Bitten By Productions Presents THE CRITIC

Reviewing the play about reviewing

By Margaret Wieringa

Imagine this: you are attending a theatrical performance written, directed and starring a close friend… and you hate it. What can you tell them? Be honest, or be polite? Now, raise the stakes: you are a theatre critic writing for a well-respected newspaper. Ouch. This is the situation that Jamie finds herself in, having begged to be allowed to review a friend’s performance only to discover it is appalling.

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Gabriel Bergmoser hits the spot with his script, challenging the characters to look into themselves and search for their truth. The dialogue had a level of awareness and blunt honesty that made for deliberately uncomfortable moments for both the characters and the audience. The opening scene, with Susan reading a scathing and horrible review must have had creative folk in the audience cringing with familiarity, or perhaps just enjoying that it is about a fictional performance.

Director Ashley Tardy has gathered a strong cast who work well to capture the warring personalities onstage. Jamie, played by Louise Cocks, talks her thought process out while balancing on the edge of self-confidence and anxiety. Her high-energy performance captures the stress of Jamie fighting her way through this dilemma, and is beautifully countered by the hardened, cut-throat attitude of her boss. In this role, Angelique Malcolm struts the stage, owning it and everyone on it. She can own another character with a single glance – and knows it. Then there is Emma: as cocksure and self-centred as any performer putting on a solo piece, but also overly sensitive and self-deluding. Alicia Beckhurst captures the intense emotional state of Emma, from post-performance high to the anger of feeling betrayed. Thank goodness for Ellie, Jamie’s housemate who has seen the performance and been along for the ride.  She provides much needed humour to break up the tension (or sometimes, to add a whole extra level of stress). Rosie Flanagan delivers her hilarious dialogue with great timing, punctuating the piece.

My only real issue with the performance was that it felt rushed. As a very dialogue-heavy piece, much of it needed to slow down and allow the audience to keep up. My favourite moment of the performance was watching Jamie and Ellie react to the magnificently strange noises being created off-stage by Emma as she performs her terrible show – beautiful teamwork and absolutely hilarious.

Where: Club Voltaire, 14 Raglan St, North Melbourne

When: October 6-15, 7pm

Tickets: $18-$20

Book: www.trybooking.com or acopa.com.au/voltaire.

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