This is Baby Doll, and Jesus

11 Oct

I was going to write about Factotum Theatre’s Jesus, but only caught the final performance of the run, and was then packed in a suitcase (like a sock puppet) and was whisked off to the Melbourne Fringe.

Charles Mee’s script is sourced from court reports and other records of human misery. It’s a catalogue of  troubled human behavior, from the unusual to the downright horrible.

At one moment, when a character confesses to incest with his daughter, the woman next to me in the audience said, quite loudly, “Gosh.”

I felt a more appropriate response would’ve been “Jesus Fucking Christ!”

Which is one obvious explanation for the title of the play.

Director Liz Arday employs a beautiful simplicity in her staging. In TAP Gallery’s white box theatre, she allows her tremendous cast to tell with an uncluttered honesty their confronting tales. Her directorial decisions, and the actors understated performances, honour the text, and honour the people it presents. It’s deeply moving theatre.

The play asks “Are we our actions?”

It speaks of forgiveness – not to excuse wrong doing, but to see a way forward. And the end of the play is extraordinarily uplifting.

There is, I know, a duality here.

We must be responsible for our actions. We cannot be reduced to them.

And both of these ideas must be held simultaneously, and seriously.

This is the sort of thing theatre can do so well – present multiple viewpoints, in conflict and in coexistence. And Arday and her team have made this miracle happen.

The second reason I suspect this play is entitled Jesus – despite not being what most of us label ‘religious’ – is that the pre-institutionalized carpenter of Nazareth is a spokesperson for forgiveness, for the miracle I have referred to.

I saw the last show of this short run. There’s talk of a remount.

I was deeply affected by Jesus the first time.

I await the Second Coming.

Currently, Factotum Theatre is presenting This is Baby Doll in TAP’s black box theatre.

It’s a script created by Arday from the Tennessee Williams’ play 27 Wagons of Cotton and Elia Kazan’s movie Baby Doll. The marketing claims Arday has “stolen” it, which is indicative of an audacity that shines through this entire production.

Once again, simplicity rules, and rightfully. On a stage lit by a single (though sometimes swinging) globe, a world of passion and deceit is powerfully evoked.

Arday elicits strong performances from her cast, especially Emily Sheehan as Baby Doll. Sheehan’s Baby is a superb portrayal of naïvety.

Baby has been kept a child. She’s a mere pawn in the conflict between the men.

Does this mean the piece is dated?

You meet people who think the gender revolution is over, or very nearly over.

It is not.

It never will be. No revolution is. Every generation makes the world. The task will never be complete.

And that is both a terrible and wonderous thing.

Veronica Kaye

This is Baby Doll

TAP Gallery until Oct 13

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