Tag: Laurence Strangio

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.


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

REVIEW: The Good Person of Szechuan by BERTOLT BRECHT

Brecht play is for goodness’ sake

By Myron My

The Good Person of Szechuan, directed by Laurence Strangio is a theatrical parable by Bertolt Brecht being performed at La Mama. The play has the typical conventions of Brecht: the audience interaction, the direct speaking to the viewers, symbolic props and the opportunity for the unique use of the stage – and if you have been to La Mama before you will be amazed to see how it has been transformed.


The play, as with many of Brecht’s works, has a profound social statement to make, this time about what is good, how do we become good and more importantly who decides who is good. Furthermore, it looks at various addictions such as tobacco, heroin and selfishness. Despite the frenetic nature of the play and at times, its absurdist humour and fantastical nature, the themes explored are done so with care and honesty.

The cast (Marc Lawrence, James Deeth, Carmelina Di Guglielmo, Zoe Ellerton-Ashley, Terry Yeboah and HaiHa Le) portray a total of 25 characters which adds to the intensity of Brecht’s work. Most likely due to my attending on a preview night, there were some characters that feel more authentic and fleshed-out than others but the passion from the actors is constant so I was only too willing to overlook this. I was impressed with Di Guglielmo’s portrayals of both God 2 and Mrs Shin, and with Yeboah’s characterisation of Yang Sun especially.

HaiHa Le has the difficult task of depicting Shen Te the prostitute and Shui Ta the cousin, and does particularly well in portraying the innocence and goodness of the former.

There are so many thought-provoking scenes in this play and with a running time of almost two and a half hours, an intermission would have been a nice break. This was apparent especially towards the end where the pace slows down a bit and the exhaustion of what has transpired begins to make itself felt on the audience.

The preview night performance of The Good Person of Szechuan was thoroughly enjoyable and provoked much discussion with the issues it covered and its solid ensemble casting.

Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St, Carlton

Season: Until 26 May | Wed 6:30pm, Thu-Sat 8:30pm, Sun 6:30pm, Wed 1:00pm (except May 8) and Thurs 11am.

Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc

Bookings: http://lamama.com.au or 9347 6948

Review: UNCLE VANYA by Hotwire Productions

An engrossing interpretation of a modern masterpiece

By Anastasia Russell-Head

Chekhov’s works, like Shakespeare’s, serve to unite humanity and human foibles across time and continents.

More than a century after Uncle Vanya was first penned, and on the opposite side of the globe, we’re still dealing with the same stuff – complaining about our lives, falling in love with the wrong people, allowing ourselves to be irritated and manipulated by our relatives, and falling victim to paralyzing inaction.

Director and adaptor Laurence Strangio brings the characters in this play slightly out of history, and makes their plight poignantly relevant to today by, as he writes in the program notes, not feeling “bound by historical accuracy”.

Although ostensibly the characters remain in nineteenth-century Russia, the language and idioms are not forcibly “historical”, but fall naturally onto twenty-first-century ears – drawing the similarities through time rather than highlighting the differences between then and now.

A superb ensemble cast portray the quirky characters with relish, from the hyperbolic gravitas of Peter Finlay’s Professor, to Bruce Woolley’s dry and proudly eccentric Dr Astrov. Although not always the most convincing member of the cast, Sarah Ranken brings a quiet strength and pathos to the character of Sonya, especially in her moving speech at the end of the play. Notable mention must also be made of Richard Bligh and Louise O’Dwyer.

The sumptuous set makes use of the full width of iconic theatre space fortyfivedownstairs, drawing the audience into the action, and feeling almost like we’re inside an isolated night-time country house alongside the characters. All it needed was an open fireplace to complete the illusion! A couple of sight line issues and passages in which characters deliver lines to the back wall are very minor flaws.

Although not by any means a short play (allow three hours, including interval) this production kept my attention throughout, made me laugh, nearly made me cry, and certainly made me think about what it is to be human and to construct a life. In the words of Uncle Vanya, “to start a new life… where to begin?

MAY 16 – JUNE 3 


45 Flinders Lane

Tuesday – Saturday 8pm

Saturday matinee 4pm

Sundays 6pm

Tickets: $38 / $25 / $15 school groups

Bookings:  03 9662 9966 / fortyfivedownstairs.com

REVIEW: Stripped at LA MAMA

Laying a story bare…

By Adam Tonking

Stripped is the story of two sisters, Lillian and Sophie, estranged by the various circumstances of their vastly different lives, and brought back together through tragedy.

Lillian is a lawyer, married to Daniel, good friends with Louise and Jack: she is also dying. Sophie is a stripper, and there are more characters in this story; but what is important is that all of these are played by the one amazing actress.

Caroline Lee, creator of the original text, is the actress at the helm of all these characters in this overwhelming story about the repercussions of death on relationships. While the different characterisations took a while to sink in for the audience, Lee was in complete control the entire time.

She obviously understood each character down to the bone, and presented their individual identities clearly for the audience, managing the different ages, genders, and motivations with grace and apparent ease; in fact, one of the most provocative moments was told from the perspective of Lillian’s husband, Daniel. All this, while allowing the compelling story to unfold before us.

In spite of the subject matter, the script never became manipulative, melodramatic, or clichéd. Rather, it remained conversational and deeply personal throughout. I did feel at times that this conversational tone clashed with Lee’s often declamatory style of speech, and with Laurence Strangio’s restrained direction which occasionally seemed too stylised.

I suspect that these choices were made to clear any extraneous clutter for an audience required to keep up with the complexity of shifting narrative perspectives, however I felt that it created a barrier between the audience and the characters, forcing the audience to sympathise rather than empathise.

But that is ultimately a small detraction, in what is otherwise a masterful performance of a challenging and powerful piece.

Stripped is on at La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton, from Wednesday 7th March till Sunday 18th March. Bookings at www.lamama.com.au or by calling 03 9347 6142.