Thursday, 15 November 2012
Music, MTC, Nov 14, 2012 ***
By Barry Oakley
Melbourne Theatre Company
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, Nov 14 to 22, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Published in Herald Sun on Friday, Nov 16, 2012
Robert Menzies, Richard Piper, Janet Andrewartha
Barry Oakley’s new play, Music, directed by Aidan Fennessy, is a poignant, sometimes confronting story about a man facing death and the repercussions on those around him.
As Jack (Richard Piper) hurtles towards a painful, quick death from a brain tumour, he uses ‘morphine, music, memories and malt whisky’ as his anaesthetics.
To avoid the pain and the present, he becomes immersed in the past and finally faces uncomfortable truths about his marriage, friends, family and academic work.
While Jack is making a peculiar peace with himself, his wife, (Janet Andrewartha), friend and doctor (Paul English) and brother (Robert Menzies) are simultaneously losing faith as their lives crumble.
The performances are the great strength of this production and Piper is pivotal, playing the dogged Jack with humour and grit, and making his death scene passionate and tragic.
Andrewartha plays Jack’s wife, Margie, a concert pianist with a stoical exterior that shatters as Jack’s death draws nearer and she confronts her own lies.
As Max, Jack’s friend and doctor, English manages to be both vulnerable and cool, while Menzies, as Jack’s brother Peter, the Catholic priest, looks fragile and almost friable in his guilt and grief as he tries not to preach to his brother.
Oakley’s story captures the horror and banality of death but, although the slow, regular pace and rhythm match the relentless ordinariness of creeping death, the script lacks dynamic range.
The dialogue is sometimes expository or stilted and formalistic, although as characters thaw, their dialogue becomes more conversational.
The relationships are not fully established or explained before we see their implosion, so it is difficult to be emotionally invested in them initially.
We assume the characters are in their late 50s, but there are some inconsistencies in their ages, as Jack reminisces about the Andrews Sisters and Max was born during World War Two.
Oakley integrates a repertoire of Jack’s favourite music, including a Schubert Piano Sonata played by Margie, and an eclectic mix of Wagner, Debussy, Brahms and the Andrews Sisters.
Marg Horwell’s sleek, curved design places the characters in an unreal space to match the other-worldliness of grief and dying.
Oakley’s play captures both comedy and tragedy in its challenging take on death and dying.
By Kate Herbert
Director, Aidan Fennessy, Design, Marg Horwell; Lighting, Lisa Mibus
Richard Piper, Janet Andrewartha, Robert Menzies, Paul English