Sunday, 9 November 2014

Dreamers, REVIEW, Nov 8, 2014 ***

By Daniel Keene
fortyfivedownstairs, until Nov 30, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Nov 8
Review also published in Herald Sun on Monday Nov 10, 2014.
Please note my reviews of early Keene/Taylor seasons and other Keene plays are also on this blog. See list of links below review. KH
Yomal Rajasinghe, Helen Morse and Paul English; pic Jeff Busby

It is over a decade since the last Daniel Keene and Ariette Taylor theatrical collaboration so Dreamers, their new production, was awaited with eager anticipation.

Dreamers has some of the hallmarks of those much-loved, early Keene/Taylor Theatre Project works: pressing, contemporary social issues, championing of underdogs and outsiders, an impeccable cast, unexpected choreography and sparse design (Adrienne Chisholm).

Anne (Helen Morse), a lonely widow struggling to make a living from sewing piecework, begins an unexpected love affair with Majid (Yomal Rajasinghe), an equally isolated but much younger man who is a recent immigrant.

Because Majid is not only young but also dark-skinned, their relationship initially raises eyebrows and silent disapproval, but this simmering intolerance and antagonism soon escalates into unbridled racism and abuse.

Their neighbours – the banal and the bigoted – target difference and disadvantage, creating a non-existent enemy that these hypocrites can blame for their own malaise and sense of dispossession.

Morse is one of Melbourne’s most accomplished and admired actors and her portrayal of the reserved and dignified Anne is delicate, intimate and nuanced.

Her luminous, vulnerable quality and fragile, pale beauty contrast effectively with Rajasinghe’s muscular, dark, good looks as he depicts the shy, hopeful young Majid who perseveres in the face of adversity to claim his place in his chosen home and to understand his new identity.

The great strength is the distinguished cast that includes Paul English who shines as a depressed, socially inept man preoccupied with bus timetables, Natasha Herbert as a sassy but brutal bar owner, and Nicholas Bell as a belligerent neighbour with a fixation on other people’s rubbish.

Brigid Gallacher is Anne’s brusque, self-centred daughter, while Marco Chiappi is a tough building foreman and Jonathan Taylor a smug, tap-dancing waiter.

English, Bell, Chiappi and Taylor intermittently become a grumpy, playful chorus that comments on the characters and social politics while parroting and reinforcing common prejudices.

Keene’s language cleverly shifts between ordinary, conversational slang and contrasting, elegantly poetic monologues.

His script provides a sympathetic picture of Anne and Majid’s predicament while also delivering a scathing attack on a contemporary society that indiscriminately reviles those who are different.

The characters’ singing 1940s tunes around a pianola heightens the sense of a community trying to scramble back to its mono-cultural past in order to avoid the changing, multicultural, modern world.

Despite its compelling themes, engaging characters and strong performances, there are some problems with Taylor’s direction and with some aspects of the script.

The structure of the play is not quite cohesive which means that the story feels fragmented and does not flow smoothly, the pace is often slow and lacking dynamic range while the staging is sometimes awkward.

However, Keen and Taylor have once again successfully challenged our worldview and criticised our social norms, conventions and rigid social boundaries in Dreamers.

By Kate Herbert

Season 3, June 2,1998

Season 9, Oct 9, 1999

Season 11, April 2000

Scissors, Paper, Rock in May 2002

I am still uploading reviews from before 2000. KH

  Helen Morse and Yomal Rajasinghe pic by Jeff Busby

Jonathan Taylor, Natasha Herbert, Paul English, Helen Morse, Nicholas Bell, Brigid Gallacher; pic Jeff Busby
Helen Morse
Paul English
Marco Chiappi
Natasha Herbert
Nicholas Bell
Yomal RajaSinghe
Brigid Gallacher

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