Thursday, 30 October 2003

Flame by Joanna Murray-Smith / Still by Jane Bodie, Oct 30, 2003

 Flame by Joanna Murray-Smith / Still by Jane Bodie
 by Look Look  Theatre  and The Malthouse  
 Tower Room,  Malthouse,  Oct 30 to Nov 15, 2003 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 30
Published in Herald Sun, Melbourne, Nov 2003

Joanna Murray-Smith's short play, Flame, directed by Joy Mitchell,  peers through the window at a widow's grief.

Louisa  (Michele Williams) summons her dead husband, Max  (Syd Brisbane) in moments of reminiscence, anguish, love, and guilt.

Flame is composed of fragmented dialogue and ruptured communication. The pair interrupt or complete each other's thoughts.

Initially, Louisa is the perfect widow, shattered then numbed by grief. She resorts to poetry to express her loss and decoupage  to fill empty hours.

She no longer receives invitations from those who cannot face her pain. Her grief is a dinner anecdote for others.

Max, although he has passed on, seems not cheerful but composed and without the pain of loss.

"Life lives death so much more keenly than death itself," says Louisa.

Flame is a series of revelations. It peels away skins to reveal the kernel of truth. We discover her grief masks many things including some relief and a past infidelity.

Williams, in widow's weeds, plays Louisa with a touch of the unfeelingness her husband describes. She seems bitter about his death, but her bitterness is about the more complex landscape of their relationship.

Brisbane portrays Max with a bright simplicity that makes Louisa's revelation more of a betrayal.

Jane Bodie's Still, directed by Bernadette Ryan, is a series of eight monologues about modern relationships. They deal with different aspects of love, sex, abandonment, attraction and seduction.

Four actors (Trent Baker, Michele Williams, Danielle Carter, Robert Jordan) play two characters each.

Baker is a young man desperate to make love to his latest conquest when his body betrays him. Then he is a voyeur who, nightly, observes through is window, his young female neighbour.

Carter plays both a woman admitting a drunken fling to her partner and a dizzy gal who prepares every detail of her date from conversation to contraception.

Jordan plays both a serial seducer with a huge capacity for self-deception and a gay man bravely facing his ex-partner at a groovy party.

Williams appears as a comic-tragic woman hiding from her ex and his new lover behind the citrus shelf in Coles, then as a woman who feels suffocated by the perfect partner.

These two plays are interesting companions dealing with contemporary love and loss.

By Kate Herbert

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