Friday, 24 February 2012

The Seed, by Kate Mulvany, MTC, Feb 23, 2012 ***

The Seed By Kate Mulvany
Melbourne Theatre Company
Fairfax Studio, Melbourne Arts Centre, Feb 23 to April 4, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: 3 
Tony Martin, Max Gillies, Sara Gleeson in The Seed, MTC. Photo by Jeff Busby

There is theatrical potential in The Seed, Kate Mulvany’s play about her investigation into her Irish-English-Australian father’s experiences as a Vietnam veteran and her rabid Irish grandfather’s anti-English, pro-IRA sentiments.

There is some very funny dialogue in the first half, particularly from Gillies as Grand-Da, and we are interested in the family’s secret history, fraught relationships, personal wounds and Danny’s PTSD.

However, there are significant problems with both Mulvany’s script and Anne-Louise Sarks’ production. 

This self-referential play constantly reminds us that it contains details from Mulvany’s life, but it is unclear whose story it is: Rose (Sara Gleeson), her father, Danny (Tony Martin) or her Grand-Da, Brian (Max Gillies).

The structure of the play is awkward, the through-line is unclear and Rose’s ‘step-out’ narration, inserted uncomfortably between the scenes featuring all three characters, does not advance the story or illuminate issues in any significant way.

Sarks’ direction does not enhance the script, is poorly paced, awkwardly staged, feels under-rehearsed and the actors looked uncomfortable in the middle of a cavernous space.

Gillies’ barks orders as the brusque and domineering grandfather, Brian, stealing many scenes with his impeccable comic delivery and timing and having fun with Brian’s hilarious self-delusion and figments of imagination.

Brian is the most clearly drawn and interesting character with his questionable past IRA connection, his hatred of the English and his wild fantasies about having swum to England holding a dangerous package over his head.

Gleeson balances warmth with repressed rage as Rose, but the character’s secret inner world and the justifications of her kleptomania are bizarre. Martin seems out of his comfort zone with a Nottingham accent and the rigidity and restraint of Danny’s character.

The production and the script needs some reworking.
By Kate Herbert

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