Wednesday, 26 July 2006
Three Oaks by Monica Raszewski, July 26, 2006
Three Oaks by Monica Raszewski
La Mama, Carlton, July 26 to Aug 13, 2006
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
It is refreshing to see a production illuminate a story with inventive theatrical conventions rather than drown it in irrelevant imagery. Director, Kimberley Grigg, brings imagination and skill to Three Oaks, by Monica Raszewski.
The audience is seated on opposite sides of the space. The air is redolent with the scent of pine needles, bringing to life the Polish forest of the characters’ childhood.
Actors play accordions and violin on stage, evoking location, period, atmosphere and emotion. The rhythms of the play are subtle and the acting fluid and skilful. Grigg interprets the script seamlessly.
Raszewski weaves layers of a family story, memories of a father, letters and paintings, with Polish folk tales and history.
After the death of her father, Janek (Adam Pierzchalski OK), Margaret (Janine Watson), an artist, wants to retrieve some relics of his life in order to write a book. Janek, a Polish migrant, married to Krystyna (Natalia Novikova), left the family when Margaret and sister, Alex (Emily Taylor), were children. He made a new home with his Australian lover, Alice (Fiona Macys).
Marc Raszewski’s design is compelling. Pierced by a pole are three slabs of a tree standing on the bed of pine needles. Ladders rise out of the pine floor, titling at precarious angles, representing the oak forest, creating an obstacle course for the family and providing seats in scenes.
We are agitated and moved by Margaret’s desperation to know her father after his death when she so diligently avoided him before he died. She hunts for a painting she believes her father did for her but finds only a few letters, some paintings, a battered notebook, a recipe and some photos.
Memories of her childhood collide with the present. We witness the alienation of mother and father, the confusion of the sisters, their resistance to father’s lover, the ordinariness of mother cooking and their Polish children’s songs.
Actors shift effortlessly in the space just as ghostly memories filter in and out of Margaret’s thoughts.
The play is about memory and a search for the truth. How do we reconstruct a person’s life and character from fragments and memory?
Scenes around the fractured tree trunk resonate with the Polish heritage of characters and writer. Images of an old woman trapped in a tree and of Russian Kommisars torturing people intersect the tale of the two children lost in the woods.
Three Oaks is an evocative and theatrically satisfying production.
By Kate Herbert