Ambitious production of an Australian classic
By Myron My
Originally written in 1911, The Woman Tamer by Australian playwright Louis Esson has just been given a makeover over a 100 years later by RePlay Theatre for a limited run this week at The Owl and the Pussycat.
The play begins in the foyer of the theatre with a man and a woman (Jack Beeby and Clara Pagone) dressed in period costume, singing a song with a ukulele. However, they are also covered in ghoulish make-up and at the end of the song they guide us into the theatre. The two stand in the doorway strumming away until the doors close, evoking a strong and uneasy emotional response and offering a hint of the horror that is to come.
Unfortunately, I found the story very difficult to follow due to the overwhelming visuals: the choreographed ‘dances’, the make-up and costumes, the music and at times, the two completely different scenes occurring at the same time. Whilst all this was engaging and captivating to watch, it resulted in me losing a lot of the actual narrative.
Robert Reid‘s direction is strong overall, but does allows things to get a little convoluted and left us trying to figure out what’s going on. There are some profound themes in this play including an examination of domestic violence against women, so adding all these other layers and levels to it jeopardized the focus on the issues and created a haphazard experience for the audience.
However, the cast (Beeby, Pagone, Tom Molyneux and Kate Brennan) were quite skilled in their roles. This play is peopled with emotionally and physically-demanding characters, and they were all committed, with particular mention going to Beeby who seemed to relish his character and really gave it his all.
RePlay Theatre have succeeded in producing an interesting contemporary reinterpretation of the original text of The Woman Tamer, but unfortunately have managed to also ostracize the audience in our endeavours to connect with the play.
Venue: The Owl and the Pussycat, 34 Swan St, Richmond
Season: Until 25 May | 7:00pm
Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc