Saturday, 8 May 2004

The Art 'n Death Trilogy, May 8. 2004

The Art 'n Death Trilogy
Fainting 33 Times by Adam Cass
Trades Hall Ballroom, May 8 to  23, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 8

Fainting 33 Times is the first play in an evening called The Art 'n Death Trilogy. It is based loosely on Meyerhold, the post-revolution Russian theatre director.

The strongest component of this collaborative piece is the cunning direction by Bob Pavlich.

Cass's script is unmemorable, apart from those parts plagiarised from Chekhov and Shakespeare.

What links these scenes is a series of vignettes about Meyerhold, his actress wife, Zinaida Raikh  (OK) and his acting company.

Meyerhold prepares a performance for Stalin's upcoming visit. He is afraid to present his version of Hamlet as he feels he is not ready.

He rehearses instead, Chekhov's The Bear and another play, A List of Benefits, by Yury Olesha. (OK)

After Stalin's long awaited visit, Zinaida is murdered, and Meyerhold is imprisoned and tortured as a traitor to the Revolution.

Stuart Crawford and Sarah Wright are both capable as Meyerhold and Zinaida.

Hey are supported by Joshua Ryan playing Dappertutto, (OK) the pseudonym Meyerhold used for controversial projects.

An ensemble of nine allows Pavlich to play with the staging and interpretation of the text. This is where the show gets interesting.

In the first section, The Bear, the combative lovers become multi-voiced as the ensemble speaks with them and for them. The characters' thoughts and feelings become more complex and compelling.

Pavlich creates moving human sculptures as the ensemble forms tableaux of moments in the story. 

The actors move and freeze in sync or fall to the floor in canon.

The title, Fainting 33 Times, cites an observation by Meyerhold that characters in Chekhov's plays faint or swoon frequently.

Picturesque lighting by John Ford enhances the atmosphere. He fills the empty space with colour and highlights the clownish quality of the actors. The eclectic and evocative music ranges from circus tunes to clattering Eastern European brass. There is virtually no set but the costumes (Paula Levis) are vivid and clown-like creating a burlesque feel to the production.

There are two additional plays each night. After Fainting comes Have Dreamed of Time at 8pm. At 10pm is The Anniversary of the Death of Sarah Kane, which deals with the young playwright who suicided as her play writing career succeeded.

LOOK FOR: The multi-vocal declaration of love in the opening section.

By Kate Herbert

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