Monday, 19 July 1999
Possession by Glen Shea , 9 July 1999
by Glen Shea
at National Theatre July 9, 10, 11, 17, 18, 1999
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
New plays by indigenous Australian artists are no longer a rare occurrence. Over the past two years we have seen a series of plays including Up The Road, Seven Stages of Grieving, Stolen and Box the Pony to name a few. All of these were moving and theatrically skilful indigenous plays produced by major festivals, theatre companies and independent artists.
These productions deal with issues of dual culture, reconciliation and grief amongst other things, and all have been the product of experienced indigenous performers, directors or writers who have created potent theatrical experiences for our audiences.
Koori actor, Glen Shea, a graduate of NIDA in Sydney, has written Possession as part of Wi Iri We Homeborn, the Indigenous Arts Festival that coincides with the 61st NADOC Week.
Despite its good intentions, this play does not meet the standard of the aforementioned productions in terms of script, direction, production values or performance.
Two men and a woman, evidently siblings, inhabit what appears to be a strange kind of nether world where their past is muddle with their present, and where their regrets and conflicts are paramount.
A white "host" interjects occasionally, making poetic statements and coaxing them to remember the horrors of their shared childhood and the violence of their father who abused them. They are riddled with guilt and shame that has shattered their family, but they seek reconciliation and absolution.
The problems lie not in the basic concept of the play but in its execution. The script initially seems to follow Jean Genet's "No Exit", in which three people are trapped together in a hell of their own making. However, Possession is obtuse rather than abstract that leaves narrative unclear. The song that followed the play could be integrated as an effective chorus.
Dialogue shifts between the obvious and the melodramatic forcing characters to remain two-dimensional. The actors (David Ngoombujarra, Kathryn Hartman, Peter Docker, Glen Shea) compensate by over-acting.
Direction by Shea, who also performs, is unimaginative and staging is static with five chairs and tables set on a semi-circle on a stage much too big for this play. The play would benefit from further development and dramaturgical advice.
By Kate Herbert