Review: CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION

Poignant and personal theatre at its best

By Kate Boston Smith

MTC’s production of Circle Mirror Transformation is sleek, perfectly timed and beautiful.  American writer Annie Baker has crafted a poignant play about four unlikely characters signed up for a six-week acting course.  Director Aidan Fennessy has stripped back any of the hyperbole of theatre and left us with real characters and situations that we can relate to and truly care about.

© Photo by Paul Dunn

Set in the dream-catcher that is a community college, short, sharp scenes are played out over the duration of the acting course.  The classes are run by the free-spirited, enthusiastic Marty played by Deidre Ruberstein who guides her four students, shy sixteen-year old Lauren (Brigid Gallacher), recently divorced Schultz (Ben Grant), femme fatale Theresa (Kate Cole) and James (Roger Oakley) her dutiful husband.

The group runs through a range of abstract acting exercises that help them focus in and open up to the task at hand.  Absolutely absurd to watch, the audience, (who have likely participated in these kind of games at acting school or corporate team-building days) delighted in seeing these activities played out on stage. Baker combines numerous moments of stillness with snappy dialogue that unravels the story with exact precision.  We watch as these five characters open and connect like flowers on a vine. 

© Photo by Paul Dunn

Casting is divine, with direction that was perfectly timed.  Staging and props were kept to a minimum, which was ideal for this situation as smaller moments were not lost in the wash of production.   There were several times where a mere eyebrow raised by Theresa or slight head drop from Schultz could bring the audience to tears.  It was the combination of these minute physical details and extremely considered conversations between characters that wove a rich and seamless show

Particularly heart-warming are the different points through the piece when one character introduces themself as another, describing who they are, what they do and why they are enrolled in the class.  At these instances we see not only how a character has viewed a fellow classmate, but also the empathy they share with them.   Watching, we are reminded of when we have put ourselves into vulnerable situations and how a little encouragement has meant the world or an unlikely friend  – or a moving theatre experience – can warmly affect our lives.

Melbourne Theatre Company presents
Circle Mirror Transformation
by Annie Baker

Director Aidan Fennessy

Venue: The MTC Theatre, Lawler Studio | 140 Southbank Blvd Southbank, VIC
Dates: August 17 – September 17, 2011
Tickets: from $35 (Under 30s $25)
Bookings: MTC Theatre Box Office (03)8688 0800 | mtc.com.au

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