Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Friday, 22 February 2013
Love Me Tender, Mutation Theatre, Feb 22, 2013 **
Tom Holloway, Mutation Theatre Theatreworks, until March 2, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:** Review in Herald Sunonline on Sunday FEb 24 and in print on Tues Feb 26 (TBC). KH
Nick Pelomis, Brendan Barnett, James Tresise
Love Me Tender, first produced in 2010, is not one of
Tom Holloway’s best plays and its post-dramatic, deconstructed script, and this
rather portentous production become annoyingly cryptic rather than evocative.
The script is episodic, fragmented, intermittently
poetic, abstracted, topical or witty, with a purported referencing of Euripides
Ancient Greek play, Iphigenia in Aulis, in which Agamemnon sacrifices his
daughter to the Gods to receive a wind to blow his ships to Troy.
There is no linear narrative in Holloway’s text, but
there are themes, characters and some elements of story and, although we do not
expect resolution in this style of play, the thematic links and references
don’t pay off and the outcome is ultimately profoundly unsatisfying.
The Father (Brendan Barnett), a
firefighter, first grapples with the messy birth of his baby daughter (or is it
a baby deer?), then with his ensuing, intense love, protective impulse and a
suggested, more sinister, sexualized relationship with her.
Intercut with his struggle to express his love, are
the Mother’s (Sarah Ogden) emerging
fears and search for answers and reassurance.
More naturalistic scenes and monologues are
interspersed with abstracted dialogues that
capture the Father’s struggle to articulate his inchoate feelings and memories
through faltering, repetitive speech that is prompted and shaped by the Chorus (Nick
Pelomis, James Tresise).
The pervasive sense of foreboding, the Mother’s and
Father’s anxieties, the presence of the unseen child, and the frequent
references to an impending bushfire, all hint at a grim ending for this family,
and particularly for this child.
The Chorus, whose perspective shifts constantly,
rants about the freedom available to girls and the need to protect them from
predators, but this feminist diatribe then bleeds into a disturbing view of
girls as mouth-watering, meaty snacks.
Their Wiggles-style Princess song, morphs into an
unsettling bump-and-grind dance for little girls.
The 2010 Sydney production played against a domestic
backyard whereas director, Patrick McCarthy, uses here a design as non-specific
as the text, comprising huge torn, white fabric smeared with ash, and silvery
scraps strewn on the floor.
Although some performances, particularly Ogden, are
promising, McCarthy’s production makes Holloway’s already disjointed, contrived
script more impenetrable and obtuse. It overplays the ominous sense of
premonition and the pace and cueing are so slow that we feel no sympathy.