Tag: Ben Grant

Review: My Dearworthy Darling

An inspired and thought-provoking work

By Leeor Adar

Feminist collaborators and visual provocateurs, The Rabble (Emma Valente and Kate Davis), bring audiences, My Dearworthy Darling, a thought-provoking work that is both entrancing and utterly disconnected all at once. I was particularly titillated that I’d be critiquing the work of the widely respected writer, Alison Croggon, a former critic that I both admire and who’s theatrical opinion I’ve revered. It is surprising to me then to find that I have a love-hate relationship with this work, which sets my mind into motion and confounds it equally.

My understanding is thus: our leading woman (Jennifer Vuletic) is struggling with her mental health as she wrestles her own image of herself away from her worst emotional abusers, her partner (Ben Grant) and her sister (Natalie Gamsu), who are also gripped with the torments of their life and its mundanity. In breaking free, Vuletic’s character strikes a chasm to the past, unravelling her own mind and reflecting the collective woes of womankind to a time where voicelessness was enshrined.

The chorus of medieval voices is perhaps the most breathtaking part of this production. Croggon’s inspiration here was taken from her residency in France’s monastery and centre for theatre writing, La Chartreuse. Inspired by Margery Kempe, a 14th century English Christian mystic, who’s book was considered to be the first autobiographical work, the chorus speaks the text of this work as Vuletic’s modern woman is grappling with telling her own truth, rather than through the twisted reflection of others.

It’s brilliant to me that in Croggon’s own words, the “writing is not so much about conscious intention as it is about process and discovery”, and My Dearworthy Darling achieves exactly that. Like an unfurling scent, I am at first overwhelmed and unable to see the notes for what they are, but with time I see with clarity the complexity of its character. The work on first impression, is a high-brow ‘art for art’s sake’ snobbery into the woman’s mind, with particularly gifted composing (Valente), and set and costume design (Davis). But with deeper introspection, I see where the Croggon/Rabble collaboration was reaching for.

The play splits between often humorous and relatable daily modern drudgery, and the other realm of our lead’s enigmatic psyche. The work opens with Vuletic sprawled sensually upon a boulder, silk-satin, languid-limbs, describing in luscious detail how her body is exposed and caressed. This visual and erotic reverie is interrupted by her partner, accusing her of poor memory as he refuses to take responsibility, an assault upon the earlier voluptuousness. The woman here is servile, not in charge of her voice or body, but a vessel without steam. This emptiness continues to pierce her reality, and she is accused by her sister of being selfish and cruel, goading the partner’s disgust. Unsurprisingly, facing the internalised misogyny of the existing women of her life, Vuletic’s character retreats in her mind to a world where she is supported in body and mind by the hooded chorus. After a particularly brutal episode in her current reality, she is taken to a place without hard edges (a mental health care facility perhaps) and ascends to take a crowning place amongst the medieval chorus, eventually stripping herself bare of her life before.

My Dearworthy Darling will divide its audiences, and this is largely due to its disjointed and often confusing trajectory. What one can do is enjoy the lush language, stunning visuals and Old English choral pieces. It is an inspired and thought-provoking work, but I too left the theatre wanting to perch myself upon a rock, and contemplate what it is I’ve been exposed to, and if that’s all there really is.

My Dearworthy Darling will be performed at the Malthouse Theatre’s Beckett Theatre until 18 August 2019. https://malthousetheatre.com.au/whats-on/my-dearworthy-darling

Photography by Zan Wimberley

 

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REVIEW: Arts House Presents THE ERADICATION OF SCHIZOPHRENIA IN WESTERN LAPLAND

Brilliant broken narratives and characters

By Warwick Moffat

The highly specific title of this production is just another way for UK theatre company Ridiculusmus to play with their audience. What is being explored goes way beyond schizophrenia, and the relevance is not restricted to Western Lapland, unless we are all somehow Scandinavian. Eradication shows our tendency to categorise all kinds of personal and interpersonal difficulties; ailments any of us might face at some time in our lives. It persuades us to consider whether the medical terms and the pharmaceuticals that we throw at these difficulties only make matters worse. However, there is no preaching; we come to these thoughts mostly through our own observation.

THE ERADICATION OF SCHIZOPHRENIA IN WESTERN LAPLAND - Ridiculusm

What they have us observe confirms Ridiculusmus as true masters of theatrical method. The stage is split in two by a wall. One side of the wall is a dysfunctional home, the other a dysfunctional institution. The audience are also split into two. Each can only fully see and hear one of these worlds, but can hear much of what is happening in the other. At half time, we swap sides; and so by the night’s end we have all seen the entire game played out. At times the wall appears to be a border between these two worlds, at other times it appears more like a gateway.

Ridiculusmus keeps you guessing throughout. Is one world imagined, the other real? Perhaps one past, the other present? The storyline makes an odd kind of sense, but with a palatable incoherence which leaves you sympathising with anyone who suffers from delusions. Importantly, the players never abandon the audience or stray into self-indulgence. The work of David Woods and Jon Haynes shows twenty years of anarchic playwriting. They know how to break shackles without breaking audiences.

