Captivated by Tim Minchin’s portrayal of Judas Iscariot in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar I found myself hunting for more of his work to distract me from the gloom of lockdown. In my search, I stumbled across the masterpiece that is Upright, and it certainly did not disappoint.
Originally aired in late 2019, and available on Now TV and Sky Atlantic, Upright follows the unlikely duo of misfits, Lucky and Meg, traverse the Australian outback in a battered ute on their journey to deliver a precious piano (which comes to be a character in its own right across the series) to Lucky’s estranged family and dying mother in Perth. Starring Minchin as Lucky, alongside rising star Milly Alcock as the fiery Meg, and featuring original and enchanting music also composed by Minchin, this eight-part comedy-drama series is both heart-warming and devastating and will have you yearning for more.
Upright keeps you on your toes, lulling you into a false sense of security before delivering a heart-breaking blow as you learn more about our characters’ troubled pasts
One of the most enchanting aspects of Upright is the writing. The writers, Minchin among them, have a tendency to have the audience in fits of laughter and then sobbing within a matter of seconds. Upright keeps you on your toes, lulling you into a false sense of security before delivering a heart-breaking blow as you learn more about our characters’ troubled pasts. The writing is especially impressive in the final episode, the tension palpable as Lucky reunites with his family and the audience finally understands the true fragility of the family dynamic.
Our protagonists are also beautifully written. Both are incredibly flawed, but that is what makes them so endearing and relatable. Lucky is often quite selfish, and somewhat cowardly, consumed with the anxiety of confronting past mistakes. Meg is spirited, fiercely independent, stubborn, and oftentimes downright abrasive as she flees from a troubled and harrowing home life. The audience is gradually fed more clues about their past, just enough to keep you entranced, but are ultimately rewarded with equally satisfying, heart-warming, and tragic redemptions and revelations. You can’t help but root for the twosome and feel for them as they overcome one obstacle, only to run head long into another.
Minchin expertly demonstrates a flair for the dramatic and devastating, while maintaining his much-loved comedic streak, and is irreplaceable as Lucky
It takes highly skilled actors to embody such complex characters, but Minchin and Alcock are flawless, bringing Lucky and Meg to life perfectly, with charm and depth. Minchin’s performance had me speechless. What I found most striking was his portrayal of Lucky’s anxiety and panic attacks induced by his return to Perth. Frustration at outsiders’ dismissive attitude towards mental health hit close to home and made Lucky’s tale all the more heart wrenching. Minchin expertly demonstrates a flair for the dramatic and devastating, while maintaining his much-loved comedic streak, and is irreplaceable as Lucky. Opposite Minchin, Alcock holds her own and perfectly embodies Meg. Cheeky with a hint of crushing maturity expected of a teenager forced to grow up too quickly, Alcock excels and invigorates each and every scene.
With such wonderful writing and acting Upright is undeniably a five-star show, but it has so much more to offer. Among other highlights of the show are the incredible Australian landscapes, including a spectacular pink lake. With scenery that could almost alleviate our cabin fever, the aesthetics of Upright elevate the show to another level.
Elegantly balancing comedy and sorrow on a knife’s edge, Upright will have keep you guessing, laughing, and sobbing until the end
Music is another staple of the show, which is perhaps unsurprising considering our characters’ invaluable cargo. Performances are tastefully dotted throughout the series as Lucky sings at a biker-infested pub, and at a campground party on the Great Australian Bight. Bizarre circumstances, however, bring about the heartfelt performance of Minchin’s original piece ‘Carry You’, the most poignant in the series.
Praised by the Sydney Morning Herald as ‘the best thing Minchin has ever done’, Upright is a must-see. Elegantly balancing comedy and sorrow on a knife’s edge, Upright will keep you guessing, laughing, and sobbing until the end. With beautiful writing, acting, and music, it would be a mistake to sleep on this show. So, do yourselves a favour and watch Upright, I promise that you won’t regret it.