Thursday, 4 November 2004

A Moment on the Lips by Jonathan Gavin, Nov 4, 2004

A Moment on the Lips by Jonathan Gavin
Maelstrom Productions Old Council Chambers, Trades Hall, Carlton, November4 to 27, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Jonathan Gavin's play, A Moment on the Lips, weaves a compelling and complex pattern of lives and characters, all of them women.

The acting from all seven women is impeccable. Our astonishment at never having seen any of them on stage in Melbourne is explained by this being a Sydney production and most being graduates of WAAPA in Perth..

Although there is no protagonist, the play has a central narrator, Victoria, (Nicole Winkler) who comments upon the action, moves us through different time frames and is the link between all the characters lives.

Victoria is a self-indulgent painter who lacks commitment and fresh ideas. Her barrister sister, Jenny, (Caroline Brazier) and is driven, overworked and supports financially both her own life partner, an academic called Rowena, (Alison van Reeken) and Victoria.

Rowena's adopted sister, Bridget, (Ansuya Nathan) is Indian by birth, a devout Catholic and confused about her sister's lesbianism and her own Indian heritage. Bridget meets waitress, Dominique, (Jesse Spence) who has a spooky, intrusive, genuinely psychic way of knowing people's deepest thoughts and fears.

Emma, (Susie Godfrey) is a glossy commercial news presenter plagued by threats from a crazy viewer. Her ex-lover, Anne, (Julia Davis) is the only married member of the group and it becomes clear she is a manic- depressive.

We see these complicated, intense, troubled,, exhilarating women over a period of time. They argue, lose friends, patch things up, meet for dinners and coffee. There is a pregnancy, a death, a journey, a breakdown and many reunions. As the characters say, "It is the little things."

Gavin gives us a sense of real women in ordinary and extraordinary situations. His dialogue is witty, credible and passionate. Director, Kim Hardwick, sets a lightning pace and keeps the rhythms varied throughout the play.

Godfrey is delightfully wry as Emma finding a balance between her brittle exterior and vulnerable centre. Spence is charming as Dom and manages to make her New Age, psychic insights and benign advice seem normal.

Nathan and van Reeken capture the troubled relationship of sisters and Davis brings warmth and energy to Anne's fragile personality. Brazier is grounded and sympathetic as Jenny while Winkler allows us to like even the volatile and self-interested Victoria.

This is a captivating production with exceptional skill. We hope Maelstrom visits Melbourne more often.

By Kate Herbert

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