Strong performances in a problematic production
By Kate Boston Smith
There was much excitement to be felt while waiting for the start of the VCA School of Performing Arts‘ production of Raimondo Cortese’s St Kilda Tales directed by Mary Sitarenos. As we were ushered into the huge studio warehouse towards the back of the VCA campus, this atmosphere suggested we would be in for a real treat.
Utilising the entire length of the expansive warehouse, the sparse stage was split in two halves front and back, divided only by black cyclone fencing. The full cast boisterously entered the space through the back door in the far distance from the audience. The performance area, which at this stage was only lit by the cold fluorescent lights, was immediately filled with the noise, music and chatter of St Kilda streets which then did not stop for the next two hours.
It was very difficult to tune into the dialogue as characters constantly spoke over both one another and the loud music. I felt the first ten minutes of setup was lost in this wave of aural activity, and it therefore took longer than preferable for us to settle into the story and understand the relationships between the characters.
The play is a dark swill of interweaving stories from St Kilda’s underbelly. There was little or no light or warmth between characters, each of whom move through the space writhing for attention, love or release from their golem-like existence.
The young cast gave very strong performances. The intensity of each ensemble character was matched with the relentless soundscape consisting of late 90’s pop and rave anthems, distorted guitars and finally the soul-crushing wails of two female characters for the final thirty minutes of the play.
Stage design, lighting, and one elaborate costume in particular, enhanced the gritty, deranged world that the characters inhabited. Comic relief was provided through the gimmicky but great animal heads of the resident crazy lady “Special” as played brilliantly by Rose Marlfleet.
However, when the house lights were once again raised, (long after the ninety minutes as stipulated in the program) it is honestly hard to say whether I enjoyed it or just felt relief it was over.
St Kilda Tales was presented by the VCA graduating class in Studio 45, 28 Dodds St, Southbank.