving to the best of our abilities, and keeping everyone safe.