Posts Tagged ‘belinda locke


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.



10 Quick Questions in 10 Quiet Minutes: Belinda Locke is Maureen O’Hara

OPENS TONIGHT at The Judith Wright Centre

Maureen O’Hara Spends a Quiet Night At Home

Guy Frawley checked in with Belinda Locke, to find out more about her show, opening tonight at The Judy

Maureen O'Hara Adam Finch Photography

You must be excited about opening tonight and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing Maureen O’Hara Spends a Quiet Night At Home, where has this show already taken you?

Yes, feeling very excited for the opening of the show! I began working on this piece in 2012 and toured a short work-in-progress to Crack Theatre Festival as part of This is Not Art Festival in Newcastle.


How has the show grown during your recent theatre festival runs?

This piece has grown from a 20-minute showing to a 50-minute work and delves deeper into the world I create on stage. The audience gets a deeper insight into the life of the female protagonist, who is somewhere between myself, and a persona I take on inspired by the Hollywood actress Maureen O’Hara. I have also researched deeper into Maureen O’Hara herself, a bit of her life as well as the films she starred in during the late 1930s up until 1946, the time in which this performance is set.


Maureen O'Hara Adam Finch Photography

I understand the original idea for this performance was sparked by the Peter Stackpole photograph of the same name, what was it about this shot that initially flared your creativity?

The shot itself is of Maureen O’Hara, apparently relaxing at home whilst heavily made up, wearing a white fur jacket and sewing. The image is very glamorous, but left me wondering what she would actually be doing and thinking if she were relaxing at home.  What is it that we are like when we are alone and how does this differ to the public presentation of ourselves. I believe that this is something that everyone can relate to, but perhaps is most visible when we think of those who are in the public eye.


If you’ll ignore the photographic pun, from that first flash of inspiration how did the developing process play out?

I started thinking about how to translate the concept into a scenario I had experienced in my own life. I rarely get a chance to indulge in taking a bath, but when I do it is an intimate moment where I can enjoy being alone with my thoughts. I then began devising scenes in the rehearsal room with the assistance of my stage manager Claire Jarvis, and Anna Molnar, who worked as a dramaturge on the first creative development in 2012. The showing in Newcastle gave me the chance to test some of the initial ideas on a live audience and gain feedback before working towards a longer performance for a season at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts.


To what extent, if any, have you attempted to attain accuracy in your portrayal of Maureen O’Hara the individual? Or has the idea behind the photo and not so much the individual been your muse?

The piece has been inspired by the photo, and by Maureen O’Hara as an individual – from what I have viewed of her work in film and information available to the public. Initially, the photo was just a starting point, but Maureen is much more present in the show as it currently stands now. I do not claim any degree of ‘accuracy’ in my portrayal though – as I said I believe there is a combination of both of Maureen and myself in what you will see on stage.


As both director and performer how restricting did you find it to build your character and performance around a real individual?

I tried not to get caught up in this too much – it wasn’t my aim to become a replica of Maureen, but more to investigate the concept of public vs. private life. The aesthetic of the era appeals to me, and I am interested by how Maureen as an iconic female actress was portrayed in film. Many of the roles she played involved immensely restrictive ideas of gender due to the scripting, however she manages to maintain a sense of strength and autonomy that defies these expectations.


Maureen O'Hara. Image by Adam Finch.

How much of yourself do you feel you have worked into the characterisation and performance?

I believe that actors always invest a certain degree of themselves into a character. As this performance is based upon the idea of being alone with oneself, there is a great deal of my own experience that becomes part of the persona on stage.


I assume from the synopsis that music will be playing an important part in Maureen O’Hara Spends a Quiet Night At Home, was it a conscious decision to include modern music for effect? If so how have you primarily tried to use this?

I use both music from the era and contemporary pieces for differing effect. They are used to enhance the changes in mood during the performance, but also to connect the audience to time of the 1940’s through to now. The experience I represent on stage is one of the past, but also something that continues to be enacted everyday in our lives.


“A Woman. A Bath.” Should we be preparing ourselves for any ‘Sons of Sin’ style bathtub antics?

Hehehe! This will be ‘good clean fun’.


How quiet is a night in with Maureen really?

You will have to come to the show to see!

Wed 19 to Sat 29 June 7:30pm


Duration: 50 mins, no interval

Foyer Bar opens 6:30pm


Book online