Thursday, 15 July 1999

Quintet , 15 July 1999

By Graham Henderson at La Mama until August 1, 1999
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The collision of the poetic and the theatrical can be a fine accident. Some of Graham Henderson's prolific writing (he has written 42 plays since 1976) makes lyrical theatre. Others are less successful.

Quintet is a collection of five short poetic monologues and duologues. All wallow in reverie about love and passion, aloneness and pain, each viewing them from a different angle. The language is dense and reflective, apart from the Beckettian clowns of The Desert and the Sea.

Characters remain internalised without any physical presence, which is the nature of the poetic theatre. All are set against a design incorporating falling water, (Stuart Vaskess) the sound of which is accented by live guitar and violin (Cousin Frank, David Branson).

Ithica is a monologue performed by Louise Morris. She stands in blue light, speaking of her inexplicable illness and her lover on whom she relies for her recovery.

The Desert and the Sea, performed by Phil Roberts and Danny Diesendorf, is the only piece in which characters communicate directly, albeit absurdly. They wait in the desert for a train to stop. They are travelling salesmen with a case full of tinned sardines which provides them with sustenance and a reminder of the Ocean from which sprang one of the men some twenty years   gills prove his briny origins.

Face is the most theatrically effective and emotionally affecting piece. It is also the most proficiently performed. David Branson), director of three of the pieces, looks almost bruised standing in a harsh overhead spotlight. He speaks of despair and loneliness and his chance meeting with an exotic woman who came to love him. It is an impassioned and restrained performance of a text that is less obtuse than much of the other writing.

White  (Diesendorf, Rebecca Rutter) goes further into obscurity than is comfortable in the theatre. Two people stand in the doorway obsessing over dust, death and all things white. The main flaw here is the weakness of the performers.

Room again focuses on lovers but, this time, we view them in short filmic grabs lying on white bedclothes in white clothing as they dream away days in each other's arms locked in a room.

Henderson's themes of the discovery of love and companionship, work in part for the stage but demand strong performers to make them theatrical .

By Kate Herbert

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