Archive Page 2

18
Jul
17

Wogs In Love

Wogs In Love

4Stage Productions

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

July 6 – 14 2017

 

Reviewed by Claire Harding

 

Wogs_in_Love

 

Two star-crossed lovers from different backgrounds are destined to be together, but there’s problem… Anna’s father Niko.

 

Wogs in Love premiered at the Judith Wright Centre in Brisbane this month, the first offering by Brisbane playwright Greg Andreas. Originally written in 1986, it was lost and then rewritten for today’s audiences, which explains why it feels somewhat dated, although the topics of racism and assimilation into multicultural Australia are still relevant. It is the third offering by newly established Brisbane Theatre Company, 4 Stage Productions, and it’s an ambitious piece, which could have benefitted from further work to help refine and carve out the golden moments, as the actors seem to struggle to find the motivation for their characters. Given the general high standard of Brisbane theatre at the moment, this leaves the piece feeling less than the polished and professional product expected.

The story is centred around a Greek family who are struggling to come to terms with the loss of their culture in a modern Australian setting. The younger members feel constrained by their patriarchies expectations; that Greek is better and that they are expected to associate with, and in Anna’s case marry someone from their own culture before moving back to the idealised mother land. Anna (Melanie Bolovan) has other ideas and is in love with a ‘Skippy’ David (William Toft). Both performers bring their youthful energy to the piece. Anna’s father Nico (Colin Smith), despite his best efforts, is unable to change and allow his children to have control of their own destiny. His love for his homeland and his frustration at losing his traditions and control of his family, builds to a climactic racist rant against all other cultures.

There are humorous moments with Costa, Anna’s simpleton brother (Carl Figueiredo) and her mother (Katrina Devery), who had good comic timing and some funny asides to her family. David’s Australian parents (Andrea O’Halloran and Tony Nixon), were just as simplistic and racist towards anyone outside of their own ‘bogan’ culture, which added to both the comedy and tragedy of the piece.

Most of the laughs were for the silent Greek grandmother (Johansee Theron); a permanent fixture on the couch whose slight movements and observations throughout the piece made for some funny moments. However, the anticipation to hear her speak was dashed, as her musings were not as profound or impactful as expected, leaving the audience disappointed at a lacklustre conclusion.    

The costumes, setting and split staging invited the audience into the period and the character’s homes, but failed to capture the vibrancy of the time, and was confused by the addition of the 1950’s fridge. With further work, this production would improve, but in its current state, it’s an ambitious choice for a fledgling company who have had so much success until this point. Let’s see what they offer next. 

18
Jul
17

ONE DAY MORE to support Sunshine Coast and Brisbane artists dance (nearly) naked in Japan

 

In case you have been hiding under a rock, or unaware of our campaign, or ignoring all cries for help across our social media platforms, let me fill you in:

IN JUST 10 DAYS WE ARE DANCING (NEARLY) NAKED IN JAPAN

 

I’M EXCITED AND A LITTLE BIT SCARED

 

 

We are 10 students from the Master of Professional Practice in Performing Arts (MPP), an innovative postgraduate course offered for the first time in 2017 by the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC), created by Zen Zen Zo’s Dr Lynne Bradley.

We have received an exclusive invitation to join Japan’s highly acclaimed butoh dance company, Dairakudakan, for 10 days in July-August during an intensive summer camp in Hakuba, Japan. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Australian artists to train and perform with butoh Master, Akaji Maro and an ensemble of 40 dancers.

We’d LOVE you to help if you can, to cover the cost of our travel and training.

We need your support to train and perform with Japan’s best butoh artists.

 

 

Renowned for their visually exotic, highly physical and confronting work about contemporary issues in an apocalyptic world, Dairakudakan dancers and Master butoh performer and director, Akaji Maro, will work with us over 9 days of intensive performance training before we join company members on stage in a culminating performance, choreographed and directed by Maro.

 

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity gives us access to contemporary Japanese training and performing that has evolved from a highly respected ancient art form, rarely seen or taught in Australia.

 

 

Your contribution will go towards the ensemble’s travel and training costs, helping to give 10 talented performing artists access to a unique international training and performance opportunity, and the chance to establish and nurture valuable relationships between Australian and Japanese performing artists so that future collaborative work can be considered.

 

Upon returning from this trip, at our own cost, members of the MPP Dairakudakan ensemble will continue training with Australia’s leading physical theatre company, Zen Zen Zo, and work collaboratively to create opportunities to share our knowledge and experience of butoh, Japan’s exquisite performance art, with Australian artists and audiences.

 

WE HAVE ONE DAY MORE OF OUR AUSTRALIAN CULTURAL FUND CAMPAIGN

 

18
Jul
17

Giveaway – win double passes to My Name Is Jimi

On Saturday night (July 22 at 7:30pm) be among the FIRST to witness Australia’s newest original story

My Name Is Jimi

 

  Sewngapa                  Ina Ngoelmun Gidha

(*Welcome)              (*This is our story)

 

 

 

 

Directed by Jason Klarwein and featuring Dmitri Ahwang-Bani, Agnes Bani, Conwell Bani, Jimi Bani, Petharie Bani and Richard BaniMy Name is Jimi opened in Cairns this week, celebrating its page-to-stage finale and World Premiere close to its heartland.

 

Based on the true stories of four generations by Dimple Bani, Jimi Bani, and co-created with Jason Klarwein.

 

 

 

For your chance to see My Name Is Jimi on Saturday July 22 at 7:30pm

 

LIKE XS Entertainment on Facebook

 

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If you tweet, go ahead and follow us on Twitter too…

 

and tell us below or on XS Entertainment’s Facebook page why you’d like to be among the first to hear this original story.

 

In My Name is Jimi, charismatic actor and storyteller Jimi Bani (Mabo, The Straits, Redfern Now) finally tells his story, and that of his family and his place of home – Mabuiag Island, a remote speck in the sparkling blue of the Torres Strait and the keeper of thousands of years of rich history and culture. Now, with just a few hundred people fanning its flame, the story, colour, characters, challenges and history of the Wagadagam culture come to the stage in what is a truly memorable live theatre experience.

It unfolds through music, dance, stand-up and fireside storytelling, with four remarkable generations of one family on the stage – Jimi’s grandmother, mother, son and brothers come together to share incredible yarns of totems, traditions and childhood memories. On stage it is a true celebration – Jimi performs alongside his son Dmitri, mother Agnes, and grandmother Petharie with his brothers Conwell and Richard Bani.

Drawing directly on the lived experiences of the Bani family and their role as leaders of the Wagadagam tribe of Mabuiag Island, the stories span the generations – Jimi jokes in three languages with his grandmother, and then tortures his son with spontaneous break-dancing.  It’s an Australian story, and a world story of family and preserving the culture and language of Mabuiag Island in the Torres Strait.

 

 

Co-creator Jason Klarwein sets the scene best: “The story actually began with Ahdi Dimple Bani, Jimi’s father the 8th Chief of Wagadagam in European recorded history. He passed away during the creating of this play, with Jimi now the bastion of the story, the new keeper of the chord of Wagadagam culture and soon, the 9th Chief.”

“I cannot really recall a play like My Name is Jimi. Sure there are works it can be related to, but what audiences will see, experience, feel and celebrate on stage is only a sliver of what is happening culturally within this extraordinary family. It is truly a unique theatrical experience.”

He said the ability for this family to bridge generational and cultural timelines was constantly surprising.

“Sometimes, when rehearsal pauses, out of the corner of my eye I see 15 year old Dmitri Ahwang-Bani (Jimi’s son) put his iPhone down and learn dance or language from his uncles, his grandmother or great-grandmother. I watch the tangible passing of language and culture from several generations to another. I watch this boy, who will soon be a man, grapple with Instagram and cultural lore simultaneously. Like the two things were made to be together.”

 

 

My Name is Jimi is dedicated to the memory of Adhi Dimple Bani and those that came before.

*Koeyma Esso (many thanks).

 

*This is the Kala Lagaw Ya language of Mabuiag Island

 

 

13
Jul
17

Pocketful of Pebbles

Pocketful of Pebbles

The Arts Centre, Gold Coast & White Rabbit Theatre Ensemble

The Arts Centre, Gold Coast

July 6 – 7 2017

 

Reviewed by Claire Harding

 

 

 

Aspiring, as all good fairy tales should, to teach children a moral, Pocketful of Pebbles delivered an important message to its family holiday audience at The Arts Centre, Gold Coast…

 

Stories can only exist when they are shared.

 

A funny and entertaining show with a darker edge, the collaborators on this unique project drew inspiration from traditional folk and fairy tale traditions that didn’t shy away from reminding younger audiences that life is not always sunny. Co-written by White Rabbit Theatre’s Lisa Smith (Playwright, Director, Producer and last minute Actor), Victoria Carless (Playwright The Grand, 2015 and Novelist The Dream Walker, 2017) and Tammy Weller (Playwright and Actor), show us that before Disney, not all good stories ended in happily ever after.

 

 

 

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. This tension is juxtaposed with a whimsical delivery of stock characters and Puppets, such as the main character Mr Phoenix; a giant Phoenix bird designed by Graeme Haddon (Director of Puppetry for The Wiggles and Jim Henson’s Farscape). He is a humorous bird whom, with his companions, delivers some great commentary and witty one liners, which keep the adults just as entertained as the kids.

 

 

Performers, including Puppeteer Master Anna Straker, with Zachary Boulton and Louise Brehmer, had three short weeks to prepare and master their puppeteering techniques. Each actor plays many different characters, giving this simple production a much grander feel. The script doesn’t shy away from villainous characters or scary situations, but skilfully uses humour to ensure that the play remains light-hearted and fun, including the inclusion of sock puppet twins, Detectives Burp and Fart. The use of audience interaction, stylised movement and sound effects, give the piece a cartoonish feel, without slipping over into the pantomime realm.

 

 

Three traditional stories are skilfully woven together through the narration of Mr Phoenix, who is a magical storytelling bird played by the gracious Brehmer. Mr Phoenix’s comedic commentary is reminiscent of the Grumpy Old Men on The Muppet Show. A bird who is destined to be born again but just wants to die, his morose complaining, used to add humour, drive the story and break the fourth wall, reminding the audience that they are just watching a silly story. The minimalist setting is engaging for the audience as it invites us to fill in the blanks and use our imagination, further investing in the reality skilfully created by White Rabbit Theatre Ensemble.

 

 

A year in the making, Pocketful of Pebbles is a unique, dark and funny tale that delivers a positive message as Mr Phoenix challenges the audience to become the keepers of the stories so that the stories live on, and storytelling traditions be continued. A very entertaining and, at times, moving piece of family theatre. A too-short season on the Gold Coast means we can only hope that this touring production makes its way to a theatre near you.

 

06
Jul
17

RICE

Rice

Queensland Theatre

Queensland Theatre Bille Brown Studio

June 24 – July 16 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Tini biyoyer sathei aasen. She moves with victory. Tini biyoyer sathei aasen. She moves…

Rice is the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award winner (2016), a slick and sophisticated two-hander about women, ambition, power, partnerships, love, loss, loyalty, forgiveness and family. Melbourne’s Michele Lee says, “Initially I said Rice was about a plethora of ‘big’ contemporary issues. As if I was some Michael Moore of theatre. Mass agriculture. Super economies. Mercenary corporations. Women in business. Rice is about these things. But it’s partly, primarily, about two women searching for new friendships and new intimacies, new versions of family, however fleeting.”

Lee’s writing is refreshingly real; her characters are recognisable and relatable. The dialogue is fast, funny, and unapologetically localised, a delight for Brisbane audiences, peppered with references to familiar places. Leading ladies, Kirsty Best (Nisha) and Hsiao-Ling Tang (Yvette) also play the incidental characters who come in and out of their lives, including the boss, the boyfriend, the bogan, an Indian widow, a nephew, a daughter… The first of these transitions is a little uncertain but once established, these switches work well, making this play a tidy little touring number. 

Renee Mulder’s sleek, white minimal corporate office set and Jason Glenwright’s bright, spare lighting keep the focus on the performers, who step into a natural rhythm that allows them an easy banter and yet, appropriately uncomfortable silences at times to underpin a few home truths about the world views of the Indian Princess and the Chinese Cleaner.

This is the part of the story where I tell you about an Indian princess.

