The Wasp

9 Dec

I don’t warm to the idea of granting stars to productions. (You know the stars I mean: “This Sydney Festival production of Hamlet by Swahili speaking puppets – Five Stars!!!”) As a writer about theatre I want what I’ve written to be read, and I know if my response to a production is abbreviated to a rating out of five then there goes my audience. (Unless, of course, I give a One Star rating, in which case a whole bunch of goblins pretending to be people will devour every word I’ve written with cold-hearted glee.)

But I don’t like star ratings for other reasons. They imply that productions are being compared and ranked according to some known and accepted criteria.  And they’re always so parsimonious:  Five Stars is hardly generous considering how many stars there actually are in the universe. And, finally (you’re thinking), ratings seem rather counter-intuitive: everything I enjoy eating from Woolies has a pitifully low rating compared to those life denying products that get full marks.

But, having said all that, some productions seem to beg a rating – because anything else I write about them gets dreadfully close to spoiler territory, and that wouldn’t be kind.

The Wasp by Morgan Lloyd Malcom is one of these productions. To discuss the themes of this production (which is what I like to do with every production, and why I attend theatre) is fraught with danger. As a play, The Wasp values twists and turns of plot. And what it values, it does extremely well. It’s an intense ride.

This particular production, presented by Akimbo & Co and directed by Becks Blake, is tight and brilliantly performed.  It’s a two hander (though even that feels like a spoiler.) Heather and Carla meet up years after school. They were very different people then, and things haven’t changed. Helen is awfully middle class and Cara Whitehouse’s portrayal is marvelous, and deeply discomforting. Carla is lower working class (or am I using a middle class euphemism for criminal class?) Jessica Bell as Carla is fantastic, capturing the casual brutality of a woman who’s done it hard. Lloyd Malcom’s script gives the characters a wonderful arc, and these two actors make it work superbly. The initial humour (and there’s a lot of it) is extraordinarily good, and when things get more…well less humorous, we find ourselves in very close company with the fractured and frightened.

Yes, I know, what a vague review. If I was to hazard a spoiler-free observation about the meaning of the play I would suggest it’s about the relationship between kindness and cruelty. We tend to think of these qualities as sort of binary opposites, that is defined by their opposition to each other (like “positive” and “negative” or “on” and “off”). But the play reminds us that the relationship between the two qualities is complex. I don’t mean the cliché that you have to be cruel to be kind. I mean that one of those two qualities can be so overwhelming that even when the other appears, or seems to do so, it’s reduced to a façade, a brittle shell that barely conceals its nemesis.  (And, usually, only one person is deceived….)

So, that star rating I was talking about? The one I was going to give because I’m kind?

Even theatre reviews can have twists.

Paul Gilchrist

The Wasp by Morgan Lloyd Malcom

KXT until 17 December

Image by Clare Hawley

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: