Archive | April, 2014

Possessions

4 Apr

Possessions is an absolutely fascinating piece of theatre,  and not the least reason being that the program comes complete with a bibliography listing both primary and secondary sources.

The play presents the lives of the historical Mancini sisters, who lived in seventeenth century Europe. Though extraordinarily privileged, they still faced a world that refused to acknowledge them as independent of their husbands. (It’s worth remembering, that in England for example, a married women wasn’t allowed to own property until 1882.)  The Mancini sisters tried to live life on their own terms, suffered social condemnation, and went on to publish memoirs presenting their side of the story.

Photo by Penelope Lemon

Photo by Penelope Lemon

Self righteous writers like myself love to pounce gleefully on parochial middle class work and deride it for focusing only on “first world problems”. Is this play a case of “old world problems”?

No, for several reasons.

Firstly, creator/performers Jane Bergeron and Carrie Ann Quinn create a world in which we are playfully transported back and forth between the past and the present. The seventeenth century is never too far from the twenty-first. And the two time frames are in dialogue; Bergeron and Quinn speak both as the characters and themselves. This makes for a show that’s both a lot of fun and thought provoking. Paradoxically, the overt theatricality of the piece isn’t at odds with the aim to present historical truth. It reminds us that we are active participants in our stories, as both characters and authors.

And secondly, only with willful ignorance could it be claimed that the fight for gender equality is over.

Veronica Kaye

 

Possessions by Jane Bergeron and Carrie Ann Quinn

King Street Theatre til 5th April

http://www.kingstreettheatre.com.au/posessions/

 

Natural Born Producers

3 Apr

Hey writer, who is the best person to produce your play? You.

Sure, if Andrew Upton calls, let it go to message bank, and get back to him at your convenience.

Or if some 22 year old with more enthusiasm than ability wants to stage your play in a car park in Fairfield, go for it. (It’s difficult to see you as serious writer if you won’t help mount a production of your play that could be truly awful.)

So why are you the best producer? Because you care. Because you want it to happen. Because you wrote the play to be seen.

gilchrist ship

I’m not dismissing the people with real skills and experience in the field of producing. If they want to do it, you’d be a fool to stop them. But while you are waiting for that stampede of interest…..

The relative exclusion of the writer from the process is a historical accident. Sophocles was there. Shakespeare was there. Moliere was there. The current division of labour is very bourgeois, and has gone hand in hand with an obsession with status. (Writing that is worthwhile challenges established values, so a writer seeking status is as absurd as a spy wanting recognition.)

But what about the money? I hope you make an absolute heap. And then distribute it to the people who need it. But the obsession to get paid for your work is another bourgeois cultural phenomenon. As is calling it ‘work’. We all need to eat, but if you value your voice only for the cash you can make out of it you’ve allowed it to be reduced to just another commodity. Would government funding or private sponsorship have made the Sermon on the Mount better?

‘But if it was any good wouldn’t someone pay me for it?’ That attitude is loud and clear in our society, and perfectly designed to silence dissent.

Why did you write the play in the first place? If you wrote it in the hope of gaining fame or wealth it’s probably not worth being produced. Our society has heard quite enough of that voice.

But if you wrote it in order to share a vision of life, don’t stop now.

If you wrote it to remind the miserable of happiness, or the happy of misery, don’t stop now.

Veronica Kaye

Stitching

3 Apr

I’m a sucker for deliberately ambiguous imagery. For me it encapsulates the multiple perspectives that are both the hallmark and high point of drama as an art form.

The imagery I’m referring to in this play is that suggested by the title. Stitching is an image of putting things back together, of mending them. It’s also an image of………but that would be a spoiler.

stitching prod 2

Anthony Neilson’s play is tight and sparse, funny and confronting. It tells the story of Abby (Lara Lightfoot) and Stuart (Wade Doolan) who must decide whether to keep the child she is carrying.

An unplanned pregnancy is the perfect symbol of the enormity of sexuality, the worlds it contain, beautiful and harsh, unexpected and frightening. (Not that I should really call the natural consequences of sexuality a symbol – am I that naive?)

Aided by director Mark Westbrook, Doolan and Lightfoot give beautiful performances, understated and subtle.

After the scenario I’ve briefly sketched, Stitching goes down a psychological path I couldn’t (or didn’t want to) follow. Once again, the spoiler rule prevents me from discussing this much further, but suffice to say it’s about coping mechanisms. It will certainly lead to thought provoking post show discussions.

But see it for yourself. Stitching is a well performed, engaging hour of theatre.

Veronica Kaye

 

Stitching by Anthony Neilson

TAP Gallery til 12 April

http://www.littlespoontheatre.com/

A Moment on the Lips

2 Apr

Mackenzie Steele’s production of Jonathan Gavin’s A Moment on the Lips is both funny and moving. And the performances are brilliant.

Seven women deal with each other, and Life. And, boy, do they throw a lot at each other! All eight of ‘em.

I often feel alienated by theatre set in the here and now. (And this play is. Well, almost; it’s certainly set within the last decade.) I like a bit of distance. Give me Ancient Greece or Renaissance Europe or Nineteenth Century Russia. Hell, even contemporary America will do. Anything that helps me feel the play is not meant to represent the world I live in.

Beth Aubrey and Sarah Aubrey, photo by Katy Green Loughrey

Beth Aubrey and Sarah Aubrey, photo by Katy Green Loughrey

Because I’m not at home in the world of this play. I don’t share the values of the characters nor their attitudes to each other. Gavin’s script gives equal weight to seven different female characters and so feels like an attempted snap shot of female experience. I’m hardly the person to judge if it’s an accurate one, but I’m troubled by what’s implicit in the attempt – the assumption that it’s possible.

The play feels like a condensed TV series. Everyone has their issues, everyone gets their moment and BIG things happen at regular intervals – though most of them off stage. Actual stage time is dominated by nasty arguments. Throughout my twenties and thirties, I couldn’t watch TV drama because of its flat, confrontational representation of Life.

However, I suspect, many audience members will recognize themselves or people they know in this play. Last night I sat in the back row of a full house, and I don’t do that often enough in indie theatre.

And this production deserves to be seen for the extraordinary performances. Beth Aubrey, Sarah Aubrey, Lucy Goleby, Sabryna Te’o, Ainslie McGlynn, Claudia Barrie and Sonya Kerr do wonderful work. These seven captivating actors certainly create seven intriguing characters.

But it’s the eighth character who troubles me. It’s not that it’s difficult to characterise Life. I just don’t think we should try.

Veronica Kaye

 

A Moment on the Lips by Jonathan Gavin

Old Fitzroy Theatre, til April 12

http://www.sitco.net.au/