Wednesday, 14 October 1998

Out of Chaos by Jill Curry, Oct 14, 1998

At Athenaeum Theatre II until October 24, 1998
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

People who find themselves in the public eye generally do all in their power to keep their personal lives behind closed doors. Choosing to expose one's private life is courageous. Translating personal trauma into theatre is an enormous challenge.

Playwright, Jill Curry, has done just this. She has pulled the curtains on her psychological breakdown and created a piece of theatre about a woman in a similar emotional situation. Caroline Holmes, played with passion and total commitment by Victoria Nicolls, is the primary carer for her recalcitrant, aged father and has now been offered a promotion in Event Management.

She is under pressure to mask any anxiety because, at the slightest whiff of stress or aberrant behaviour, her family cry "breakdown" again. Her husband (John Higginson) is well meaning but uncomprehending. Her daughter (Natalie Carr) is supportive but frightened. Her self-centred sister (Natalie Shostak) is more concerned about who will care for dad.

It is not my intention to belittle the courage which generated this play nor the genuine trauma of the writer but, unfortunately, Curry's attempt to make theatre of this painful experience is unsuccessful. Real life experience needs to be filtered and transformed to make good drama.

There is no dramatic arc to the story. Perhaps a less literal representation of the family's experience might have created more dramatic tension. Caroline's journey has no surprises.

The style, structure and even Kim Baston's direction, are reminiscent of a 1970's Theatre-In-Education play devised to demonstrate a social issue. There are some very awkward dream sequences and childhood flashbacks. The pace, overall, is very slow.

The characters are under-developed and their dialogue is repetitive often deteriorating into cliches. The shadowy, ever-present psychiatrist mouths platitudes such as, "It's all right to be angry," or "You feel guilty about this," as if they were insightful.

Caroline's fractious dad is a colourful character who is pivotal to the jealousies between the two sisters. It could have been interesting to put him on stage, although playwright Alan Ayckbourne suggests an off-stage character can be compelling.

I wish I could have felt more positively about this play but, in spite of its origins in truth, as theatre it does not do justice to the depth of the anguish experienced in mental illness.

By Kate Herbert

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