Tag: Russell Goldsmith

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.

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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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La Mama Presents I SAT AND WAITED BUT YOU WERE GONE TOO LONG

Private words for personal grief

By Myron My

Presented as part of La Mama Theatre’s Explorations season presenting new works in various stages of development, I Sat And Waited But You Were Gone Too Long is a look at how you move on with your life when you are struggling to just get through the day. Written and directed by Olivia Satchell, it follows two women (played by Rosie Clynes and Emily Tomlins) who are unable to release themselves from the grief that has taken them over.

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Tomlins in particular is captivating as the nameless woman still coping with her own personal grief. The heartbreak she feels is clearly shown beyond Satchell’s words, and through Tomlins’ posture, facial expressions and manner of speech. Clynes is also great to watch as the motherless girl, however I found her harder to relate to and sympathise with and this might be due more with the writing and sound difficulties than with the actual performance.

The individual stories created by Satchell are intriguing, however the interactions between the two women seem forced, with some awkward dialogue that takes away from the emotions being explored. Satchell’s direction however is a strength of this production, particularly the plays with silence that are used to further highlight the anguish that these women feel.

While acknowledging that this is the first time that I Sat And Waited is being staged, there were some severe technical difficulties with the sound that prevented me from being able not only to engage with the story but also to follow it. Each audience member is provided with wireless headphones through which to hear Russell Goldsmiths well-suited soundscape and the characters’ dialogue. Despite being advised of the sound issues before the show began, the constant static coming through made it difficult to hear the dialogue, and in the last fifteen minutes I gave up and had to take the headphones off so I could hear what was being said directly from the actors. I’m unsure as to Satchell’s intention in using this technology in this show, as the environment could just as simply and effectively have been set up without the wireless headphones.

There is promise with I Sat And Waited But You Were Gone Too Long, and I am eager to see how this work develops beyond its Explorations season at La Mama.

I Sat And Waited was performed between 23 – 25 October at La Mama Theatre.