All His Beloved Children Review

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Unexpected, unnerving, and audacious. Australian Theatre’s answer to Ari Aster.

Kavina Shah and Sam Hayes in All His Beloved Children, 2023. Photo by Philip Erbacher ©

As soon as the house door opens you are met with a gust of haze swirling into the foyer of the brand-new KXT on Broadway theatre. Freida Lee’s All His Beloved Children (directed by Amelia Burke) is the third show to occupy the space. It transports you into an unclear, unsettling period from the moment you hear the jolting percussive music and lay your eyes on a corpse covered in cloth, lying still on a dining table. You are completely oblivious to the wild ride that is to come.

The set (Adrienne Andrews) gives barely any indication of time or place, with only neutral beige and cream tones. This is complemented by the warm incandescent lights (Frankie Clarke) that draw focus to the heart of the cold corpse.

Kavina Shah in All His Beloved Children, 2023. Photo by Philip Erbacher ©

The show blends similar stories and figures from varying religions across the globe highlighting their correlation and ultimately aiming to preach peace and the importance of religious pluralism in today’s divided age. However, it does this whilst simultaneously critiquing the archetypes involved in the stories of creation. The play begins with anger-filled Habil (Sam Hayes) who exudes hypocrisy as he flaunts his faith whilst his actions towards his wife Isis (Melissa Gan) – who symbolises ultimate female domesticity – clearly do not align with his ‘beliefs’. These two along with their child Achimi (Lukas Radovich) prepare Yamuna (Kavina Shah), Achimi’s aunt, for burial. Yamuna’s husband, Cain (Tel Benjamin) joins the family to mourn his wife’s death and come to terms with what killed her.

The play took its time to reveal itself. I found in the first half some of the clever, comedic wordplay got lost and parts lacked clearly intended intensity. However, when it reached its destination it did so with pace and gusto. Benjamin’s stand-out performance hooked the audience from the moment he entered the space, and shone particularly bright during a magnificently written monologue that dripped with uncomfortable subtext, whilst saying grace at the dining table.

Melissa Gan, Tel Benjamin, and Lukas Radovich in All His Beloved Children, 2023. Photo by Philip Erbacher ©

The show soars when moving away from its realist moments. If this show has one thing, it is audacity. When Cain strongly declares “I think I know what’s next” I could not agree less, as I could never tell what was around the corner with this bold, daring writing. The audience squirms and gasps almost became part of the sound design (Daniel Herten) itself which was similarly courageous and became a real highlight of the production. Whilst this was certainly a weird one, I can tell that it is going to be a show that sticks with me for a long time.

 ★★★ ½

Adelaide, 17 [she/her]

All His Beloved Children plays at KXT on Broadway until the 20th May. Buy tickets here.