Thursday, 1 December 2011
The Story of Mary MacLane By Herself, Nov 30, 2011 ***
The Story of Mary MacLane By Herself
Text by Bojana Novakovic, from writings by Mary MacLane
Music By Tim Rogers, produced by Malthouse Theatre
Beckett Theatre, Malthouse, Nov 30 to Dec 11, 2011
Reviewed by: Kate Herbert on Wed, Nov 30, 2011
Published in Herald Sun and online on Fri, Dec 2, 2011
Andy Baylor, Dan Witton, Tim Rogers, Bojana Novakovic: The Story of Mary MacLane By Herself, Photo:Jeff Busby
IN A NUTSHELL, Canadian-born diarist, Mary MacLane, the subject of this play, is a narcissist of the first order who had some success in the early 1900s with her confessional and controversial, memoir writings.
Bojana Novakovic, directed by Tanya Goldberg, resurrects MacLane’s fiery, self-indulgent, often maudlin writings and massages them into a loose, autobiographical rant accompanied by songs and music performed by Tim Rogers, Andy Baylor and Dan Witton.
On a distorted, Victorian melodrama-style stage, designed by Anna Cordingley, Novakovic, clad only in flimsy, silky undergarments, addresses us directly, obsessing about death, lovers, lesbianism, the devil and cold baked potatoes – her comfort food.
Novakovic embodies Mary as a dislikeable, egotistical, young woman who believes only in her own genius and the world’s lack of appreciation of her talents. MacLane has plenty in common with the naval-gazing bloggers and twitterings on 21st century, digital media.
Perhaps she was a “mental freak or a literary fraud”, as one reviewer suggested, but she is in vogue again a century later.
Rogers conducts proceedings like a snake-oil salesman or Music Hall compere, introducing Mary, guiding her through monologues or intervening when she becomes hysterical.
Rogers has energy and presence, leading the musicians as if they are a Greek Chorus commenting on the action through recitative, playful tunes and lyrics such as the grabby tune, I Don’t Know Why?
Rogers (guitar), Witton (double bass) and Baylor (violin) also underscore Mary’s emotional state with evocative music, but Witton’s exceptional vocal skill was surprisingly underused.
After an initial frisson of interest in Mary’s ramblings, the middle of the play is slow, repetitive and ineffective.
However, the final scenes depicting Mary’s slide into depression and mania are more compelling, despite Novakovic lacking vocal control in more manic moments.
By Kate Herbert