Tag: Andre Jewson

A Dirty Pretty Theatre and Critical Stages Productions Presents THERESE RAQUIN

A dark tale revealed

By Leeor Adar

The audience’s lust for work exposing the underbelly of human desire and vengeance never ceases, and gothic masterpieces always manage to spook and lure audiences centuries after their first public entrance. A great practitioner of literary naturalism, Émile Zola’s Thérèse Raquin finds itself dealt a supernatural twist in the hands of director and adaptor Gary Abrahams for theatre company A Dirty Pretty Theatre. Abrahams has not disposed of the elegance of late 1800s Paris, as his set designer Jacob Battista and costume designer Chloe Greaves journey back in time with him.

Therese Raquin

Thérèse Raquin follows the tragedy of a small family moving to Paris for a new start to invigorate the sickly Camille (Andre Jewson). Trapped under the weight of wifely servitude is the beautiful Thérèse (Jessica Clarke), oscillating between wistful gazing and the swift practiced movements of someone wanting to shatter her proverbial glass cage. The delightful little family is threatened by vagabond artist, Laurent (James O’Connell), whose presence gleefully brutalises the now excitable Camille and stirs up the most carnal of longings in Thérèse – both of whom are desperately seeking something that helps them forget themselves. The lust overcoming the characters climaxes in a brutal killing: cue the total disintegration of the survivors’ sense of sanity in a manner that Shakespeare himself would admire.

In this production, projection was a difficulty for some of the actors, particularly Clarke whose voice strained into hoarseness, but this could be due to the total submersion into a desperate Thérèse. Clarke’s performance certainly conveyed the desperation of her character potently, and O’Connell’s Laurent was suitably dangerous. Overall, the performances throughout were strong: notably Suzanne as played by Emily Milledge had the captivating ability to take us far away from the gloom of the room in her girlish rants about a phantom lover. Keeping the pace of the production was the composition and music of Christopher De Groot, whose score injected a sense of melancholy to the production.

Tragically, some very dramatic moments were thrown askew on the night I attended by the curtain falling upon a poorly-placed table and a flower crown that was swept about underneath the gowns of the actresses. The audience’s occasional laughter was perhaps a welcome distraction from the gloom of the tale before us – but at times, in Zola’s land of naturalism, such misadventures cannot be helped.

Abrahams’ production ultimately aimed for high drama, but unfortunately came across as pure melodrama with too many distractions. I admittedly enjoyed the gothic horror elements that snuck up on us, but feel these could easily have been dispensed with for the subtlety Zola’s text warranted.

This gothic drama was performed at the beautiful National Theatre in St Kilda from 31 May – 1 June.

Image by Sarah Walker

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REVIEW: Heaven at LA MAMA

Teen drama tackles big issues

By Myron My

What happens when we die? What happens when we are confronted with death and begin to question our own mortality? Heaven attempts to deal with these questions when a young girl (Jessica Clarke) is killed by a bakery van and three classmates attempt to bring her back from the afterlife.

Heaven

It’s only been two years since Heaven was written but unfortunately it already has an outdated feel with regards to its language. I did not feel convinced 15-year olds speak like this – but perhaps I am way out of touch with the youth of today. I do understand what writer/director Kit Brookman was attempting to achieve here, but the switches from child-like behavior (playing with toy robots in one scene) to the characters dealing with profound issues like life after death ended up seeming contrived. The ending left me with many questions that did not necessarily need to be answered but would have benefited from having some clarity brought to them. 

I felt the characters could also have been developed more as they appeared to be mere familiar teen stereotypes: the nerd, the goth, the jock, and the brain. Having said that, the cast do their best (appropriately) to bring life to them. Lachlan Woods as Stewart was very good in displaying not only the jock’s bravado but also his emotional insecurities. Another special mention goes to Sarah Ogden, who brings some incredibly touching scenes to the stage as Sally.

Furthermore, there are a number of great ensemble moments in this play, in particular the séance between Max (Andre Jewson), Sally and Stewart, which has some genuinely funny dialogue. There is a good blend of humour and truth in Heaven, with the final scene being quite a touching one. 

On the technical side, the score by Tom Hogan and lighting design by Richard Vabre added strong emotive elements to the narrative. When used, they not only created an intimacy and the almost claustrophobic environment that Heaven required, but were able to increase the tension and heighten the mood of what was coming.

Heaven tries to cover a vast array of topics in the spectrum of life and death. Some it does quite well, and others it should have stayed away from. Overall, the admirable acting and production elements are let down by a story whose script doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Venue: La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street Carlton

Season: Until 2 June | Wed-Fri 8:30pm, Sat-Sun 6:30pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc

Bookings: http://lamama.com.au or 9347 6142