It’s been too long since Sigrid Thornton has treated audiences to a lead series role on Free to Air television, but she revives one of her most-loved in Nine’s new take on SeaChange.
Laura Gibson will find much has changed in the two decades she was last in Pearl Bay, including the visual aesthetic of the Andrew Knight /Deb Cox original.
No longer a sandy, teatree weekender in the late 1990s, the town is now a far more alluring drawcard, thanks to nimble production techniques and a rainforest backdrop. Get ready for picturesque dawns, armchair-escape drone shots, a boost in exterior shots and a more diverse cast (Indigenous, Maori, Asian actors). Gone is that bridge (there is another), some of the locals and even, as Laura discovers, her home now lost to rising tides and coastal erosion.
Laura has been volunteering in Africa but, in her oh-so-strident ways, manages to put noses out of joint even there. Longing for her daughter Miranda (now played by Brooke Satchwell) she returns, only to discover an anarchic child fighting a corporate mining project.
As it happens, Miranda is also expecting Laura’s grandchild, but not without some complexities.
Former mayor Bob Jelly (John Howard) is being released from prison and has plans for his own underhand property development, with estranged wife Heather (Kerry Armstrong) showing no signs of conciliation. Who can blame her?
Another Pearl Bay local, Kevin Findlay (Kevin Harrington), is on hand to help bridge old and new chapters together as we meet another wave of residents
They include local brewer Ben (Dan Wyllie), who has conveniently parted company with his magistrate wife, marine biologist Findlay Knox (Darren McMullen) who is ripe for a blossoming acquaintance with Miranda, laid back local police sergeant Anna (Katrina Milosevic), her vigilant sidekick Lillian (Kate Lister) and community radio host Riley (played by Wayne Blair). Other roles go to Ella Newton, Alex Tarrant, Georgina Naidu, Salvatore Coco & Kamil Ellis.
Amid the inviting backdrop, romantic plots and enviro-themes, SeaChange remembers to bring the kookiness for which it is famous… knitting in the cop shop, get rich quick schemes, overt displays of emotion. Nine adds commercial breaks and even adult-contemporary choons.
The cast shift confidently between drama and comedy tales, in the hands of director Wayne Blair. Sometimes the script by Deb Cox is a tad pushy in embedding its sizeable ensemble, including justifying Laura’s need to stay in town before the credits roll.
The core mother-daughter relationship is familiar melodrama terrain, but SeaChange‘s string of impressive females (Thornton, Armstrong, Satchwell, Milosevic) is very nearly reason enough to tune in. And the lure of a seaside drama, as seen recently on 800 Words, again has broad appeal.
If a new audience sinks its toes easily into the sand, those with long memories may be harder to win over. But with Thornton at the helm, they may very well succeed.
SeaChange airs 8:40pm Tuesday on Nine.