29
Jun
13

Maureen O’Hara Spends a Quiet Night at Home

Maureen O’Hara Spends a Quiet Night at Home

Judith Wright Centre 

Wed 19th – Sat 29th of June

 

Reviewed by Guy Frawley

 

At the very core of theatre I believe it must do one of three things: To make us think, to make us feel and/or to entertain us.

 

 

MaureenO'Hara2_AdamFinchPhotography-1I’m not at all suggesting it must do all three at once or that they are mutually exclusive concepts. But I believe that all good theatre will do at least one of the above. To my great disappointment Maureen O’Hara Spends a Quiet Night at Home wasn’t able to tick any of those boxes for me.

 

That’s not to say that when thinking back on the 50-minute performance there aren’t individual components that I enjoyed. Whilst I found the jerky and stuttering transitions from song to song (and from genre to genre) distracting, the music used throughout was generally very well chosen. Director, Creator and Performer Belinda Locke also created a lovely set, the soft golden light shining from the waters of the bath were an especially nice touch.

 

After interviewing Locke in the lead up to the opening, I was really looking forward to seeing her show. My curiosity had been further piqued by the fact that I wasn’t really sure what style performance I was going to witness, the advertising material and synopsis hinted at cabaret or burlesque, perhaps even a Noel Coward-esque-dry-martini-in-hand-wry-confessional, but no certainties were provided. However within minutes of the performance beginning I was asking myself where was the show I had read about:

 

Returning home from a glamorous social event, Maureen puts on a records and pours another drink.’ – This part was pretty much straight up like it sounds.

 

As she takes her evening bath, Maureen reveals the vulnerabilities of public life and shares the intimacy of her private moments, seductive nature and deepest anxieties.’ – This is where the crux of my entire critique is born from; I didn’t ever feel as if anything was ever revealed, let alone hidden vulnerabilities and intimate private moments. Any seductive nature…or emotional core of any kind seemed trapped behind the same cold, monochromatic screen as the film clips of Maureen O’Hara that played intermittently throughout the show.

 

It’s clear that this entire production has been born of Locke’s sheer force of will, commitment and passion for her concept. But by taking on so much creative control I wonder to what extent she denied herself external perspective, and how this could have been a far more coherent and enjoyable performance if given a more thorough polish and a workshop phase with a sharper scalpel. In freeze frames, moments of Locke’s performance would have formed interesting tableaux vivants, and I suppose that it is fitting for a performance inspired by a photograph to have so many scenes that would have actually make a pretty great photo shoot. Yet as a performance piece the scenes seemed inarticulate and clumsy, without any tangible flow and often, without purpose.

 

According to the program, this performance is a part of Locke’s PhD in theatre, which leads me to the question of exactly what is the ‘purpose’ and audience for this piece? Academic exploration and empirical learning are as important in theatre as they are in any other discipline, but you need to know your audience and Maureen O’Hara Spends a Quiet Night at Home often seemed to be a performance that was more for Locke than for the audience in front of her.  ‘Theatre as product’ vs. ‘Theatre as academic endeavour’ is what I’m left wondering about, and how often it is possible to faithfully align the two (is there even any pressing need to?). But if presenting one as the other then surely an uncertain audience response should be expected.

 

This piece has left me with a strong opinion as to how and why I felt it failed, but it’s also left questioning my beliefs on what I believe good theatre is, and lead me to engage in discussion and debate on this topic with several others. Which is exactly where I believe academia in theatre can provide us with an important opportunity to discuss, review and challenge the craft.

 

The current incarnation of Maureen O’Hara Spends a Quiet Night at Home has been devised from a previous 20-minute version and I will be making sure to keep Locke on my radar as I’m interested in finding out what will happen to her concept after finalising tonight, her two week run at The Judy.

 

If you’ve seen it then I’d love to hear your take. Do you agree? Or are you wondering if we even saw the same show? Let me know in the comments section below.

 

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