Monday, 17 August 1998

Crossing The Line, Part One, Aug 17, 1998

Part One of Crossing The Line Merlin Theatre until August 20, 1998
 The Look by Alexa Wyatt 
The Floating Girl and the Man Who Whirled by Jack Feldstein 
 Review Aug 17, 1998

The lure of screenwriting for playwrights is well documented. There is no brain drain in the opposite direction because there is no money in theatre – and no jobs.

Crossing the Line is a momentary lapse, the exception to the rule. Under the umbrella of the Melbourne Writers' Festival, actor-writer-director, Gary Files has put together staged readings  of five plays by established screen writers.

These two media, stage and screen, demand very different techniques from writers. Naturalistic detail and dialogue is generally demanded on television whereas, on stage, styles range from realism to the abstract and physical.

Screen writers, so often constrained by the requirements of television executives, can be excused for forgetting the skill of the actor and the versatility of the stage.

The first program is two short plays: The Look by Alexa Wyatt (E Street, Heartbreak High, All Saints) and The Girl Who Floated and the Man Who Whirled by Jack Feldstein (Head Writer, Brilliant Digital Entertainment) Both are directed by John Wood, famous for his Blue Heelers role but also a seasoned theatre performer.

Ailsa Piper (Neighbours) alone on stage, apart from a Narrator (Tony Rickards) reading stage directions. Marilyn, a comic-tragic figure, is running a training session for Estelle cosmetics. Piper is poignant and funny as Marilyn's prepared lecture slowly disintegrates into a tortured and embarrassing rave

She was the first Estelle girl, the lover of Monsieur Dupont the owner. She is a shattered, disillusioned, dislocated woman who has no identity without her beauty or her make-up.

The piece is cleverly written but too long for its content. It is reminiscent of the women's theatre of the 80's which challenged role models and female stereotypes.

Feldstein's play is clearly written by a very capable screenwriter but it is not a theatre script because of its rapid cinematic scenes, very involved naturalistic stage directions, specific locations, costumes, props and numerous extras.

It is a tale of two inner-urban, self-indulgent, angst-ridden Jewish artists (David Tredinnick, Fiona Walsh) whose fraught relationship involves tormenting each other about their bisexuality, jealousy, intensity, neurosis and their Jewishness.

If this were staged in an abstract form it could be an interesting performance piece but, at present, it is still a short art-film script.

Other writers to come are John Wood's The Subterraneans, John Misto's Gossamer and Snoop by Patrick Edgeworth.

By Kate Herbert

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