As Therapist and Patient respectively, Woods and Haynes play their own work with distinction. As both writers and performers, they give their fellow players plenty of opportunity to deliver. As the patient’s brother, Ben Grant was heartbreakingly defenceless as an adolescent exposed to emotional abuse. As the narcissistic mother, Nicola Gunn deftly exposes the kind of splintering of the soul that would drive a parent to splinter their family.

Dates: Wed 12th to Sunday 16th November.
Time: Wed – Fri 7.30pm; Sat 2pm & 7.30pm; Sun 5pm.
Location: Arts House, Meat Market, 5 Blackwood St, North Melbourne.
Tickets: $26 Full, $21 Concession.
Bookings: www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/ARTSHOUSE/PROGRAM/Pages/TheEradicationofSchizophrenia.aspx, or call (03) 9322 3713.
Warning: This show is restricted to those aged 14 years and older.

REVIEW: Hoy Polloy & Baggage Productions Present RHONDA IS IN THERAPY

Moving and masterful cast performance

By Myron My

Rhonda Is In Therapy by Bridgette Burton is the latest production from Hoy Polloy Theatre Productions and deals with a young mother’s grief and loneliness since the tragic passing of her child.

The four actors all find the subtleties of their characters and flesh them out into life. Jamieson Caldwell as the naïve young student who begins an affair with Rhonda brings a sense of innocence to the proceedings, which is a great contrast to Kelly Nash’s therapist who subtly attempts to break down the defensive wall created by Rhonda.

Louise Crawford is brilliant as Rhonda, a mother who can’t let go of the guilt that is eating her inside. The scenes showing Rhonda at different periods of her life when things were more happy and simple, and then switching to the present with all her emotional conflict, are compelling to watch. Ben Grant’s portrayal of a loving and supportive husband who is quietly struggling to keep it all together for his family is superb and made him the shining star of this production.

The subtle comedy still implicit in pain and human suffering is captured beautifully here and there are some truly honest moments presented; the scenes between Rhonda and her therapist boast some sharp and witty dialogue. However, Rhonda Is In Therapy could have done with some tightening, especially towards the end. There were a few scenes that didn’t add much to the story and slowed proceedings down a little.

The other minor downfall was the scenes that involved the ‘children’. The performers would “imagine” the child being present as voiced by one of the other actors. At times, there were voice recordings played which had the dialogue of both the adult and child. Both these devices really detracted from the intimacy the play was striving for, and reminded the audience that they were in fact watching a performance and not something that was otherwise powerfully real.

Despite these issues, Rhonda Is In Therapy is a thoroughly engaging performance piece with some stellar acting from its four stars.

Venue: fortyfive downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane.

Season: Until 23 September| Tues to Sat 8:00pm, Sun 5:00pm

Tickets: $40 Full | $35 Conc

Bookings: 03 9662 9966 or www.fortyfivedownstairs.com

Review: CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION

Poignant and personal theatre at its best

By Kate Boston Smith

MTC’s production of Circle Mirror Transformation is sleek, perfectly timed and beautiful.  American writer Annie Baker has crafted a poignant play about four unlikely characters signed up for a six-week acting course.  Director Aidan Fennessy has stripped back any of the hyperbole of theatre and left us with real characters and situations that we can relate to and truly care about.

© Photo by Paul Dunn

Set in the dream-catcher that is a community college, short, sharp scenes are played out over the duration of the acting course.  The classes are run by the free-spirited, enthusiastic Marty played by Deidre Ruberstein who guides her four students, shy sixteen-year old Lauren (Brigid Gallacher), recently divorced Schultz (Ben Grant), femme fatale Theresa (Kate Cole) and James (Roger Oakley) her dutiful husband.

The group runs through a range of abstract acting exercises that help them focus in and open up to the task at hand.  Absolutely absurd to watch, the audience, (who have likely participated in these kind of games at acting school or corporate team-building days) delighted in seeing these activities played out on stage. Baker combines numerous moments of stillness with snappy dialogue that unravels the story with exact precision.  We watch as these five characters open and connect like flowers on a vine. 

© Photo by Paul Dunn

Casting is divine, with direction that was perfectly timed.  Staging and props were kept to a minimum, which was ideal for this situation as smaller moments were not lost in the wash of production.   There were several times where a mere eyebrow raised by Theresa or slight head drop from Schultz could bring the audience to tears.  It was the combination of these minute physical details and extremely considered conversations between characters that wove a rich and seamless show

Particularly heart-warming are the different points through the piece when one character introduces themself as another, describing who they are, what they do and why they are enrolled in the class.  At these instances we see not only how a character has viewed a fellow classmate, but also the empathy they share with them.   Watching, we are reminded of when we have put ourselves into vulnerable situations and how a little encouragement has meant the world or an unlikely friend  – or a moving theatre experience – can warmly affect our lives.

Melbourne Theatre Company presents
Circle Mirror Transformation
by Annie Baker

Director Aidan Fennessy

Venue: The MTC Theatre, Lawler Studio | 140 Southbank Blvd Southbank, VIC
Dates: August 17 – September 17, 2011
Tickets: from $35 (Under 30s $25)
Bookings: MTC Theatre Box Office (03)8688 0800 | mtc.com.au