Tag: Michael Hankin


Beautiful reimagining of a classic

By Bradley Storer

The Glass Menagerie, the first great success of legendary American playwright Tennessee Williams, is a curious thing – not entirely a traditional naturalistic play nor an abstract lyrical Symbolist piece, it lives in the blurry division between fantasy, reality and memory. Director Eamon Flack emphasizes this essential ambiguity from the outset, as narrator Tom Wingfield (Luke Mullins) enters casually through the audience and seemingly begins to construct the play both physically and textually before our very eyes in his opening monologue.

The Glass Menagerie.jpg

The multifaceted set designed by Michael Hankin, the tiny Wingfield family apartment that unfolds in continually surprising ways, is surrounded by cameras (with video design by Sean Bacon) that project images onto near by screens as the play unfurls, creating delectable moments of intimacy with the characters and thrilling moments of theatrical ingenuity at the same time it theatricalizes and distances these moments as though we are seeing scenes from an old Hollywood picture – further suggesting the way Tom has shaped and crafted his memories until the line between his nostalgic remembrance and the reality has disappeared completely.

Mullins as Wingfield is remarkable, combining the soul of a poet with a bitter and sardonic twist of humour that one senses is the result of a sensitive spirit yearning for the freedom his home life denies him. Pamela Rabe as his mother Amanda, one of the great Southern belles of the Williams canon, gives a truly titanic performance, moving from a shrewd no-nonsense woman beaten down by the harsh realities of her life to the winsome love-struck girl of her youth with ease in the space of a single scene, creating a portrait of a woman burdened by both her massive maternal love and the seething resentment underneath. Rose Riley as Laura, Tom’s shy and disabled sister, brings a surprising and refreshing tom-boyishness to the role, and when her closed-off but scintillating face is projected in big screen, it is easy to see why Laura is the heart (and the central mystery) of this nostalgic play.

The first act is close to perfection, but the second act where the lives of the Wingfelds is interrupted by the visit of a gentleman caller (a jovial Harry Greenwood) seems to get a bit lost, and the final moments of the play fail to bring together the wide-ranging resources used throughout into a  satisfying conclusion. But when this production succeeds, which it often does, those moments are truly magical.

Venue: Malthouse Theatre, Merlyn Theatre, 113 Sturt St

Dates: 18th May – 5th June

Times: Tuesday 6:30pm, Wednesday – Saturday 7:30pm, Saturday 1pm, Sunday 5pm

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

Prices: Adult $65, Concession $50, Senior $60, Tertiary Student and Under 30’s $35

Image by Pia Johnson, Malthouse and Belvoir

REVIEW: Critical Stages and Shane Anthony Present SONGS FOR THE FALLEN

A witty and sumptuous tragedy

By Bradley Storer

Marie Duplessis, 19th-century French courtesan, socialite, literary muse and all-round party girl who died just after her 23rd birthday and whose life inspired artists from Alexandre Dumas, Giuseppe Verdi all the way to Baz Luhrmann, returns from the grave for one last party at the Fairfax Studio – and this one is going to be a killer!

Songs for the Fallen

Songs for the Fallen is a fabulous melange of tragic musical, bawdy cabaret and pumping pop opera, the writing of Sheridan Harbridge and music by Basil Hogios finding a pulsating and contemporary vitality, appropriate for this story of the original ‘material girl’! The set by Michael Hankin recalls the decaying remains of a 19th-century French apartment but easily transforms into a drug-crazed disco or demented vaudevillian circus upon demand.

Harbridge in the role of Marie Duplessis is a dynamo, a slender and fragile figure with a huge voice encased in fabulous corsets and garters who claims centre stage, shamelessly courts and molests the audience from the get-go and whose boundless charisma never lets up. She is aided by two versatile fellow performers, Simon Corfield and Ashley Hawkes, who assume the roles of various characters as we are taken on a burlesque and irreverent retelling of Marie’s rags-to-riches-and-back-again story. The three work so seamlessly and effortlessly together that they produce the energy and character of an ensemble of ten! Hogios’ score wonderfully and tunefully captures the seductively lush materialism of Marie’s existence in thumping dance beats, as well as her despair at its fragility and lack of inner purpose in gorgeous pop ballads.

It is a credit to the show that even as it pokes fun at any pretence of seriousness or accuracy to the historical context, a beating and wounded heart lurks beneath the surface. Songs for the Fallen captures, better perhaps than any other derivative depiction of Duplessis, the tragic dimension of this complex woman who clawed her way up from the gutter, living in brief splendour only to be consumed by incurable illness that left her alone, wretched and friendless before her death. Refusing to draw a moral or produce judgement, Songs for the Fallen heart-breakingly communicates the senseless and unjust cruelties of the world at the same time it embraces the joy and immaculate pleasure of simply being alive.

Time: 8pm
Date: 29th September – 3rd October
Venue: Fairfax Studio, The Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Rd.
Tickets: Adult $49, Under 30’s $30
Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au, 1300 182 183, at the box office.