Tuesday, 22 March 2005

Necessary Targets by Eve Ensler, March 22, 2005

Necessary Targets by Eve Ensler 
 CUB Malthouse, March 22 until April 10, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The horror of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia is brought home to us again in Necessary Targets, a play by Eve Ensler.

It is a moving, chastening and at times funny play that penetrates beneath the surface of statistics and horror stories, revealing the humanity of the survivors. 

Although both men and women suffered in this conflict, it is the women who are the focus. It is a story about not only the Bosnian women but about the two American therapists who travel to Bosnia to work with traumatized female victims of war.
J.S. (Vivienne Garret) is a psychiatrist who is out of her depth with war trauma. She wears Christian Dior in a war zone.  Her initial, comically patronising attempts to engage the women in arm's length psychotherapeutic sessions fall flat. When she engages with and feels for them, she is far more successful.
In competition with J.S. is Melissa, (Caitlin Beresford-Ord) a tough young woman counsellor experienced in war trauma but who is more concerned with recording the women's stories to include in her new book than with genuinely helping them.
Ensler highlights the ordinariness of the women who are damaged by war. It could be one of us. Their homes, families, work and play are destroyed by the conflict.
The diversity of the Bosnian women reflects how the war impacted on all levels of society.
Zlata ( Rosie Lalevich) is a successful and wealthy paediatrician who is vehemently opposed to these American outsiders pillaging the women's hearts and minds.

Nuna (Bojana Novakovic) is a youthful girl, interested in fashion, music and having fun. Jelena ( Danielle Antaki) is boisterous and cheerful despite the violence she experiences at home by her husband.

The oldest woman is Azra, (Jill Mc Kay) a farmer who pines for her cow and wishes to be buried on her farm.
Each woman slowly and unobtrusively reveals her own harrowing story but it is Seada (Kym Vercoe) whose story is the climax of the play. Seada carries a bundle of rags that she treats as a baby. Her denial and disassociation are painful to witness. The cruel revelation of her story is achingly tragic.

Pete Nettell directs the play with a deft hand using a multi-purpose and spare set design by Wayne Harris. Recorded Slavic music and dim lighting evoke an exotic but dangerous atmosphere.

The cast is all capable but several performances stand out. Lalevich as the indignant Zlata is a potent presence and Antaki is delightful as the drunken Jelena. Novakovic, as Nuna, is charming and joyful. But it is Vercoe's moment of revelation as Seada that breaks our hearts.

By Kate Herbert

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