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.
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Menagerie, May 17, 2013 **1/2
Daniel Schlusser Ensemble, supported by NEON, MTC The Lawler Studio, MTC, until May 26, 2013 Reviewer:
Kate Herbert on May 26 Stars:**1/2 This review published in Herald Sun online on May 24, 2013. KH
Edwina Wren in Menagerie. Photo by Sarah Walker
inspiration for Menagerie is American playwright, Tennessee Williams, and, although
it has moments of insight and clarity, many funny, absurd or playful moments
and some poignant and dangerous reflections, Menagerie falls short of illuminating
Williams’ chequered life and extraordinary writing.
by Daniel Schlusser, Menagerie is not a deconstructed version of a Williams’
play, although it includes echoes of the family from The Glass Menagerie and
scraps of dialogue and themes from his major plays.
a shabby, paint-peeling, weatherboard shack (Dale Ferguson), a trailer-trash family
bickers and scratches out a desperate existence surrounded by the detritus of poverty
and disillusionment: car tyres, wheely bins, empty bourbon bottles and a battered
are several layers of reality in the piece; the actors play characters that
reflect Williams and his real family, then portray Tom, his sister and mother
from The Glass Menagerie, and later in the piece, play themselves, using their
piece is peppered with lyrical moments and eccentric characters that reflect idiosyncratic
elements of William’s style and story, and these are performed with commitment
and energy by a talented cast of six.
highlight is Jane Badler’s formidable, brassy, predatory Southern mother in her
tattered nightdress, as she harps at her dissolute son and bewildered daughter.
Price’s booze-addled portrayal of the flamboyantly gay Tennessee himself as he
attempts to seduce a young man, is compelling.
Wren poignantly captures the tragedy of Tennessee’s damaged, repressed and
mentally ill sister, who is recognisable from her sexually inappropriate
Sibbing, Kevin Hofbauer and Zahra Newman entertainingly depict multiple
characters including: Williams’lover,
Frank; Maria, a mediocre actress who
managed Williams’ estate; and Ozzie his family’s maid.
the production retains more material than necessary from the improvisational,
script development stage, and this leaves it opaque and somewhat aimless for
the first 20 minutes.
are meaning-makers, so an audience – particularly one that does not know
Williams’ work and life well – will spend too much time trying to make sense of
the imagery, references, excerpts and the sometimes inaudible and
can be effective in expanding or modernising a story or play, but this piece has
not critically engaged with its material and perhaps arrived on stage before it
was ready or, at least, before the company could check that its intention was
clear in performance.