Monday, 21 May 2012

Persona, Theatreworks, May 20, 2012, ***1/2

By Fraught Outfit
Conceived & adapted by Adena Jacobs, Dayna Morrisey, Danny Pettingill 
Based on Ingmar Bergman’s film, Persona
Theatre Works May 18 to 27, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 20, 2012
Stars: ***1/2

IT IS A RISK TOADAPT Ingmar Bergman’s bleak, existential, Swedish movie, Persona, for the theatre, and Adena Jacobs’ production has some success in its translation to the stage.

Framed by sheer, white curtains and Scandinavian, blonde wood, Meredith Penman portrays Elizabeth, an actress who stops speaking during a performance of Elektra and remains mute from that moment.

Karen Sibbing plays Alma, a chattering nurse who cares for Elizabeth during her convalescence in a seaside cottage, becoming increasingly attached to her charge and progressively more voluble and disturbed by her silence.
The performances by Penman and Sibbing are potent and emotionally charged as they slowly create their lop-sided relationship and fill in the gaps in our knowledge of their characters.

Sibbing’s impassioned, fraught monologues, escalating distress, and angular physicality contrast vividly with Penman’s cool, mute stillness and sensual curves.

We witness Alma’s unravelling and her desperation for contact and communication as these women bare all, both emotionally and physically.

Despite Elizabeth’s retreat into her silent world, the two become strangely united, until Alma discovers what she believes to be Elizabeth’s betrayal of her confidence.

Some of the mysterious, nightmarish quality and psychological complexity of the film is lacking and the opening scene with the boy is superfluous, but both women are compelling as these grim, dysfunctional characters.

The final scene is a revelation in what amounts to an intimate, psychological drama.

By Kate Herbert

Director: Adena Jacobs
Set Designer: Dayna Morrissey
Lighting Design: Danny Pettingill

Meredith Penman: Elizabeth
Karen Sibbing: Alma
Daniel Schlusser: Mr. Vogler
Jane Montgomery Griffiths: Voice of Doctor
Hugo Donath/Harrisson Connor Feldman: Boy 

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