Wednesday, 10 February 1999
Chilling and Killing My Annabel Lee, 10 Feb 1999
by Aidan Fennessy
Playbox Beckett Theatre until March 6, 1999
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on 10 Feb 1999
A man confesses to a murder. There is no evidence, no body. Well, not for this particular crime. However, the murder of prostitute, Annabel Lee, at a nearby ice-works remains unsolved.
This is the stuff of murder mystery, thrillers and film noir plots. In his play, Chilling and Killing My Annabel Lee, writer/director Aidan Fennessy is influenced by all these related genres but adheres to none. The style is more abstracted, less linear in narrative and distinctly more comical.
There is something rather dreamlike about it, as if the characters are still in the process of being conjured up in the mist of the writer's mind: the minds of both the playwright himself and his fictional, unsuccessful novelist, Edgar(Marco Chiappi).
This style is echoed in the issues of language, plot, memory, romance and loss arising in the crime novels written by Edgar Lancedowne's dead lover, Christina Muzy. Melita Jurisic). Her surname, perhaps too obviously, is reverberant of "muse" while Edgar's name pays respect to Edgar Alan Poe's poignant if morbid love poem.
The plot twists and flaps like a wet fish in the hand. It is not an homage to "noir" movies so it can takes liberties with form. However, any depth or clarity in characterisation is clouded by clever quips and absurdist influences. The female characters are thinly drawn but Jurisic, who plays all four, shifts skilfully from exotic to charming, brusque to fragile.
What might have been maintained more rigorously from "film noir" is the archetypes: vamp, hard-bitten detective, eccentric alternative suspect. It lacks an evil, shadowy character and rich emotional layers in its central characters. But this is being picky. It is not written as a homage..
This production looks beautiful. Phillip Lethlean's lighting is evocative and dramatic, highlighting the mysterious, grim interiors. Matt Cameron's design recaptures grubby offices, bleak apartments and dim streets of the city.
The performances are strong. Robert Morgan as Calminer, the gruff detective, is the most sympathetic character. Wayne Hope is very funny as the mysoginist cop as is Francis Greenslade as Kilty, the publisher. Chiappi makes a feast of the idiosyncrasies of the tormented Edgar.
If your tastes are for hot crime thrillers with dense emotional layering, watch Linda La Plante. Although Annabel Lee emphasises style over content, you should enjoy the jaunty ride.