Thursday, 2 June 2005

The Wall Project By Theatre@risk, June 2, 2005

The Wall Project 
written by  Ben Ellis, Tee O'Neill, Tom Wright  
By Theatre@risk
At fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, to Sun June 5, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on June 2, 2005

The process of creating The Wall Project, by theatre@risk, attempts to utilise rather than resist the brief rehearsal and rapid development time usually available in theatre.

Three playwrights, Ben Ellis, Tee O'Neill and Tom Wright, were invited by director, Chris Bendall to each write a short piece stimulated by the theme of "The Wall". The diverse pieces were then spliced together.

Each writer approached the concept from a different angle.

Wright's story is a poetic view of three female convicts (Anastasia Malinoff, Jesse Spence, Odette Joannidis) travelling to Australia in the hold of an English ship of the Second Fleet. They are preached at by a pious captain (Ernie Gray) and abused by a crazed sailor (Simon Kingsley Hall).

The Foundling (Spence) is raped and gives birth to a deformed child she believes to be Christ.

Wright creates a "prison with no walls", a world in which these women are trapped by virtue of their class, gender, status and poverty.

In O' Neill's play, a woman (Joannidis) awaiting her fiance in a park encounters a terrified, escaped sex slave (Spence). Meanwhile the woman speaks by phone to a corporate executive (Anastasia Malinoff) obsessed with market forces and profit.

A story built around the restrictive bureaucracy and suspicion in a mythical Democratic Republic is the focus of Ellis's play. We see a refugee, (Joannidis) a guest of the Republic (Spence) and a famous actor (Gray) all being treated with varying degrees of respect by the Interpreter. (Malinoff)

Meanwhile a disabled boy (Kingsley Hall) unwittingly wears a bomb for a radical group.

The production is more interesting in concept than execution with varying degrees of success in the writing. Tom Wright's scenes are the most effective and affecting blending the lyrical, mythical and epic and stretching the boundaries of reality.

The other two stories become confused by intentional collisions of styles and sometimes banal social commentary.

Bendall cuts the pieces together so that the whole show moves swiftly. A brown paper sign torn from the wall titles each scene.

Isla Shaw's set design finds a marvellous solution to the awkward fortyfivedownstairs, space. Two fragments of wall frame the performance space and strips of brown paper mask the off stage areas.

Kelly Ryall's original sound is evocative and threatening while Adam J. Howe's lighting defines space and tone.

By Kate Herbert

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