Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Quartet: The Razor by Heiner Muller, by A Is For Atlas ***


100 Barkly St, Fitzroy, until Aug 12 to 29, 2009
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars:***

Innovative theatre demands imaginative vision. In Quartet: The Razor director, Xan Coleman, takes risks and pushes theatrical boundaries to create an intimate production that challenges and surprises its audience with the collision of Heiner Muller’s script, Annie Hsieh’s string duet and a fascinating design by Grant Cooper.

 If you are a fan of Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Laclos – or the Malkovich movie version – this script by provocative, German playwright, Heiner Muller, may titillate you.

We perch on a balcony surrounding the small performance space, peering down into a claustrophobic room imprisons the actors, Andrew Gray and Felicity Steel. The pair prowls like caged lions, stalking, taunting and manipulating each other. They play a range of characters, swapping roles and crossing genders and dressed in layers of slightly distressed period costume (by Julie Renton) constructed from brocades and silken fabrics. A layer is removed at each character change.

Gray plays Vicomte de Valmont, the amoral seducer, while Steel is the Marquise de Merteuil, his demanding, vengeful, long-time lover and partner in crimes of passion. The couple’s spiteful taunts and competitive love play provide the landscape for a nasty and ultimately lethal game.

Muller cunningly structures their relationship as a dangerous tournament of resentment, revenge, decadence and unrequited lust. The pair entertains one another by acting out various scenarios of seduction. Valmont plays his major conquest, the chaste and inaccessible Mme. de Tourvel, while the Marquise pretends to be the lusty Valmont who seduces her.  She then plays the na├»ve schoolgirl, Cecile de Volanges, who succumbs to the Vicomte.

The jangling dissonance of Hsieh’s music on cello (Jonathan Tosio) and violin (Larissa Weller) underscores the barely submerged violence of the couple. Hidden cameras film the characters, projecting their image like portraits onto screens embedded in the walls.

There could be some development of the rhythm of the characters, a balancing of their passion and coolness, more variation in the dynamic and dramatic range, but this is a compelling production.

By Kate Herbert

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