Wednesday, 5 December 2001

Silver Rose by Kate O'Brien, Dec 5, 2001

at La Mama until December 16, 2001
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss is the basis for Silver Rose, a play by Kate O'Brien, directed by Lloyd Jones . Unfortunately, the play does not rise to the level of its parent opera.

The concept is that Adele, (Heather Leviston) the diva singing the role of the Marschallin from Rosenkavalier, falls crashingly in love with her co-lead.

Not such an unusual story, you say? Well, the fact that the young lover, Octavian, is played by a mezzo-soprano, takes the romance into same-sex love territory.

Iris (Mary Helen Pirola) is an 'out' young, funky lesbian. Adele is a celebrated singer, a middle-aged woman with a husband, child and public reputation she wants to protect.

Here is a recipe for high drama, deception, clandestine trysts, dramatic or romantic arias and operatic emoting. Sadly, the play lacks these.

The actors look uncomfortable and have difficulty making the awkward dialogue convincing.
Both Leviston and Pirola  are singers and the production might have benefited from a fuller use of sung text to heighten emotion and give us a sense of the opera the characters perform.

Music provides a background to scene changes but it is an oddly eclectic mixture of popular, ballads and passages from the opera. Lyrics are often spoken which feels stagy. 

One very long scene is essentially an unaccompanied song that is sung prettily by Pirola. The song, however, does not advance the story and goes on too long.

O'Brien's script lacks coherent structure and wanders between styles. Poetic purple patches follow internal monologues and long, repetitive dialogues between the potential lovers.

It has no dramatic conflict, no surprises and no sub-text. We know everything from the beginning.  Too many scenes do not serve the story. 

The play begins as Adele's story then becomes Iris's. There short and pointless scenes from Adele's childhood that explain nothing of her present. It delves at too great a length in the middle of the play, into Iris's past failed relationship. There is too much exposition
and too little dramatic tension.

There are two unnecessarily slow costume changes at the beginning and end of the play. The pace alters little apart from in the childhood scenes with Adele's drunken dad.

This play needs a great deal of development to work theatrically.

By Kate Herbert

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