Nisha (Indian Princess) is a typical young thing in a navy suit who knows everything, until it’s revealed that she doesn’t. Both her undoing and the making of her is her ability to see things for what they really are. Yvette is the Chinese Cleaner who has been bettered all her immigrant life by others, including extended family members. She continues to struggle to maintain a civil relationship with her daughter. Both women have a clear picture of where they’d like to be and they think they know how they’ll get there. But life – a death, a flood, a legal battle – gets in the way and other things along the way become important again.

This is the part where we eat.

There is a delicate balance in the writing between the vulnerability and intimacy of the women’s working relationship and the apparently unavoidable distance – a chasm, in this life at least – between them. This is beautifully measured in the performances when the women are playing their main roles.

Director, Griffin Theatre’s Lee Lewis, has created on the 20th floor of Nisha’s inner city office building, a microcosm of contemporary society, placing the personal worlds of the women squarely inside the bigger global picture. They can’t escape or dismiss the personal. They can’t ignore a connection with another human being and continue to complain about not being noticed or supported…or deeply affected. The women must always, in some small way, be there for each other.

Great theatre allows us to see ourselves in the story. Lee’s universal story of connection, shared via a personal, local lens, doesn’t condescend or compromise or get in its own way.

Its humour, insight and wonderfully engaging personable performances make Rice a lovely easy play to watch. The challenge is in walking away and making the tiny daily changes to the way we do things. Because we can. And we must; ignorance is no longer an excuse for the ill treatment of people in our immediate circles (or outside of them). Was it ever? How often do we consider the way we go about our day? How do we speak to our loved ones, our colleagues, strangers and friends we haven’t met yet? How do we choose to respond to others? How do we choose to treat others, in business and in life? On the train? At the checkout? In our homes and schools and offices? In the street? Can we go forward now, into every situation, with genuine curiosity, dignity and compassion? Can we just take a breath, half a moment, before uttering anything aloud or online to consider the impact it might have on a person? And how far, really, is too far out of our way to give a person a lift home?

Through the strong, vulnerable, wonderful women of Rice Michele Lee asks these vital questions with the utmost respect, and with greater wit and good humour than most.

This is the part where we go.

01
Jul
17

Woolf Works

 

Woolf Works

Royal Ballet

QPAC Lyric Theatre

June 29 – July 9 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Memory is the seamstress and a capricious one at that. Memory runs her needles in and out, up and down, hither and thither. We know not what comes next, or what follows after. Thus, the most ordinary movement in the world, such as sitting down at a table and pulling the ink stand towards one, may agitate a thousand odd, disconnected fragments, now bright, now dim, hanging and bobbing and dipping and flaunting…

Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)

 

Don’t think of the shapes…think of the transitions. That is where dance happens.

Wayne McGregor, Resident Choreographer, Royal Ballet, cited by Drusilla Modjeska

 

The Waves

Tuesday

 

This is what I imagine drowning to be…

 

Perhaps there is terror and panic too, and pain and sorrow, but mostly this peace and gentle release.

We know Virginia Woolf filled her pockets with stones and walked into the River Ouse, the one death she acknowledged she would never describe, but when the third act curtain goes up on Wayne McGregor’s Woolf Works we’re struck with the immensity of the sea, as if we’re on the deck of a great ship surging forward, or standing on the shore watching it go. Wave after wave crashes towards us in slow motion, in a prelude to the dancers’ lane work, spanning the entire length of the Lyric’s back wall, with everything stripped from the space, leaving only lighting, the sea above and at first, the one tiny dancer below (Ravi Deepres Film & Daniel Brodie Projection). The continuous slow motion of the waves is mesmerising, and the dancers emerge from that eternity.

 

 

The sea – a man (Federico Bonelli) – appears from the darkness to embrace the woman, Virginia Woolf (Alessandra Ferri) and supporting her, he takes her deeper and deeper into her death dreams. The children she never had jump rope and skim stones, their movements are the essence of innocence and the sense of play we lose. They dance to cleverly tie reef knots in their ropes to join them, holding them aloft, encircling her, and disappearing from sight…

A desire for the children, I suppose; for Nessa’s life; for the senses of flowers breaking all round me involuntarily…

The company of dancers, the sea, wearing barely-there, incredibly delicate coral designs over their faces to make the milliner friends nod in appreciation, and zippered collared vests or long sleeves of fine transparent black, in a stunning ensemble sequence that plays out like a highly sophisticated open Viewpoints session, filling the space around her, surging and spilling across the stage – and if we’re watching a particular sequence it seems to be repeated, and then not – the dancers are in continuously changing configurations, pairs and trios, rolling and dipping and diving and floating and lifting, supporting. Always supporting, making death by drowning the most beautifully paced, poetic and protected way to go, as long as you’ve had it choreographed by McGregor and directed by Kevin O’Hare.

