Tag: Jennifer Vuletic

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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Little Ones Theatre Presents MERCILESS GODS

Walk into the darkness

By Leeor Adar

Little Ones Theatre manages to make me laugh at the grotesque and alluring once again in Merciless Gods. Whether it’s the description of a hardened criminal unpicking thorns from the tongue of a paedophile or the pungent growth spurt of a teenage boy, beautiful and ugly words cohabit so eloquently at the end of Don Giovannoni’s pen, the result of which is imagined onto the stage with feverish intensity by director Stephen Nicolazzo.

Merciless Gods' Charles Purcell - photo credit Sarah Walker .jpg

The scene is set early on as a gathering of hip university-educated 20-somethings pop pills and dive into their samosas before descending into the truly “bad” things they’ve done. A competition of sorts of the varying evils they’ve seen or committed. Merciless Gods is at its core a series of monologues and performances that capture Australia’s foreign identity and the universal identity of being human, even if it’s grotesque and sadistic. There is enormous vulnerability too in this production, as it lays itself bare to hard truths.

Eugyeene Teh’s costume and set design is a perfect mix of minimalist drama. We have red curtains and a catwalk of sorts for a stage to let the intense performances unfold before us. Intense is honestly an understatement, and I found myself really affected and mesmerised by the actors.

Peter Paltos delivered a monologue that really defined the night for me. As the criminal who commits an unforgivable crime in line with the rest of the merciless gods of the night, Paltos manages to describe with such lush expression the pity he experiences, and the violence of his actions. I am certain the audience had their eyes fixed on his sweat, spit and grit with wonder. Another notable series of performances by the mercurial Jennifer Vuletic really heightened the calibre of this production. Vuletic could inhabit the pious tragic figure of a woman speaking broken English and then swoop on stage in naked cruel glory wearing nothing but royal red robes to tear apart her feminist daughter (Brigid Gallacher).

Despite its darkness, there is a great deal of humour in Merciless Gods. Gallacher’s comic timing sent the audience into frequent bouts of laughter, even when she beautifully and breathlessly gazed upon her teenage son with love and disgust. Of course the humour delivered really emerges from Giovannoni’s writing which in its poetic and succinct quality captures what we think but cannot articulate.

Audiences with softer stomachs and a penchant for political correctness may feel queasy at some of the language, so heed this warning. Merciless Gods is unapologetic in its content and brutality and I find it utterly appealing for this reason.

Take time out of your every day and head to the Northcote Town Hall to catch Merciless Gods. The production runs until 5 August. Book your tickets here: http://www.littleonestheatre.com.au/merciless-gods/

Image by Sarah Walker

Review: CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG opens in Melbourne

All the fun of being a kid again

By Kim Edwards

I went to Her Majesty’s last night with every intention of being a theatre critic. But there was the excited boy behind me who chattered until the lights went down, whereupon he sat in rapt silence. And the little girl across the aisle who asked in a horrified whisper, “Doesn’t that mean lady like children?!” And the preschooler in front who crawled into mum’s lap at a crucial moment and exclaimed, “Oh no!!” And the audience spontaneously clapping along throughout, and booing the villain, and applauding the over-excited dog who lost his way…

And my inner child kicked my shins and pulled my pigtails, and I succumbed to the joyful fun of a good family musical, and caught my breath in sheer child-like wonder at that spectacular magical moment closing Act One.

chitty-chitty-bang-bang

Written by the creator of James Bond, scored by the musical talents behind Mary Poppins, and starring a who’s who of Melbourne celebrities and theatre stars, this production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang where a magic car takes a little family on a wild ride into adventure, is full of action, colour, verbal wit and slapstick comedy, and delightful music. My first compliments go to the deliciously dynamic men’s chorus whose spinning dance in Toot Sweets, infectious energy in Ol’ Bamboo, and hilarious elderly antics in Roses of Success won my heart completely. Rachael Beck does a charming job as love interest Truly Scrumptious, Tyler Coppin was wonderfully creepy as the Child-Catcher, and Alan Brough as the Baron and Jennifer Vuletic as ‘that mean lady’ the Baroness were superb comic chemistry.

It was the scene-stealing clowning of the Vulgarian spies played by Todd Goddard and George Kapiniaris however, who most pleased grownups with ribald humour and the kids with their buffoonery.

David Hobson as lead Caractacus Potts does an admirable job, and it is my nostalgic affection for Dick Van Dyke that made this genteel, velvet-voiced portrayal harder to appreciate. It is a shame the theme of overcoming class boundaries therefore gets lost, however.

So the prolonged exposition in the opening scene is clunky, the romance a little flat and unconvincing, the English accents sometimes dubious, and the ‘defeat’ of the bad guys in the finale clumsy – but who cares? Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is thoroughly entertaining and the perfect introduction to the marvels of musical theatre – your kids are simply going to LOVE it.

Playing until March 17 at Her Majesty’s Theatre – book at Ticketek or call 1300 795 012