Thursday, 19 September 2002

Fever, MWT, Sep 19, 2002

Fever  by Andrew Bovell  Patricia Cornelius,  Melissa Reeves, Christos Tsiolkas  & Irine Vela Melbourne Workers Theatre
At  Trades Hall, Sept 19 to October 5, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

"Where does the fever in the nation burn hottest?' This was the challenging question asked of the four writers of the new Melbourne Workers Theatre production, Fever.

These same writers (Andrew Bovell, Patricia Cornelius, Melissa Reeves , Christos Tsiolkas) created the award winning MWT show, Who's Afraid of the Working Class?

Seven actors play variety of roles in all stories. (Daniela Farinacci, Eugenia Fragos, LeRoy Parsons,  Rodney Afif, (Pauline Whyman David Adamson, Tony Briggs)

The company wanted to revisit the artistic and critical success of its earlier production. Fever succeeds only in part. It does not meet the level of socio-political commentary of Who's Afraid…? Nor does it equal its artistic achievements.

This is not to say that the show has no merit. The important issues of xenophobia and fear of difference are raised in this testing period of our history since the refugee crisis and September 11.

These common themes and the image of a river link the four separate narrative threads.

Bovell's tightly written story, The Chair,  is about a frightened woman ( Fragos) holding hostage a man (Parsons) who invaded her land and her home.

This is the most effective narrative. The dialogue is spare, the themes are less obvious and the relationship between the two characters is dangerous and dramatic. It is the only story with any genuine dramatic tension.

Reeves' story, Savant,  is funny and eccentric. A young woman (Farinacci)  gives birth to a violent and fully developed baby. (Afif) " Mummy, I'm evil," quips the bub.

Although the baby's concluding political tirade is humorous, it overstates its themes and feels like preaching.

In Blunt  by  Patricia Cornelius,  a woman (Whyman) finds a baby floating on a river. Her primitive community of women are fearful of the baby because of its race.

Psalms  by Christos Tsiolkas,  attacks the issues by portraying a local community split by a river, race, religion and, subsequently, war.

Director, Julian Meyrick  keeps the pace rapid and the style and images consistent. The set (Louise McCarthy  is a red sandy desert reminiscent of Uluru.  Paul Jackson   lights the stage with flair.  

Music by Irine Vela  is a highlight of the show. It creates atmosphere with sultry evocative guitar and cello.

Fever is a noble effort but the outcome is, in part, a simplistic representation of complex themes.

By Kate Herbert

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