Thursday, 4 September 2014

Waking Up Dead, Sept 5, 2014 ****


Written by Trudy Hellier
At fortyfivedownstairs, Sept 4 to 14, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ****
 Review also published online in Herald Sun on Fri Sept 5, 2014 and in print on Mon Sept 8. KH
 Caroline Lee; pic by Andy Turner

Imagine waking up one day to discover that your partner has died in mysterious circumstances – and that he was living a secret and disturbing double life.

Such is the distressing and poignant experience of the woman in Waking Up Dead, written by Trudy Hellier and developed with imagination and vision by collaborators, Susie Dee (director), Caroline Lee (actor) and Ian Moorhead (sound designer).

Lee is quietly compelling as this reserved, conservative woman, playing her with a haunted and bewildered quality that epitomises her grief and masks her repressed but seething rage.

She is confined to a cell-like space that is framed by a white paper wall and floor that create an atmosphere of entrapment, but also a sense of privacy as the woman struggles to make sense of her life and her grief.

The white environment also provides her with blank surfaces upon which to sketch her memories of her past life with the man she no longer recognises as her husband.

She starts her story in 1980 then moves forward chronologically by increments to 2007, scribbling dates, notes and quotes, and sketching furniture that identifies locations and conjures a black and white landscape of her murky past.

With nostalgia tinged with pain, she plumbs the depths of her memories as she travels around in her own psyche, searching for meaning or missed clues that would indicate or predict the events to come.

Meanwhile, reverberating around her is Moorhead’s evocative soundscape of eerie static, snatches of radio bulletins about a “missing businessman” and fragments of intrusive, impersonal police interviews with the woman about her life with her husband.

Dee’s direction makes time fluid in this production as the woman stalls mid-thought, leaves the space unexpectedly, stares at us or gently reminds us – and the on-stage sound designer, Moorhead – to stay out of her private space.

As many will be aware, the story echoes the bizarre story of the murder of the middle-aged, Melbourne businessman who hid his secret, sexual proclivities for years.

Waking Up Dead has a strange, disconcerting and elusive quality that leaves one with a lingering sense of melancholy for this addled and grieving woman.

By Kate Herbert
 Caroline Lee; pic by Andy Turner

Directed by Susie Dee
Caroline Lee
Ian Moorhead -Music
Callum Morton- Design
Andy Turner -Lighting

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