Tag: Jillian Murray

La Mama Presents THE CHAIRS

Intelligent and effective production of Ionesco’s classic play

By Leeor Adar

Eugène Ionesco was a notable writer in the French avant-garde and absurdist theatre, and a theatre-maker that found art in considering the futility of man. Like many of his contemporaries, Ionesco was the product of a world of wars and ideas. The Chairs is one of Ionesco’s earliest major works, and perhaps the play that depicts humanity’s futility and absurdity at its finest.

THE-CHAIRS-photo-Jeff-Busby.jpg

The premise follows an old man and woman, currently isolated from the rest of society, preparing to entertain a hoard of guests for the old man’s message to the world. The sea surrounds the bored pair as they plod through their lives, reliving the excitement of stories already told and vistas already explored. The old woman serves as the vessel from which the man relays his moments of glory (or the moments of glory he could have had), while the old man unsteadily looks upon the world from his ladder, eyeing the boats that pass them in the distance – a promise of life elsewhere. The claustrophobia in Ionesco’s language is palpable – the pauses that linger and the poignant sense that these two characters live within one another and no where else.

Award-winning writer and artistic director Jenny Kemp directs this La Mama production, bringing to secluded life the void of the old man (Robert Meldrum) and the old woman (Jillian Murray). The performance space of the La Mama theatre enhances the stifling intimacy of the writing and characters, and the adroit lighting design (Rachel Burke) and sound design (Russell Goldsmith) heighten this intense experience further.

The quality of the acting is excellent here: Meldrum and Murray inject so much energy into this production, and we utterly believe their characters’ profound desperation and manic highs and lows. The language of Ionesco is handled with real care and attention to detail; Kemp’s vision is clear and we as an audience feel crowded in by the invisible audience the play brings onto stage, culminating in the greatest chair pile-up I expect La Mama has ever seen.

This production is quite exhausting for the audience, but this was necessary given the content of the play. What starts as hopeful energy becomes devoured by the exasperation of the characters trying to bring their message to life and be seen and valued in their world. The arrival of the Emperor – another invisible force – brings the turning point upon which lives of the old couple have reached completion. There are comic moments in this journey, and there are universal truths about our existence worth contemplating during the course of the play.

Kemp’s The Chairs is impressively successful in mastering what it wants on stage, but whether every audience can patiently journey with the characters of Ionesco’s play is another proverbial ladder to climb altogether.

The Chairs played at La Mama Theatre from 5-15 October, 2017. Visit http://lamama.com.au/ for information about upcoming productions.

Image by Jeff Busby

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Encore! Presents L’AMANTE ANGLAISE

A dark and compelling masterpiece

By Myron My

Based on Marguerite Duras‘ 1967 novella, L’Amante Anglaise (The English Lover) is on the surface a murder mystery story, but look a little deeper and it is an exploration of what happens to a person when the life they are leading turns out to be the life they never wanted. Originally performed at La Mama, this stage adaptation has been remounted for a second season at fortyfivedownstairs. Having missed it first time round, I was very thankful I managed to get to it now for this really  is a breathtaking production.

L'AMANTE ANGLAISE

The story unfolds in two interviews conducted by nameless interrogators over the brutal murder of a woman in a small town in France. The dismembered body is discovered at a railway viaduct, missing her head. Furthermore, the novella is based on true events, adding to the darkness and brutality to the proceedings.

The first interrogation is with Pierre (Rob Meldrum), the husband of the woman who has confessed to the murder. What transpires is a picture of a man who cared very little for his wife, who can offer little insight as to what could have driven her to commit such a heinous crime, and Meldrum’s portrayal of the detached husband is well-presented throughout and compelling to watch.

In the second interrogation our attention shifts to Claire, where her interrogator insists on finding out what drove her to commit murder. Jillian Murray does a phenomenal job in this role and it is not hard to see why she won the 2015 Green Room Award for Best Female Performer. Beginning as a shy and timid woman it was hard to imagine Claire viciously killing someone, but as the interview progressed, her instability and sadness began seeping through.

The intimate direction and impressively staging by Laurence Strangio allows for the words of the characters to create the visuals for the audience, and creates focus on  the hands, the feet, the eyes and the face to show the characters’ states of mind, enticing the audience to be drawn further into the intrigue and horrors of the story and its protagonists.

In its powerful intersection of fiction and reality, L’Amante Anglaise has you leaving the venue with an emptiness and sadness deep in your heart as to how these people have got to where they are in life. Ironically, it is not the dark details of the murder that have this effect on you, but the utter fascinating character study of two people who yearn for a different time. Unmissable.

Venue: fortyfive downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Season: Until 3 July | Tue- Sat 7.30pm, Sun 5pm
Tickets: $38 Full | $32 Conc
Bookings: fortyfive downstairs