Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director; produced playwright (21 plays). Scripts pub. Currency Press. She worked as actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate was Head of Drama/Teacher, NMIT; Coordinator of Prof. Writing/ Editing, Swinburne Uni. Read her reviews here or: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Monday, 1 August 2016
The Mill on the Floss,, July 30, 2016 ***1/2
By George Eliot, adapted
by Helen Edmundson, presented by OpticNerve Performance Group with
Theatre Works Theatre Works,
until Aug 13, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ***1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts Online on Mon Aug 1, 2016 & later in print. KH
Zahra Newman & Grant Cartwright_ photo Pia Johnson
George Eliot’s 19th century novel, The
Mill on the Floss, depicts in prose Maggie Tulliver’s narrow life in an English
provincial town, but this very physical stage adaptation partners dialogue with
abstracted movement to illuminate characters and relationships.
Tanya Gerstle’s direction is deft, imaginative and is
clearly developed in collaboration with a talented ensemble of eight, all of
whom are comfortable with the incorporation of text with athletic movement,
gestural language and a capella singing.
Three actors play Maggie over a period of about 15
years, starting with Maddie Nunn who is charming and impish as the imaginative,
9-year old Maggie who craves freedom and education that is available only to
her brother, Tom (Grant Cartwright).
Zahra Newman is compelling as the sadder,
introverted, religious adolescent Maggie who represses her independence and
naturally passionate, enquiring nature to appease her pragmatic, loving but
controlling brother, patriarchal father (James O’Connell) and timid mother
(Luisa Hastings Edge).
Rosie Lockhart has a refinement and elegance as the
more mature Maggie whose unruly passions resurface after years of obeying her
brother’s demand that she not communicate with Phillip (Tom Heath), the
educated, sensitive, disabled son of Maggie’s father’s sworn enemy.
Maggie abandons all of her carefully managed
self-control when she meets Stephen Guest (George Lingard), her cousin’s suitor,
and the foreshadowed tragedy comes to pass.
Having three Maggies of differing ages on stage
together provides a nuanced, layered characterisation of this intelligent girl
who wrestles with values that favour boys, a situation that echoes that of Mary
Ann Evans who wrote under the male pseudonym, George Eliot, in order to be
evocative physicalisation is impassioned, sometimes expressing love and
sensuality and, at others, evoking conflict and violence.
shift fluidly, with actors playing multiple roles, but Maggie’s struggle in a
repressive world is always at the heart of the performance.
original novel covers many years and has a number of narrative threads and
characters so it is difficult to cram all of this material into two hours of
stage time, so some scenes are not as clear as others, an example being
Maggie’s relationship with Stephen which is not fully developed and not quite
frustration at the restrictions imposed upon her dreams and ambitions because
she is female may seem out-dated to young women in our modern society, but
there are still places where women are oppressed simply for being female. More
power to the Maggies of this world.