Thursday, 10 November 2016

Blessed, Nov 9, 2016 ***

By Fleur Kilpatrick, by Attic Erratic, Poppy Seed Theatre Festival 
The Tower, Malthouse Theatre, until Nov 20, 2016 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Nov 9, 2016 
Review also published online in Herald Sun Arts and later in print. KH
 Matt Hickey, Olivia Monticciolo, Photo by Sarah Walker
Blessed is a play filled with the pain, despair and isolation of two disenfranchised people unable to escape the dire circumstances of their past or their present.

In Fleur Kilpatrick’s two-hander, Maggie (Olivia Monticciolo), after a decade or more, arrives unannounced in her former boyfriend, Grey’s (Matt Hickey) dingy, filthy flat (designed by Luc Favre), where she finds him remote, alone, almost mute and unlike his adolescent self.

We see this jaded, dysfunctional and ailing pair at the age of 30 in a series of short scenes that are intermittently interrupted by flashbacks to their first, tentative meeting as 15-year olds.

Much of this one-hour play is absorbing and chastening, acting as a reminder to the middle-class, theatre-going audience that, hidden in unspeakable squats or cheap rentals in our city, live fringe-dwellers such as Maggie and Grey whose options have evaporated.

Hickey elicits our compassion with his portrayal of the unkempt, delusional and taciturn Grey, effectively playing him with faltering speech peppered with strange and poetic thoughts that are reminiscent of his shy, awkward, adolescent admiration of Maggie.

Monticciolo’s Maggie is brash, angry and fearful, and she creates a sympathetic character in this skinny addict who rages at the world and tries to recapture the intimacy of her past, teenage relationship with Grey, but struggles to communicate with him.

Eventually, it becomes clear that Grey believes he has a mission from God and Maggie becomes a crucial part of that mission by the final scene.

Danny Delahunty’s direction accentuates the fractured quality of Maggie and Grey’s communication, separating them across the space as they struggle to reconnect, interrupting their fraught conversation with grimly flickering, fluorescent lights (Rob Sowinski) and under-scoring it with grinding sound (Tom Pitts).

The revelation of Grey’s mission is a welcome transition after about 50 minutes because the play, by that point, needs greater dynamic range.

Although there are some laughs in Kilpatrick’s script, witnessing these shattered lives and minds is not fun, and, although the play challenges one’s complacency about the social conditions of people like Grey and Maggie, it also leaves one feeling helpless and hopeless.

By Kate Herbert
 Matt Hickey, Olivia Monticciolo,  Photo by Sarah Walker 

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