Tag: Adam Ward

REVIEW: Mockingbird Theatre’s QUILLS

Delving into the darkness

By Ross Larkin

Quills might be Mockingbird Theatre’s most ambitious production to date. It’s their eighth show in two years and the first to be staged at North Melbourne’s Meat Market Pavilion.

Quills is about the Marquis de Sade’s last days and the discovery that even while incarcerated he has been writing 1200 page tomes depicting all things pornographic, sadistic and vile. The Marquis is stripped of his quills and paper in order to be silenced, yet finds other clever and twisted ways to maintain his mind’s workings until eventually he is stripped of everything else from limb to head.


Written by Doug Wright, the play sits somewhere between witty, unsettling, grotesque, political and shameful. Its success lies in the suggestion that the Marquis’ censors are the real criminals: far more insane and twisted than the Marquis himself. It’s a big bite for even the longest standing companies to chew, with its three-hour duration, non-stop dialogue and heavy array of social issues, and although the usually savvy Mockingbird Theatre and director Chris Baldock succeed on some levels, the production sadly falls short on others.

While the Meat Market Pavilion is a genius choice for the old lunatic asylum with its stark, wide-open spaces and shadowy corners perfectly lit to reflect such an environment, the scenes (with seating organised in traverse) are spread too far apart, making some dialogue difficult to hear and some scenes difficult to see with full impact.

The supporting cast of asylum inmates create some great atmosphere despite being distracting at times: however, it is for the main players to bear the bigger issues. Adam Ward’s performance as Dr Royer-Collard is so theatrically heightened as to be better suited to a caricature pantomime or circus ringmaster, whereupon every second line is shouted ad nauseam. Fortunately Andrea McCannon as Renee Pelagie and Dylan Watson as Abbe de Coulmier keep things grounded with their fine and believable portrayals.

It is Adrian Carr, however, who plays the Marquis, with the greatest weight on his shoulders. It’s a brave role for anyone to attempt: a daring, witty, controversial sexual deviant and naked for half the show. Throughout Act One, Carr comes across as more irritating than sinister with no signs of much-needed light and dark shading, yet by Act Two he proves he has a handle on the complex and multifaceted character of the Marquis, and delivers some chilling moments indeed.

As usual, the quality Mockingbird stamp can be seen overall in Quills: it’s just a shame that the questionable areas were significantly felt.

Quills is playing now from August 5 – 15 at 8pm and Sunday August 10 at 5pm at the Meat Market Pavilion, 5 Blackwood street, North Melbourne. Tickets at http://www.mockingbirdtheatre.com.au/

REVIEW: Mockingbird Theatre Presents KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN

Raw and vibrant theatre

By Ross Larkin

Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spiderwoman is an iconic, unusual story of the relationship between two men in an Argentinean prison cell.

Angelo De Cata and Adam Ward in Kiss of the Spiderwoman

Incarcerated for vastly different crimes, the prisoners, whose similarities seem only to be their predicament, gradually discover they have more in common than anyone would likely foresee.

Compared to its film and musical cousins, the play is confined to one cramped location, two actors, and a hefty stream of dialogue.

Mockingbird Theatre’s version is staged in the most intimate of spaces, with the audience squeezed so tightly in front of the action that the experience teeters on awkward: fitting, for an exploration of two curiously unhinged men and the unlikely affection that surfaces amidst a rocky, emotional course.

Imprisoned for corrupting a minor, Molina (Angelo DeCata) is a flamboyant dreamer, obsessed with storytelling his favourite movie, often in denial of his situation. Molina is caged with Valentin (Adam Ward), a volatile political prisoner whose dysfunction is rife.

DeCato is faced with a particularly challenging role, having to walk the line between vicarious fantasy, and the stark reality of his circumstances. Although, at times, bordering on one note, DeCato largely succeeds in portraying a shakily optimistic, effeminate character. Meanwhile, Ward’s performance feels initially forced and unsubtle, playing anger quite liberally, when the impact and intrigue of the character would have benefited from more light and shade.

When the stakes are later raised, however, the connection between the men matures, and Ward offers a more nuanced, genuine portrayal, leaving the audience affected in all the right ways.

As usual, director Chris Baldock does justice to a richly powerful story with his tastefully simplistic trademark approach – concentrating more on the character-driven narrative, and less so on gimmickry. The colour-changing web was an interesting exception. Likewise, the stark light for the bulk of the play’s duration was a choice which may have prevented the audience being drawn deeper into a world where fantasy and reality co-exist. Thus, the enhanced lighting for the tenderly awkward sex scene provided a window to a theatrical mood which was otherwise perhaps a little too absent at times.

Kiss of the Spiderwoman has, in the past, been either loved or hated, though more so the former. Lovers of the earlier versions will without doubt not be disappointed, while those unfamiliar are urged to experience Mockingbird’s version, which is well worth the effort.

Kiss of the Spiderwoman is playing now until September 15 at The Owl and the Pussycat, Swan street, Richmond. Saturday September 7 at 2pm and 8pm, Sunday September 8 at 5pm, Tuesday-Saturday September 10-14 at 8pm, Sunday September 15 at 5pm.

Bookings: www.trybooking.com/40831 or bookings@mockingbirdtheatre.com.au