Tag Archives: Melita Rowston

Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them

10 Jun

Firstly, Why Torture is Wrong, and The People who Love Them is  ‘good’ theatre.

Now a digression:

A while back, standing in a crowded foyer, a friend of a friend shocked me by saying “Bad theatre is like being tortured”.

My heart went out to her.

I felt awful. I had thought she was just another complacent, comfortable, middle-class theatre goer.

But no. Perhaps, I thought, she’s a recovering victim of some deranged sociopath. Or, possibly, she’s an escaped dissident from a brutally repressive regime.

Or most likely, like myself, she was just another complacent comfortable middle class theatre goer who enjoyed indulging in absurdly hyperbolic language simply because her life of unparalleled privilege supplied her with everything she needed – except the occasional jolt of excitement to remind her she was alive.

This might be wild speculation, but I suspect sitting through an hour or so of less-than-engaging theatre bears very little resemblance to having electrodes attached to your genitals.

But if you choose to dumbly divide the entirety of existence into the simple categories of the good and the bad, with everything either on one side or the other of that enormous world-dominating watershed, then I guess torture and ‘bad’ theatre might sit on the same side, the very same side as suffering a terminal illness and having dandruff.

Digression over.

Photographs © Bob Seary

Photographs © Bob Seary

Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them is a very funny and fabulously performed satire.

Director Melita Rowston does a fantastic job with Christopher Durang’s script. The performances are joyfully hyperbolic.

Terry Karabelas and Peter Astridge present perfectly pitched in-your-face alpha males.

The female characters are fascinating responses to the male absurdity. Ainslie McGlynn gives us a wonderfully flighty small ‘l’ liberal. Romy Bartz gives us Hildegarde, painfully and hilariously in love with a right wing lunatic. (What’s Sylvia Plath’s line about every woman adoring a fascist?*) And Luella is my comic favourite, played brilliantly by Alice Livingstone. Luella retreats from her domineering husband, and reality in general, through an obsession with theatre. (Yes, lets worry about theatre. There’s nothing else important going on in the world. Like torture.)

And while having terrific fun with these over-the-top characters, the final scene is thought-provoking, and an acknowledgement that satire is not the solution to the great world-dominating watershed between left and right.

It’s a brave move, laying down your greatest weapon, but it’s probably the way forward.

Veronica Kaye

* The line is “Every woman adores a Fascist”.


Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them By Christopher Durang

at New Theatre til 28 June




14 Feb

Creation is God playing Hide and Seek with herself.

She knows herself.

And now she doesn’t.

She becomes the role.

Then remembers she’s the actor.

Milk Milk Lemonade is that sort of exuberant game. Director Melita Rowston’s production of Josh Conkel’s play is superb.

‘Do you mind if I take off my shoes? I can’t dance in them,’ says Emory, played brilliantly by Mark Dessaix. It’s a poignant moment, a moving symbol of liberation. Yet it’s said by a young boy play acting he’s an older girl at her high school prom.

Hide and Seek.

Towering over this production is a giant chicken, designer Antoinette Barbouttis’ ingenious way of presenting the processing plant that dominates the poultry farm where the play is set. Chain smoking Nanna, played by Pete Nettell with a wonderfully larger than life small mindedness, tells Emory that it’s the chicken’s role to be eaten.

And there’s that enormous chicken – an ominous warning. Whatever roles we choose to play, we can’t let others decide them for us.

And Linda the Chicken, played by Sarah Easterman, fights the role Nanna gives her, delivering a beautiful hard-boiled-in-ya-face stand up routine, one of the many crazy elements in this joyous play.

Keiran Foster as Elliot, Emory’s love interest, gives an energetic jack in the box performance. Elliot is painfully trying to push his burgeoning sexuality back into a more conventional box, only to have it explode out again.

We’re not all of one piece, and to underline the point, Conkel gives Elliot an evil parasitic twin, played to kooky perfection by Leah Donovan. “Punch the faggot” the twin says to Elliot.

At another moment Donovan is Starlene, Emory’s doll, forbidden to the boy by narrow minded Nanna.  And it’s Donovan’s performance, as Starlene, of I’ve been to Paradise (but I’ve never been to me) that sums up the play.

It’s a performance that’s deliciously subversive. It asks ‘What – exactly – is a genuine life’?

We play roles. We forget we play roles. We remember. That is the glorious game of life.

And everyone should be allowed to join in.

Veronica Kaye


New Theatre til 2 March