The sea will drum in my ears. The white petals will be darkened with sea water. They will float for a moment and then sink. Rolling me over the waves will shoulder me under. Everything falls in a tremendous shower, dissolving me…

I feel like that moment is actually in the score, after a powerful climax that literally dissolves into the sound of waves and a single searing violin over the repeated notes, repeating and repeating… And then suddenly, but not unexpectedly, just as death might come, nothingness. The movement swells and dissolves with it. I exhale softly, slowly. There’s a truly magical collective moment of complete stillness before thunderous applause breaks it, and we become part of the sea on the other side of the curtain, out front; a full house on their feet for the company and creatives of London’s Royal Ballet.

 

 

Max Richter’s 21-minute composition echoes the earlier sounds of In the garden and Meeting again (from part 1 of the triptych), and Gillian Anderson’s voice, reading Woolf’s final words, brings to the work the immeasurable sadness of the strings before they are reintroduced into the score. It’s so difficult to express the surge of feeling brought about by this piece in particular, the eerie, exquisite sadness of a solo soprano voice soaring over the relentless, sweet and sweeping melody, and yet, undeniably, there is bliss at its core, and at the centre of this work, which sees the life-death-life cycle of a woman, but also of the collective creative energy of all the disparate parts of a show, perfectly – actually perfectly – realised on stage.

 

Orlando

Becomings

Again, a voiceover sharing Woolf’s words sets the middle piece in motion, a single searchlight dances over androgynous individuals in gold and black; Baroque puffed pants, the top of a farthingale – is it a wheeldrum? – at some waists and ruffs at some necks. The overall appearance (Moritz Junge Costume Design) is of the most beautifully carved and polished and cherished chess pieces in the multiverses.

 

 

Richter’s score takes a sci-fi turn, with 80s-until-forever electronica and epic strings to take us through time and space, as the 1993 film did. This is rich, detailed, apparently typically McGregor choreography (I’ve not seen his previous work), dabbing and flicking and leaping. To my delight the same sassy motif, quickened, returns at times throughout the piece. There is a sense of urgency juxtaposed against the elasticity of time, and power and fragility, however; it’s not at all fragile. The choreography for Becomings is a new set of creative contradictions. Unlike the more narrative works that bookend this one, it’s an exploration of a more angular and frenetic physical vocabulary, of exciting ways to transfer bodies through space.

Carter’s laser beams cut through the haze, creating sky and sea and oil and water in a heady swirl of changing coloured lights, and delineating dance spaces to show us the Great Hall of an ancient-contemporary court. The flurry of more angular, geometric movement patterns creates the illusion of many more bodies in the space than there could possibly be, and the piece finishes with a Royal Court dance that could almost sweep us away and into the midst of it.

 

 

Like the voice of the cello in Richter’s The explorers, once again we are struck with the importance of genuine connections, however momentary, and the necessity of sitting with feelings of inexplicable loss before being lifted into another dimension, the sounds reverberating, echoing, the dancers appearing and disappearing, spinning and bending and over-extending between channels of shimmering light… I tell Poppy and Veronika, it’s Tron Wizard Chess, complete with frickin’ laser beams. They get the Harry Potter reference. Oh well. It’s the most abstract of the three works and it’s exhilarating, although not to everyone’s liking, if we’re to note the boredom and frustration of the eighty-something sir sitting beside me.

 

Mrs Dalloway

I Now, I Then

 

She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged.

 

The sound of waves and the sounds of the city merge into a single memory the next day.

