Tag: Merlyn Theatre

Malthouse Presents THE TESTAMENT OF MARY

Listening for a voice

By Bradley Storer

In the darkened corner of a modern apartment, a woman in blue is curled up weeping and clenching her fists. A stark blackout, and the same woman stands expressionless and walks into the kitchen to chop vegetables. With this bleak contrast of mourning and domesticity, The Testament of Mary begins to unfold the hidden story of the mother of God.

Testament of Mary.jpg

Colm Toibin’s script, adapted from his own novel of the same name, is certainly evocative, and the passages describing Mary following the trail of Jesus’ march to crucifixion, her vigil and eventual terrified flight from Golgotha are as heart-breaking as they are harrowing. While the aim of the play seems to be to break down our historical and religious pre-conceptions of Mary, in Testament she never emerges as enough of a fully-formed character to do this. In sections describing her situation years after the crucifixion, flashes of a full-blooded Mary emerges – in a poignant description of a chair left eternally empty waiting for its occupant to return, or in her bafflement in dealing with the outlandish declarations of her son’s former followers, we can see her humanity appearing. Once the play moves on to re-telling Jesus’ rise and subsequent downfall, however, Mary becomes a reactionary character with no agency to affect her own fate. She is simply shuffled around according to the actions and desires of other (mostly male) characters, whether it be her mysterious cousin Marcus or Jesus himself, but what Mary herself desires is very rarely evident.

Pamela Rabe works incredibly hard to form a character out of these materials, and the fact that Testament works at all as a dramatic piece can be credited entirely to her as a brilliant actor. The unrelenting darkness and bleakness of Toibin’s writing begins to feel almost monotone as the play goes on, which unfortunately the direction of Anne-Louise Sarks seems unable to combat. The contemporary apartment set by Marg Horwell and Paul Jackson – while maybe intended to divorce the story of its distant historical context – alas adds nothing to the overall meaning. Steve Toulmin’s compositions and sound design, while sometimes overused, add subtle poignancy and gravitas to several key moments.

The Testament of Mary is described as having the goal of ‘to examine how myths are made, and to question who has the power to tell them’ but never offers up a strong enough voice of its own or an alternative to accepted mythology. The key divergence from biblical text, that Jesus was not the son of God, doesn’t feel like enough of a dramatic twist to build the entire plot upon. For a play about the historical silencing of women and the narrative exclusion of the feminine viewpoint, The Testament of Mary feels oddly voiceless.

Dates: 3 – 26th November

Venue: Merlyn Theatre, The Malthouse, 113 Sturt St, Southbank VIC

Times: Tuesday 6:30pm, Wednesday – Saturday 7:30pm, Matinee Saturday 3pm, Sunday 5:30pm.

Prices: $35 – $69

Bookings: www.malthousetheatre.com.au , boxoffice@malthousetheatre.com.au , Ph: 03 9685 5111

Image by Zan Wimberley

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Anthony Weigh’s EDWARD II

Tender chaos

By Leeor Adar

For all the chaos of Christopher Marlowe’s brief life, I’m sure he would have sat in the Merlyn Theatre last night with a wicked smile on his face to see the tender chaos Matthew Lutton and his team resurrected.

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But let’s be honest, with Anthony Weigh’s writing and Marg Horwell’s impressive set design, this work is a beast of its own glory.

The play is broken into the fragments of the artefacts the boy prince (Julian Mineo/Nicholas Ross) inspects from his father’s reign. The noble handle of a sword and handkerchief descends to a bag of faeces left at the palace gates. The frames of the scenes marked by the flint and steel of the lighter, signify the brief candle of these moments leading towards Edward II’s fall.

Edward II is a museum to the hypocrisy of the people’s love for their monarch. It’s a cold world, but despite the blood and pulp of the people within it, at the core of this rotten apple of yet another kingdom, is the most tender love story between two men I have ever witnessed on stage. Johnny Carr (Ned) and Paul Ashcroft (Piers) capture the heady, shaking, vulnerability of the impossible-to-bottle kind of love. Their energy was marvellous on stage.

Ned’s brutality and unpredictability at first drove this production, but even the bubbling inner-workings of an unstable prince could not quash the ambitions of the likes of Mortimer, played with mastery by Marco Chiappi. When Chiappi got going on Weigh’s words, it became Mortimer I. For all the sweat and passion of Carr and Ashcroft, Chiappi’s delivery drew the masses into the palm of his hand – audience and peasant alike. Even as Mortimer lulled a sensually delusional Ned towards death, we could not help but accept the sensibility of this decision. Because tomorrow, we will have another king.

The woman’s role in Edward II is to nurture the next king, but Sib (Belinda McClory) laments the loss of her potential in this world. Although Sib plays the role of the queen-to-be, there is ambition pulsing through her sinewy body for a surge of control. McClory’s voice is hollow and powerful as she pushes her lover aside and walks with purpose across the stage. But at the close of this play, she’s exhausted, calling out, unanswered, into the kingdom she birthed but could not rein.

The Malthouse Theatre has always been the Marlowe-esque bad boy of the Melbourne theatre world, challenging the dimensions of theatre and immersing its audiences in treacherous and thought-provoking terrain. This one such terrain was bold, decadent and ultimately heartbreaking.

Malthouse Theatre until August 21

http://malthousetheatre.com.au/whats-on/edward-ii