Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Bloody Chamber, Aug 6, 2013 ***1/2

By Angela Carter, performance text by Van Badham
Malthouse Theatre, until Aug 10, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 6
Stars: ***1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Wed Aug, 7, 2013 and then in print. KH

The most captivating element in The Bloody Chamber is the intoxicating voice of Alison Whyte as she tells the grim tale of Bluebeard and his murdered wives.

Clad in a simple, black gown and amplified by a microphone, Whyte speaks evocative prose extracted from Angela Carter’s short story of the same name.

Speaking in the first person as she prowls the sparse, grey, dimly lit stage, Whyte narrates the haunting tale of a young, French girl who marries a wealthy aristocrat who she soon discovers to be a manipulative sadist.

Whyte’s performance is assured and accomplished as she shifts vocally between the mature woman relating her story in the past tense, the girl in the present, and the ominous tones of her vile husband.

Anna Cordingley’s forbidding design of enormous, black, prison-like black boxes and Paul Jackson’s murky, atmospheric lighting provide a bleak background for the narrative.

With Matthew Lutton’s direction, Whyte finds an emotional and dynamic range in the prose, shifting from menace to melancholy or terror, even finding more playful moments in the last minutes.

The electronic manipulation of Whyte’s amplified voice cunningly creates the illusion of a burly, dangerous man looming over the young girl.

Three on-stage musicians (Jacinta Dennett, Jessica Fotinos, Yinuo Mu) provide tinkling, fairy tale music (composed by David Chisholm) that counterpoints a portentous, electronic soundscape (Jethro Woodward).

Despite Whyte’s exceptional, nuanced and detailed performance, the production loses impact on when silent stage managers enter the space, but even more intrusive is the introduction of an second, speaking actor (Shelly Lauman) as the blind piano tuner.

Unfortunately, the spell is broken when we hear this other voice that shatters the sense of foreboding and does not match Whyte’s beautifully inflected tones.

However, what is indelibly etched on one’s memory is the image of the vulnerable Whyte pacing her dank, grey prison as she tells her compelling story.

By Kate Herbert

 Alison Whyte, pic by Jeff Busby

Directed by Matthew Lutton
Music by David Chisholm
Music preformed by Jess Fotinos, Yinuo Mu & Jacinta Dennett
Performance text by Van Badham
Lighting Design Paul Jackson
Set & Costume Design Anna Cordingley
Sound Design Jethro Woodward
Cast includes Alison Whyte & Shelly Lauman

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