We hear Virginia Woolf’s voice (yes, it’s her voice, recorded in 1937), “splendid”, speaking about words, as we see words and words and words, handwritten, projected across the space, foreshadowing images of the city and its flawed characters… Alessandra Ferri, a lithe beauty in her fifties, absolutely exquisite, clad in delicate gold lace, is Mrs Dalloway, on the eve of her party, moving between memories, her younger self (Beatrix Stix-Brunell) dancing out the daydream of a love affair with her friend, Sally (Francesca Hayward), which was never allowed to blossom as we see here that, under different circumstances, it might have.

Richter’s In the garden is sweet and sonorous, featuring piano, cello, violin; the voices of the innocent, the young and joyful and unaffected, and the older and pensive, perhaps regretful, perhaps hopeful, but not. Under the baton of Tom Seligman, the artists of Queensland Symphony Orchestra have outdone themselves, and if there were no ballet, we would be transformed just listening. We would close our eyes and let our minds wander, and let our hearts rest. At some stage, when QSO repeat a performance of this score, you must be there to experience for yourself, the magic of music of this intricacy and gravity, played by musicians of this calibre. The second International Series work, The Winter’s Tale, will have at the helm, QSO Music Director, Allondra de la Parra.

War anthem is sombre, desperately sad, offering us the story of war-ruined Septimus Smith (Edward Watson), who teeters between life and trauma, and finally, at the edge of his window before leaping to his death, having loved and lost Evans (Tristan Dyer). Their pas de deux demonstrates the strength and vulnerability of the human body, the heart, the spirit, and reminds us that deep connections are worthwhile, despite the inevitable pain when connections are lost. We hear this moment too, before the clock strikes and the characters from Woolf’s memories convene, and sway and twist and move together, in and out of time. A gorgeous sassy move continues to be repeated now and then, bringing the same sense of playfulness and sensuality from the opening sequence to the simple act of being and breathing together in the end.

Incredible design by Cigue places three towering and independently revolving shadow boxes on stage, through which the dancers move, and stop in repose and watchfulness at times. Lucy Carter’s golden lighting, cast across the architectural structures, and creating cold shadows in this segment, is so starkly different to the laser beams of the second piece, that it could be the work of another creative. But as the production demands, these creatives have moved fluidly across the literary works, and Becomings is something entirely new and different.

Dramaturg, theatre director Uzma Hamed, never lets us get entirely lost, though we may wander between our own memories, and remembrances of Woolf’s works, and simply appreciate Becomings for the abstract beauty that it is. You must read Hamed’s notes, included in the best-value-for-money souvenir and literary/history lesson masquerading as a program ever to be offered in a foyer, which explain the answer to the original question asked when this production was announced in 2014, ‘why Woolf?’

– because she renders, like no one else, the insoluble paradox at the heart of our human existence: life and death, body and spirit, ‘granite and rainbow’.

Uzma Hameed

 

Woolf Works is superbly realised, beautifully crafted and delivered, and sees us reconsidering the power and splendour and possibility of text-inspired narrative dance.

Our outstanding Australian dancers in this production are:

Steven McRae, Alexander Campbell, Benjamin Ella, Calvin Richardson and Harry Churches

 

Production pics by Darren Thomas

 

If you are int he UK or if it interests you to find a way to watch online, Woolf Works will be broadcast on July 9 on BBC Four.

 

29
Jun
17

Therese Raquin

 

Therese Raquin

Dirty Pretty Theatre & Critical Stages

QUT Gardens Theatre

June 21 – 22 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Emile Zola’s classic gothic love/mystery/thriller/murder story is not for the faint hearted.

Dirty Pretty Theatre’s Gary Abrahams (Adaptation & Direction) has crafted a deliciously chilling version of Therese Raquin for contemporary audiences. It’s a pity the Brisbane season was so short, and comparatively few knew it was on. Or else, there is SO much on – I had to see the matinee to be able to see this one at all. QUT’s Gardens Theatre suffers from a quiet presence on the edge of the inner city campus and the Botanic Gardens. Nothing outside the venue indicates that within its humble walls something exciting may be happening, and unless you’re interested or invested in how the acting students are going, I’d suggest this production is the most exciting programming we’ve seen at the venue for a little while.

