Saturday, 20 November 2010

Duet For Lovers and Dreamers ***

Duet For Lovers and Dreamers 
By Sandra Fiona Long, produced by Insite Arts
fortyfivedownstairs, Flinders Lane, Melbourne. November 20 to  December 5, 2010
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***

Duets For Lovers and Dreamers, by Sandra Fiona Long, comprises six vignettes – strangely not all are duets – performed by four actors. Although there is no linear narrative, the stories share a common, abstract style including poetic dialogue, movement, unaccompanied vocalisation and projections.

At times, all elements converge to create an effective whole although many scenes seem contrived and a little self-indulgent. The highlight is Helen Morse’s compelling characters and her rich, honey-toned voice. She could read the phone book and still sound magnificent.

The actors intone and harmonise vocal soundscapes for each story, some being more effective than others. Each scene incorporates a dancer (Matt Cornell) who is a silent, physical character or abstract presence. In The Last Post, he dances the story of courtship, wartime and injury as the mute, deceased husband of an elderly woman (Morse). At other times he makes scene changes interesting by dancing the furniture off stage.

Nana in Knapsack, perhaps the most cohesive piece, depicts a determined, young woman (Katherine Tonkin) trudging up a hill to scatter the ashes of her grandmother, who is played with humour and truth by Morse as a tough little English Northerner.

The Storm deals with a seductive siren on an island and a nuggetty sailor (Phillip McInnes) on land. Mother and Herself (Tonkin, Morse) uses movement and washing to evoke a housewife’s story while Little Fishes is a wry romance. The show ends with the overly long Girl Up a Tree With Clouds in which a child (Tonkin) dreams and eats an apple amongst the branches of her favourite tree.

Naomi Steinborner’s production relies – perhaps too heavily – on design elements to engage us. Emily Barrie’s design incorporates a huge screen that is slashed and reshaped in each scene. Elaborate projections (Nicholas Verso, D.B. Valentine) and lighting (Richard Vabre) give colour and movement to what is often quite banal and laboured text.

By Kate Herbert

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