Thursday, 13 June 2013

Solomon and Marion, MTC, June 12, 2013 ****

By Lara Foot, Melbourne Theatre Company
Fairfax Studio, Melbourne Arts Centre, June 12 to July 20, 2013

Reviewer: Kate Herbert on June 12
Stars: **** 

Review published in Herald Sun online on June 13, 2013 and possibly after that in print. KH
 Gillian Jones (Marion) and Pacharo Mzembe (Solomon)

Although Lara Foot’s play, Solomon and Marion, deals with grief, fear and violence in post-Apartheid South Africa, the unlikely relationship between its two characters from contrasting worlds feels surprisingly gentle and intimate.

Gillian Jones is beautifully restrained and credible as the brusque Marion, an ageing, ailing, white, Anglo-South African who is crippled by the loss of her son and, despite the escalating violence around her, refuses to leave her home in a small village.

When Solomon (Pacharo Mzembe), a shy, young, black man arrives unannounced in her home, she fears that his motive is racial violence, but he insists that his grandmother sent him to care for Marion.

Mzembe is genuinely compelling as Solomon, shifting from nervous, watchful youthfulness on his arrival, to a growing confidence and certainty that his vocation is to care for Marion.

Jones cleverly imbues Marion with a brittleness and fragility that belies her feisty, combative nature in her exchanges with Solomon.

Foot’s script evolves from fear and alienation between the pair, into warmth, honesty and forgiveness, and it does so with wit as well as painful exchanges and revelations.

Foot uses Marion’s letter writing to her daughter in Australia to elaborate on Marion’s emotional and psychological state, her growing attachment to Solomon’s presence and the details of her past.

But it is Solomon who reveals the real horror of the story of her son’s death, and it is at this point that the play collides with the real story of two young men who were murdered in South Africa in 2006.

Director, Pamela Rabe, subtly builds the tension between the pair, keeping them separated and contained but also connected as if by an elastic cord at their core, until these two lonely people relax, finding ease, comfort and support in each other and, finally, forgiveness.

The fractured world of contemporary South Africa outside their walls is reflected in Richard Roberts’ imaginative, pale, sand-filled design that tilts the floor and the scruffy furniture at odd angles.

Solomon and Marion is an intensely human play that focuses on one relationship that challenges our view of tolerance, compassion and surviving violence and grief.

By Kate Herbert

Cast Gillian Jones (Marion) and Pacharo Mzembe (Solomon)
Director Pamela Rabe; 
Set and Costume Designer Richard Roberts;
Lighting Designer Rachel Burke; 
Composer/Sound Designer David Bridie

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