Dirty Pretty Theatre is well known in Melbourne, but here not so much. After a debut season in 2014, the company retained for a national tour of Therese Raquin, Marta Kaczmarek as the overbearing Madame Raquin. Hers is a superb performance: she’s stifling, her adoration for her son, Camille, sickening, and her eyes-wide-open immobile state by the end, confronting and chilling.

Kaczmarek is joined on stage for this touring production by Jessica Clarke, James O’Connell, Andre Jewson, Emily Milledge and David Ross Paterson.

Clarke’s Therese Raquin dives deeply into her duality, reeling between the light and the dark, desperately loving and loathing Laurent (James O’Connell) and herself for their deplorable actions. She gives little away early on and behind carefully composed features, passion seethes until it manifests in her communication with her lover. O’Connell plays dangerously along the edge of taking this manipulative and conniving character too far, and it’s to his credit that he manages with aplomb, the extraordinary demands of this role without falling into classic villain territory. We believe him and we fear him. The couple’s illicit lovemaking is effectively choreographed, timed well with blackouts during which some of the older matinee audience members gasp in mock horror and laugh a little uncomfortably, whispering, “Well!” and, “Oh my!”. For some reason (perhaps it happens too fast) the lovers’ final moments don’t have us on the edge of our seats, or holding back tears, but Kaczmarek’s haunted eyes do, and we leave the theatre horrified and satisfied.

Michaud (David Ross Paterson) is refreshingly less a shrewd detective than we might expect, with just a hint of suspicion in both his carriage and vocal inflection; it’s a beautiful, natural reading of this “minor” role delivered with nuance and intelligently measured arrogance. His actions are the machinations of the story; his advice to Madame Raquin to allow Therese to wed again, forces into motion the chain of events that lead to a dismal end for all.

Emily Milledge offers light comedy in her naivety, and because we feel as if we’ve gotten to know her and adore her; unlike the simpering thing we meet in the novel, in this adaptation she is quite likeable, and even while we see it coming, we’re genuinely dismayed to see her acquiesce to a mismatch with Grivet (Mark Wilson). She comes across as a sweet, birdlike creature, needing to fly and discover the world for herself, and instead becomes trapped, given the lens of her husband through which to view a much smaller world. This is perfectly encapsulated by one poignant moment, when she must fetch her husband’s umbrella for him.

In his physicality and sneering demeanour, Wilson’s training with Phillipe Gaulier no doubt helped to shape this ghastly character, a typical pompous fop, providing much of the necessary comic relief in that grimacing we-hope-we-never-meet-a-man-like-that way. Likewise, Camille (Andre Jewson) is a despicable, spoilt (and sickly) thing. We are appalled and later, terrified by his presence. Jewson, having also taken much from time spent training with Gaulier, nails Camille’s physicality and mannerisms.

Chloe Greaves puts each actor into character clothes that speak volumes about who they are without them having to say a word. The small amount of colour she incorporates offers us false confidence; we think there is hope but actually, no one gets to fulfil their potential, or find their perfect partner in life, or achieve their dreams. It’s all very maudlin, and at times we wish the girls could just escape the confines of their crinoline, however; lovely moments of lightness come from Milledge, the weekly card game, and the lovers’ early energy and banter before something bad happens.

 

Jacob Battista’s detailed realistic set creates a claustrophobic atmosphere, and without smelling the damp of the tiny Parisienne apartment, those of us who need little prompting to do so, smell it anyway. An angled glass ceiling gives the impression that escape is so near, yet so far away, and the future is indeed, as blurred and as bleak as the grimy windows would have it appear. The transition (and transformation) of the bedroom to the waterway is old-school, cleverly utilising the bed, and with a great deal more smoke, the effect of gliding across the surface of the water would be magical. Remember the first time you saw the Phantom of the Opera take Christine down into the belly of the opera house and across the lake in a gondola? With a little imagination, that’s the effect here; it’s well executed without the mechanical magic. A melancholy lighting design by Katie Sfetkidis, and haunting original piano compositions by Christopher de Groot, add to the deep sense of unease we feel throughout the production.

For 2 hours and 15 minutes, we don’t notice time passing, despite the first act’s languid start. An intelligent adaptation, insightful and detailed direction, and thrilling performances make this production one of the most compelling we’ve seen this year.

 

Production pics by Lachlan Wood. Trailer and some pics feature original cast.

 

 

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