I’m going to share a recipe with you. It’s a family recipe. Add together the people we are born to. Sprinkle in, a dose of the people we meet through the journey of life that become part of our family and the friends that become extended family.
Stir that together along with the heads of the family. Our matriarch and patriarch. Throw in a few kids and whisk it all together.
Bake through six seasons of life, involving every possible scenario that you may find. Addiction, domestic violence, dementia, unwanted pregnancy, accidental death, loss of jobs, infidelity and more.
At the end of the recipe, you have the Rafters.
Picture the scene. Our family matriarch Julie Rafter is stretched out in a bubble bath, celebrating 25 years of marriage to her husband and soulmate Dave. The last of the three kids have flown the coop and Dave and Julie are celebrating …. well, quiet time. It’s their time. It’s time to leave doors open and do what they want when they want. Or so they thought…
From 2008-2013, Packed to the Rafters, or PTTR as it is affectionately nicknamed, graced our screens. It gifted us the sublime chemistry of Rebecca Gibney and Erik Thomson, a couple sharing the lead as the Rafter parents. We were gifted young actors in the roles of the Rafter children, all of whom shared blissful chemistry, not only with each other but with their on-screen parents too. To top off the cast, 78-year-old Michael Caton, a veteran of stage and screen, took up the mantle as Ted Taylor, Dad, and grandad.
When you watch a TV show about a family, there is a tendency to sugar coat it and be politically correct to appeal to the masses. Rafters does not do this. There is no sugar coating this family. What sells this show is that the Rafters are exactly what they say on the tin. They’re family. This family goes through amazing times. This family go through raw, emotional, and unbelievably distressing times. But they’re family and they go through it together.
While Dave and Julie are the stabilisers on the Rafter bike, the children are all complex in their own way. Jessica Marais takes on the part of Rachel, the eldest Rafter child and does so with an amazing vulnerability. Rachel is a talented designer who found herself on the end of domestic abuse from her partner. She realised she had an addiction to alcohol when she saw how much family were hurting from things she had said or done.
Hugh Sheridan steps ably into the role of Ben Rafter. The middle child who is affectionally called “the baby of the family” in the show by his mum Julie. Ben works in the boat club and is the last to leave home, moving in next door with his best mate. He visits his parents as any good child would, but usually for milk, cheese, or something else that he’s run out of!! During PTTR, Ben suffers from spousal loss. Living this myself, I know firsthand the emotions that are tied up in the situation. Hugh played these scenes with an incredible understanding of the situation. He played ‘grief’ so well that I could recognise elements in it.
Nathan is perhaps the most complex of them all. Angus McLaren steps up to play him. He plays Nathan as very sure of himself. Someone who knows what he’s doing and someone who will do anything to impress. A real estate agent desperately trying to prove himself. Driving an expensive car and living in a home he could barely afford with a mountain of debt, Nathan is made to realise that the values he holds, may not be the right ones. His mother Julie, so ably played by Rebecca Gibney, brings this home to Nathan when she says “Why are you embarrassed of this family Nathan? Were good people.” Rebecca plays this scene with incredible emotion. It’s that emotion that makes Nathan start to rethink his values.
Packed to the Rafters is family. Packed to the Rafters has elements of everyone’s family which is what makes it so relatable. I watched from day one and fell in love with it, within a few minutes. Dave and Julies relationship was a complete reflection of mine and my late husbands. We were heading towards our 25th wedding and had that soulmate connection.
Packed to the Rafters is true to life, funny, tragic, risk taking and so much more. That’s not only a testament to the writing but it is also a testament to the incredible cast.
See you in Back to the Rafters.