Wednesday, 1 October 1997

Kennedy's Children, Oct 1, 1997

Kennedy's Children by Robert Patrick
Athenaeum Upstairs bar until Oct 19, 1997
 Reviewed by Kate Herbrt around 30 Sept 1997

JFK and Marilyn Monroe were not the only casualties of the swingin' 60's. Kennedy's Children, by U.S. playwright Robert Patrick, crawls inside the sad lives of some lesser-known tragedies that lived on into the nostalgic 70's only to regret their pasts.

This adaptation has excised several characters from the original play and concentrates on two women. Carla (Deborah Robertson) is a Marilyn wannabe and failed club singer. Rona (Suzie Cardiff) is a latter-day hippy who pines for the days of real causes and idealistic kids.

Rona and her kind wore sandals 'because we were poor' not as a fashion statement. They took drugs to expand their minds not to kill themselves or others. They listened to music because it supported their protests, they marched because they cared and loved because they meant it.

Carla remembers when every girl - and boy - wanted to be Marilyn, when beauty was prized and men didn't hate women. As the decade wore on, she discovered that she was disposable. Both are tragic romantics who believed life could be better and discovered that it only got worse.

Cardiff is a charming and ingenuous love child reincarnated. Her naive reminiscences, her almost childlike view of the politics and social dramas of the era, have a sweet melancholy. She has never recovered from her dreams of a better world, even though her boyfriend is a junkie and Dylan is a multi-millionaire.

The characters who have been edited from this production included a Vietnam veteran and a gay man. The balance is tossed askew with only two voices in the series of monologues but the musical accompaniment by Dan Kelly is an excellent compensation for some of the losses. The actors prowl among the audience in the Upstairs bar of the Athenaeum but the staging becomes predictable and static although the characters and writing carry the piece.

Robertson gives a masterly performance as Carla. Her jaded Marilyn look-alike is a desperate creature haunting this bar, singing her old songs, drinking her cocktails to wash down too many sleepers. Her voice is scented with Marilyn and gin. Her memories are of an artist who bartered herself for favours.

Patrick's writing is exceptional and informed. He wittily juxtaposes images, concepts and characters from the period and seems, himself, to be pining for the days when people were kind to each other. When were they?


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