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Category: Arts

Review: Tender – Metro Arts & …and moor theatre

Tender is an honest and hard working play on loss and love.

A young man and a woman are very much in love, the sort of love that creates lines in the mind, defines the personalities within that love, and everything else as being without. Joyous and serious.

Only, the man is gone, missing – traumatically so.

The woman? As if unable to live or redefine herself without him, has forgotten – unable to even make new memories. Past and present get muddled, identity gets consumed, and love gets tested.

The parents of the missing young man are split – torn between between their love for their son, their feelings towards their damaged daughter-in-law, and their need to keep their only grandchild in their life.

The mystery? Can this perfect love survive even this most tragic of circumstance. A difficult and worthwhile endeavour.

Strangely this production doesn’t quite succeed in wrenching us through that same knot of anguish so evident on stage, despite some fine performances and beautiful design. However where it does succeed is perhaps more important, for the production wraps you within an Australian aesthetic – a dramatic aesthetic as much as a design aesthetic – that quietly seeps into you giving both the performance and the audience that feeling of belonging – yes, it’s meant to be there on an Australian stage, and yes, we are right to be here, to prefer this flawed Australian struggle to an import.

This play then as much as anything is about claiming within us a space for Australian drama – how do an Australian husband and wife react at the loss of a son? how does a young Australian wife fight against her inner demons? And importantly, how does this make us Australians feel.

And so for me, perhaps even because of its flaws, it made me feel love and perhaps quietly proud.

Recommended of those seeking Australian fiction, for romantics, for those engaged in the Australian aesthetic.

Show watched 30th June 2010.

Playing at Metro Arts until the 17th of July.

Review: The Clean House – QTC w Black Swan

This theatrical comedy of class and love takes delight in making a jumble, in the mess and joy that is people’s lives and loves.

A doctor needs her house cleaned – she likes a clean house – only she doesn’t like telling people to clean it. She hires a Brazilian girl, who frustratingly is depressed over the sudden and comic-tragic passing of her parents – the greatest joke tellers in the world – and so doesn’t want to clean. This girl – what does she do? She passes her days thinking up the perfect joke, whilst secretly, the doctor’s sister does the cleaning for her.

Matters get complicated. The husband (also a doctor) falls in love with another woman. A beautiful South American lady.

So, on the surface? The Clean House – Four women from diverse backgrounds, two from South American, and two sisters from North America, are thrown together by a philandering husband who perhaps should know better. That he doesn’t, is what kicks this play forward.

This decidedly American take on love and loss adds a new vigour to the aging drawing-room comedy genre. But more interestingly it politely presents difficult truths about the growing class divisions (often on race grounds) that have been developing within the North American social fabric.

The playwright Sarah Ruhl is taking swift and fast aim at both North and South American cultures and I can imagine that on Broadway a production similar to what I saw would sparkle as each of the playwrights arrows hit their intended target.

In Australia, it still works but instead of that beautiful uncomfortable feeling you get when a play challenges you, instead we get to laugh at the funny Americans (North and South). This is still pretty good.

The audience I watched it with was split, with some of the more hard nosed theatre types not feeling it went far enough. That said, there were many delicious and heart felt laughs coming from the older set. The Clean House then, is four great female roles with terrific performances, a touching and pleasing story, and fun to boot. Something quite rare on Australian stages.

Recommended for Baby Boomers and Up, Ladies Social Groups, and for those that like their theatre passionate and kind.

Show watched Preview, Mon 28th June 2010.

Playing at the Cremorne Theatre unitl July 31st.

Review: The Chairs – La Boite Theatre

You may have heard the phrase absurdist and thought it to describe any number of plays or movies you’ve seen that were just a bit weird. Like the writer had perhaps taken a spot of acid and knocked off a couple of pages whilst on a really bad trip. (Say Bob, I like all that whole boy meets girl and fall in love thing, but what’s with pink elephant on page 39?) Well in theatre we tend to get a bit carried away. (That’s right, Bob my friend, take big swig of that absynthe you and him are going to be friends for a while.)

As to be absurd is, by its very nature, not to make any sense. Absurdist theatre then presents non-sense and attempts to make sense of it. Something, well, quite difficult to do.

What’s so weird about these plays then? Well it depends, sometimes the structure of the work is off, sometimes the language, sometimes the characters, sometimes more –

All of this is true for Eugene Ionesco’s The Chairs.

The Chairs does follow a story of sort though. An old happily married couple, A Man and A Woman, are going to have guests around. Why are they coming around? Well, to listen to the Orator, naturally. And what does this Orator have to say? Well, the great meaning of life as realised by the Man, who, despite a beautifully comic turn of phrase, feels inadequate to the task of relating it himself.

The guests arrive, only there are no guests merely the chairs brought forth by The Woman upon which they sit. Introductions are made, half conversations are heard – clearly in the minds of the married couple, they are entertaining!

The play picks up as each new guest arrives, the numbers pick up, guests and more guests, the whole room is packed tight – chairs everywhere – and indeed the arrival of the orator is anticipated with great interest.

Where’s the absurdism? Well in the performance. In that gnawing gash in your mind that screams – but there’s no-one there!

The Chairs then is at times is quite brilliant, with the language exuding through the space, filling the emptiness. This pleasant mixture of anecdote, rhyme, derision, repetition, romanticism and non-sequiturs at times leave you in splits of laugher and at others puzzling over what you’ve missed while another audience member erupts on the other side of the room.

It’s not an easy play on an audience then, partly because our dear playwright is as times taking aim right at us, and partly because of the intensity with which it attempts to get its message across.

Indeed, as absurdist theatre goes, it accomplishes its goal; to draw us in and push us out, to make us laugh, and make us think. That it doesn’t fit our preconceived notions about that way theatre and stories are supposed to be told is kind of the point.

Recommended for those who like their comedies to gnaw, for those with a poetic heart, and all students of theatre.

Show watched Thurs 10th June.

Playing until 4th of July 2010 at the Roundhouse theatre, Kelvin Grove.

Presented by La Boite Theatre