A Campfire Story Review


Rocco Forrester-Sach in A Campfire Story, 2022. Photo: Disapol Savetsila ©

Surrounded by the sounds of crickets and the beams of moonlight you watch as the story of a widowed mother unfurls; revealing a broken family torn by cancer and a destructive father.

Directed by Rowan Bate, A Campfire Story is an immersive and site-specific show that physically invites you into the world of the story. As you arrive at Manly Dam, a national park located in North Sydney, you are handed a bag of marshmallows and then instructed to drive forward. After you arrive at the car park, you walk down to the audience seating – a collection of camp chairs illuminated only by the light of a campfire, two larger stage lights, and lanterns.

Oh, and you’re also invited to roast marshmallows in the intermission.

Whilst a crazy and perhaps even outlandish idea, this setting works perfectly and the welcoming atmosphere fantastically contrasts with the much more eerie, cold, and sinister show. The play starts with the narrator – The Teller (Rocco Forrester-Sach) waking up on stage and quickly beginning the story, describing each moment intricately.

Following the recent death of his not-so-wonderful father; Sam, the youngest son, makes his way to the funeral. When he arrives his older brother Benji waits outside. The Teller then begins to play Sam, seamlessly switching between the two roles throughout.

A Campfire Story, 2022. Photo: Disapol Savetsila ©

You’re quick to see the contempt the two brothers have for each other, from awkward interactions to spiteful and aggressive actions. But it’s not just them who have issues, the entire play centres around the dysfunctional family: Jane, the mother; Claire, Benji’s wife; and the two sons. Each character was dripping with disappointment and longing for a better, happier family.

During all of this, Sam is tormented with guilt and fear from a story his brother told him when he was younger. A story where their father made a deal with a monster in the woods and took Sam’s cancer away by giving it to himself. Throughout the show, Sam is spoken to by the monster who appears through the other characters – allowing for spine-chillingly odd moments where actors come from behind the audience and talk in unison or freeze on stage and stare blankly ahead.

With creepy but brilliant directing, creative writing, and gut-wrenchingly powerful performances, the entire show is constantly engaging, bringing laughs and tears to the audience. It highlights the impact illness and bad parents can have on a family but perhaps reminds you that there is hope for broken relationships and that even the most wounded people can find solace in one another and mend what is left.

4 Stars 

Astra, 16 (She/Her) 

Arbour Theatre Company’s A Campfire Story played at Manly Dam from the 22nd April to the 14th May 2022.