Tuesday, 16 April 2002

Still Angela by Jenny Kemp, Playbox, April 16, 2002

Still Angela  by Jenny Kemp  
 Playbox at Merlyn Theatre, April 16 to 27, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

It may not be possible to explain a Jenny Kemp theatre experience in print but here goes. 

Still Angela is written and directed with provocative flair by Kemp and has the trademarks of her previous work, Black Sequin Dress.  It is steeped in femaleness. Three women ( Margaret Mills,Natasha Herbert,Lucy Taylor  play the one character, Angela, at different ages in her life journey - or is it merely in different states of being or awareness?

It resonates with dreams and memories, echoes with snatches of music (Elizabeth Drake  and tickles us with Kemp's collision of the banal and the sublime.

Still Angela relies heavily and effectively on the physical. Five actors move through space like dancers while dancers (Ros Warby , Felicity MacDonald represent Angela's remembered mother and six year old Angela.

Complex and geometrical lighting (David Murray  sculpts the space and creates corridors, rooms, cages and even a chess board. It illuminates a mesmerising landscape of desert and dried trees.

Still Angela is not a linear narrative. If you want a step by step story this is not for you. All three women, often simultaneously, speak as Angela.

One version (Taylor) is young, overworked and confused by her relationship with Jack. (Simon Wilton  Then another Angela (Herbert) speaks who is more critical or even more despairing.

Finally she is an older Angela (Mills) speaking in the third person, acting as commentator on Angela's world. She appears travelling in a train over the Simpson Desert, standing in an imagined or remembered desert landscape or talking to her old lover (Mark Minchinton .

"There are two landscapes," Angela says. "One right on top of the other." We live, like Angela, between two worlds: that of our imagination and that of our concrete, business-like and harried world.

Quirky choreography by Helen Herbertson  creates another layer to the work. The set design by Jacqueline Everitt  is evocative and magical with Murray's lighting. A film of suburbs and desert by Ben Speth  completes the complex visual landscape to reflect the inner self.

The piece is witty and compelling. The balance of humour, lyricism and metaphor is exciting. 

By Kate Herbert

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