Wednesday, 11 February 1998

Confidentially Yours, by Deirdre Rubenstein, Feb 11, 1998

Confidentially Yours, by Deirdre Rubenstein
Playbox Beckett Theatre until Feb 28, 1998
Reviewed by Kate Herbert round Feb 10, 1998

The dramatic monologue is a perfect vehicle for both playwright and actor. Deirdre Rubenstein had the luxury of selecting from texts commissioned by some of our finest Australian writers including Nick Enright, Andrew Bovell and Daniel Keene.

 Being given carte blanche to create their own quirky characters, they must have thought all their Christmases had come at once.

Deirdre Rubenstein, in her solo show Confidentially Yours opens the 1998 Playbox season. She scampers skilfully and breezily from New Yorker, Mrs. Sonenberg to the unknown Fleur who lives in the shadow of her famous sister, (Nick Enright), from Lorna, the blind dipsomaniac tart (Daniel Keene) to Ronnie the tastefully ageing ballerina (Joanna Murray-Smith).

Ten characters are interspersed with eight original songs composed by Alan John (The Eighth Wonder) with lyrics by poet, Alison Croggon.

Rubenstein, almost without exception, creates, with minimal costume change, a distinct and discreet persona for each by shifting tone, accent and body. Lorna is heavy, working-class, angry, jammed blindly behind her kitchen chair as she faces police interrogation.

Carol (Debra Oswald) is in perpetual motion as she flutters over her singles' 'date at 'Dinner for Six  while Jane and Paula (Andrew Bovell) reek of anguish.

It is the monologues that are the highlight of this production. Enright's delicate, evanescent New York tale of the heavily sun-glassed 'Mrs. Miller' is a feast of subtle inflection, fine language and impeccable craftsmanship.

The problems in this show arise from some unimaginative direction. Rubenstein is left pacing up and down a corridor of light from stage apron to chair. The pieces are begging for more evocative design and lighting and some physicality. The songs need some choreography; not to create a razzamatazz musical confection, but to give dramatic colour and visual interest to a very long series of mostly unconnected pieces.

It is a tall order to create eight new and inspired songs. Waiting Room, a witty Brechtian cabaret number with a distinctive style and wry humour, is the most memorable. The predictability of monologue followed by song by monologue unfortunately it gives an otherwise fine show a washing line effect.

Cutting four or five songs, and perhaps one or two more monologues, would make this an even stronger show.

By Kate Herbert

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