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  • Writer's pictureFiona Prior

Tell Me I’m Here

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

Tell Me I’m Here

Director: Leticia Cáceres

Playwright: Veronica Nadine Gleeson

Based on the 1991 memoir by Anne Deveson Tell Me I’m Here

The knowledge that something is wrong with your child, that there is something that will make their lives so much more difficult than most, is a tragic moment of realisation for a parent.

Of course, there is no turning back from that knowledge, and you manage as best you can.

In the case of ABC journalist Anne Deveson and her schizophrenic son Jonathon, it was a rollercoaster journey of love, pain, anguish and exhaustion … all those things that you experience with any child, but magnified to the nth degree.

'Tell Me I’m Here' is based on Anne Deveson’s unbelievably honest memoir (1991) and captures that love/guilt dichotomy of anyone who loves someone who is both abusive and damaging, and childlike and vulnerable. It also captures the devastation that is experienced by the children that come after, born into an environment of constant screaming, violence, grappling parents, fear ̶ the whole shebang that accompanies a person who has moments of violent psychosis.

At one point Anne (the pitch perfect Nadine Garner) rocks her son and cries for the lost potential of all their lives. Daughter (played by Jana Zvedeniuk) sums it up when she says ‘I don’t hate Jonathon. I hate ‘it’.

From teenage years Jonathon becomes progressively psychotic, drug addicted, homeless ... but continually pops back into the family’s life ̶ to either reassure Anne or to scream at her and break things, usually both. It is a masterful portrayal of the condition.

I could easily rave on and on about this production because I was so impressed. And please don’t think it is a trial to watch. Yes, it is shattering but it is also compelling. You will be on the edge of your seat and tingling at what feels like a real experience playing out before you in a completely believable and theatrically beautiful way. From Jonathon’s jarring but gifted graffiti, to the house of books into which he was born, to Anne and Jonathon’s hyper-intelligent, sensitive and impossibly dilemma-ed portrayals ‘Tell Me I’m Here’ is both joy and nightmare

On at Belvoir St Theatre until 25 September

Anne Deveson’s brilliant memoir ‘Tell Me I’m Here’ can be found at Booktopia, Amazon, World of Books (WOB) and other outlets

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