Thursday, 12 February 1998
AGATHA BY MARGUERITE DURAS, Feb 12 1998
AGATHA BY MARGUERITE DURAS
At LA MAMA UNTIL MARCH 1, 1998
Reviewed by Kate Herbert around Feb 10, 1998
There are many varieties of a "love which dare not speak its name”. In Oscar Wilde's terms it was homosexuality that is no longer illegal in most places. In Marguerite Duras' play, Agatha, it is sibling love; the kind that is still illegal and taboo almost everywhere.
This production is the fourth in a series of Duras plays directed by obsessive Durasophile, Laurence Strangio, in the intimate confines on La Mama. The intensity of Duras' imagistic, poetic words is compounded by Strangio's close focus, low-key minimalist direction in conjunction with our proximity to the two actors, Caroline Lee and Anthony Morton.
Duras writes in languorous, honey-drenched language which is exactly how Lee plays Agatha as she shifts in space like an alabaster figurine draped in her clothing. There is a seductive quality in her last farewell to her lover. We are made uncomfortable by the palpable agony of the man who leans against the white wall, his head turned away in private grief at his impending loss.
The woman has telegrammed him with news that she is in love with another leaving him for ever to go far away. They float, almost disembodied, through the space avoiding each other, moving with the slow ache of grief, loss and guilt.
The eyes have great power- because eye contact is so restricted both between the protagonists and with the audience. They are like blind mice. The eyes reflect anguish and revisit past ecstasy too immediately. It is frustrating to witness, but Strangio has captured the maddening destructive disconnection of parting.
Duras always dives headlong into a sea of grief and happily splashes about in it. "Agatha" is a Jungian landscape spattered with watery emotional references. For their farewell, they revisit their seaside childhood holiday location, Villa Agatha, after which she named herself.
Time is elastic for Duras. The two 'speak of the past as though it were an event to come". They recount stories and fabricate memories about "that summer", how their love was hushed up , she was "married off" and he was jealous. Duras peels away layers to reveal the dark secrets at the core of their story.
This production is exquisitely but excruciatingly slow-paced. It lacks the narrative drama of L'Amante Anglaise and the layering in the production of La Maladie De la Mort but this script has a complex emotional texture that makes it compelling.