Thursday, 20 November 2003

Stitching by Anthony Neilson, Theatre@Risk, Nov 20, 2003

Stitching by Anthony Neilson
Theatre @ Risk

Black Box, Vic Arts Centre, Nov 20 to Dec 7, 2003

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stitching, by Scottish playwright Anthony Neilson, evidently caused plenty of controversy last year in both Edinburgh and London.

Theatre@Risk takes up the challenge with Simon Kingsley Hill  and Alexandra Schepisi  directed by Lauren Taylor.  

The play is a brooding two-hander about a young couple who confront a change in their up beat lives when they discover the woman is pregnant. We can presume only not only the issue of abortion but the occasional graphic descriptions of ugly and aberrant sexual acts prompted the picketing by religious groups

The script has a few surprises and as many confusions in its development.  The final revelation makes some sense of the story. A series of short scenes are played in a cavernous Black Box and Taylor directs the piece simply.

The actors perform in an empty space facing each other in battle to salvage their relationship and decide whether to have the baby. When off stage they are still visible peeling clothing off and replacing it on the store mannequins placed at intervals around the outside of the audience seating.

The musicians (Jerome Haoust, James Cathcart) are also behind us pumping out percussive and sonorous music designed by Jethro Woodward.

Taylor uses the space well containing the intimate dialogue scenes in the space enclosed on three sides by audience. At other times the actors move to the curtained windows in the deep background.

Schepisi and Kingsley Hall give convincing performances as the fraught couple. Their relationship is credible while t heir sexual, intimate scenes are courageous and passionate.

Any problems are with the script rather than this production of it. Neilson, perhaps purposely, does not fill in all the blanks. The scenes that are inter-cut between Abby  and Stu's  attempts to solve their pregnancy dilemma seem at first to be a completely different couple. Then it appears they are scenes from their first meetings. Later we discover they are scenes from after their separation.

His dialogue is often smart and funny but sometimes repetitive. The scenes between the couple that occur after the end of their relationship seem to rely on shock value for their effect. It seems we are unshockable so his pornographic references are often adolescent.

I viewed this show at a preview and it will clearly sharpen up and the actors will work with greater confidence as it runs its season.

By Kate Herbert

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