Saturday, 18 June 2011

Princess Dramas, Red Stitch, June 18, 2011

 Princess Dramas
by Elfriede Jelinek, translated by Gitta Hoenegger, Red Stitch Theatre, until July 2, 2011

Theatre can be demanding, challenging or inspiring, but its worst sin is to be boring. Princess Dramas, Elfriede Jelinek’s play – if we can call it that – is stupidly convoluted and dull, dull, dull.

Jelinek commits the even greater sin of making the audience feel stupid because they don’t understand her play. But Princess Dramas is simply an over-written, repetitive, pseudo-intellectual rant that lacks theatrical style or dramatic structure.

The play is like a feminist treatise on the chauvinistic treatment of princesses (read women) in traditional and modern fairytales. It is a sort of post-modern mash-up of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, their various princes and 1960s American princess, Jackie Kennedy. It is mostly a series of too-long monologues that sound like essays on cultural theory.

Andre Bastian’s clumsy direction does nothing to enhance the script and looks like a chaotic, 1970s, under-graduate mess. In an attempt to vary the dynamic and make the play interesting, he directs actors to speak faster or slower, in unison, without inflection, with histrionic over-acting or in silly accents.

They wander the stage hanging washing, reading celebrity mags or dancing around in strap-on, oversized phalluses. Need I say more?

The three actors (Dion Mills, Andrea Swift, Melodie Reynolds) work like Trojans to make the play entertaining and deserve to be in a better production.

“The emperor has no clothes,” I say. Jelinek, an Austrian writer, controversially won a Nobel Prize for Literature. Knut Ahnlund left the Swedish Academy in objection, saying that her selection "has not only done irreparable damage to all progressive forces, it has also confused the general view of literature as an art".

The North Koreans could learn something about torture from this pretentious tripe. It is unendurably painful.

Star rating: *

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