Thursday, 8 June 2017

Undercoat: A Parafoxical Tale, June 7, 2017 ***

Written by Cynthia Troup  
Presented La Mama
At La Mama Theatre, until June 18, 2017 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Thurs June 8, 2017 & later in print. KH
 L to R-Maude Davey, Caroline Lee

There is something peculiar, unsettling and oddly engaging about Undercoat: A Parafoxical Tale by local writer, Cynthia Troup.

Although the title of this play is inspired by Nicolai Gogol’s story, The Overcoat, the content is more directly influenced by Portugese writer Teolinda Gesão’s story, The Red Fox Fur Coat, in which a humble bank clerk buys a fur coat and gradually transforms into a fox.

Troup structures her poetic script as seven scenes, all of which are about foxes, their history, attitudes to humans, human responses to foxes and miscellaneous snippets and facts about things foxy.

The performance begins outdoors in the cold, dark back lane behind La Mama with the audience standing surrounded by rubbish bins and the faintly rotting aroma of old restaurant food – a perfect environment for the urban fox.

Out in the chill air, a sassy, foxy character AKA Ruber tha ruder Chicken Fox (Emma Annand) introduces the show with a rhythmic, poetic, rhyming rap prologue about ‘anthropogenic climate change’ that humans are causing on this planet.

In the relative warmth of the intimate La Mama interior, a woman (Caroline Lee) is trapped inside jumbled car parts as though she has had a car accident. She is like road kill as she peers out her damaged car window at the inquisitive foxes and, as she struggles to get free, she perversely recalls a fox caught in a trap.

There is no linear narrative but we are aware, as Lee struggles in her trap, that we are heading toward either her release, her death, her being eaten by foxes or her metamorphosis into a foxy creature of the night.

The direction by Bagryana Popov with Alice Darling is playfully physical, but the greatest strengths of this one-hour production are the performances of Maude Davey and Lee, two stalwarts of Melbourne independent theatre.

Each of the two has an individual, idiosyncratic style, exceptional interpretative skills and versatile and lyrical vocal quality.

Davey is wry, cool, elegant and slightly sinister as Fox Vobiscum, prowling the stage or silently slipping unnoticed into dim corners, and her magnetic presence draws the eye whenever she is on stage.

Lee is a wild, ensnared human who shrieks and writhes in her anguish, pain and despair and her intense delivery of the monologue, The Obligatory Dream, is filled with potent imagery.

Annand is a light-footed, cheeky fox while Jean Goodwin is watchful and sturdy as the third fox, Ranger, and both capture the spirit of foxiness, but neither has the charismatic quality of Davey’s fox.

Emily Collett’s inventive costumes hint at reddish, animal fur and her evocative design uses draped, tree-like tubes of sheer fabric lit from within (Lighting, Georgia Rann) and surrounded by scattered, leaf-like detritus.

Undercoat is a quirky investigation of the fox in our urban world and its final, mischievous rap routine with four foxes leaves the audience smiling.

By Kate Herbert
 L to R-Maude Davey, Caroline Lee

Caroline Lee
Maude Davey
Jean Goodwin
Emma Annand

Direction - Bagryana Popov with Alice Darling
Set & Costume - Emily Collett
Sound - Elissa Goodrich
Lighting - Georgia Rann

No comments:

Post a Comment