Tag: Greek mythology

REVIEW: Red Stitch Presents PENELOPE

Epic poetry and poolside murder

By Myron My

Penelope by Irish playwright Enda Walsh and directed by Alister Smith shows four men seeking to receive the love of Penelope in the absence of her warrior husband, Odysseus. Through hope, fear, anger and passion, will any of them win her love?

Penelope

Upon entering the theatre for this production, we watch a young man scrubbing blood from inside an empty swimming pool. Well, empty from water for it is teeming with deck chairs, books, alcohol and the disturbing red stains. In fact, the pool resembles a beach party for hoarders gone wrong. Taking center stage is a large barbeque with an ominous message for the four men of Penelope.

After this fascinating opening, the story unwinds at a perfect pace: fast enough to keep you interested but slow enough to not reveal everything at once. The mystery of the blood in the pool and the events that led up to that are ever so carefully unveiled through the taut script which works well in keeping the audience intrigued.

In contrast, costume design left little to the imagination, with all four men dressed in swimming trunks – yet each one seemed to convey a strong sense of who this character was. The brutish self-appointed leader, Quinn (Lyall Brooks) was dressed in red speedos – and you really can’t get any more alpha-male than that.

The last act however seemed to lose itself a bit. Despite the audience enjoying it, the “love in 6 acts” scene didn’t seem to have a place in the story. It relied on slapstick humour and not the sharply written dialogue and well thought-out character-driven scenes earlier, but this issue is to do with the play itself and its reworking of Homer’s classic tale rather than the direction or performances.

As this year’s Graduate Ensemble Actor for Red Stitch, Matthew Whitty as Burns certainly does show promise, however the more overtly experienced and skillful actors (Brooks, James Wardlaw and Dion Mills) in Penelope do manage to outshine him, and the impact of the final scene is therefore not as strong as it could be. It is a particularly exceptional performance by Mills as the flamboyant Dunne. His later monologue is compelling to watch as guards are let down and we see the real, vulnerable side to his character.

With strong intelligent direction by Smith, Penelope will have you pondering the moral and emotional questions it raises a good while after the show is over.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda

Season: Until 13 April | 8:00pm, Sun 6:30pm

Tickets: $37 Full | $27 Conc

Bookings: 9534 3388 or http://www.theatreworks.org.au

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Review: THIS TRICK (The Story of Orpheus and Eurydice)

To hell and back for love

By Myron My

Using the Greek myth but set in a contemporary world, This Trick invites us to be voyeurs to a very private moment for Orpheus and Eurydice, who are so in love with each other that the rest of the world is seen as a danger they do not wish to be engaged with.

I particularly enjoyed the contrast of passionate declarations of love intermingled with trivial domestic arguments such as leaving the milk out, thus allowing those simple moments to be more intense. Much of the emotional impact is to the credit of the two leads Penny Harpham and Matt Hickey, and their hypnotic performances.

This Trick

Both were very strong and capable in taking on these roles, and the scripted words flowed as naturally as any spontaneous conversation. The on-stage chemistry and level of intimacy between them was palpable, and comfortably portrayed their characters’ jealousies, insecurities and fears in giving themselves over completely to the person they love.

There is a fitting sense of visual minimalism in this production: the set  is mainly a white mattress and white curtains and some bottles of alcohol. The ethereal environment established by designer Hanna Sandgren is further alluded to with the leads also beginning in white clothing.

In contrast, the dynamic lighting design by Julia Knibbs helped emphasise the passion and enveloping darkness for the two lovers: casting many shadows on their faces and using firey red to show the fierce passion between the two reminded me very much of the related myth of Dionysus and the dangers of excess. The stagecraft and music throughout This Trick is also well-executed and you can feel a lot of work has been done on this by all involved including sound designer Jennifer Kingwell.

Writer and director Kat Henry of Stella Electrika has produced a piece of work that is sharp, witty and real – even though there are times the dialogue does reach extremes, it is perfectly fitting in This Trick. A very powerful production all round, and one that makes you question just how much love is too much love.

Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St, Carlton

Season: Until 3 March | Tue, Wed 6.30pm | Thu, Fri, Sat 7.30pm | Sun 4.30pm & 6.30pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Concession

Bookings: http://lamama.com.au