Friday 21 June 2002

Week , June 21, 2002

 Platform Youth Theatre
251 High St Northcote  until June30
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

There is something totally charming and delightful about Week by Platform Youth Theatre. A cast of twenty-three aged 16 to 25, write perform, a show based on one week in their lives.

The result is a series of vignettes ranging from one to five minutes. Each has a different voice but all reflect the ordinary, the surprising, the intimate or tragic moments that may occur in anyone's week.

Dramaturg, Patricia Cornelius  developed script material from journals kept for the project by each participant. Director, Susie Dee,  creates an evocative space on stage using virtually only the bodies and voices of the young cast.

The entire 80 minutes is staged on a set resembling a train platform, (Adrienne Chisholm). In this promenade stage, the audience sits on one side only of the long space while the actors face us, seated in a uniform line of chairs on the platform.

Dee brings an imaginative vision to the work. Individuals or small groups peel off from the seated line and perform scenes. Another layer is added to the vignettes by the choreographed movements and vocal interjections of the seated ensemble.

They sit still as if a backdrop to the action. Then they shift positions subtly, pose, echo the dialogue or simply react to the scene.

A trio drives to the country for a camping trip. A young woman tries to find the woman who adopted her dog. A man decides to start a quiet, 'nice guy' revolution in society. On a train, various people suffer, chat, eat or pretend to be what they are not.

Two sisters from Sarajevo argue about forgetting their previous lives. Four teenage girls go clubbing, talk about fatness and look for love. Two girls diarise their boring Sunday at home or working in a supermarket.

These snapshots of lives are variously moving, funny or insightful. What makes this show work, is the unaffected quality of these young community actors. The professionals who worked on this show - Dee, Cornelius, and others - create a safe environment for the young people to develop and refine their ideas and present them to an audience.

The strange and accidental juxtaposition of images and stories adds another dimension. Chris Lewis's  sound design and Gina Gascoigne's  lighting enhance the atmosphere created by Susie Dee.

This is effective and affecting community theatre.

By Kate Herbert

Thursday 6 June 2002

June… the place does not matter, June 6, 2002

Written by Louise Morris  and Rebecca Rutter
a CIA production  in La Mama carpark, June 6- June, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The Bouffon  is a wonderful and strange form of theatre with its roots in Mediaeval France. It is a grotesque form of black clown that is popular with experimental companies here. It is rarely done well.

In June….the place does not matter,  a developmental production, CIA  has a go at the Bouffon. The work is predominantly unsuccessful in this stage of its development.

The concept and location are interesting. The piece is performed in and around a caravan in the carpark in front of La Mama. A family of misfits runs a carpark.  A series of grotesque and deformed characters stumble, crawl and fall into the arena.

The audience huddles around a brazier or wraps itself in blankets.

The idea is a good one and perhaps more work will increase its definition. The twin lesbian characters ( Morris and Anna Voronoff OK) could develop into a grim clown routine.

Another character is crippled with leg braces and a crying baby lies ignored amongst the rubbish.

My favourite was a little terrier whining and confused as actors leap out of the caravan.

The final scene reveals a fine design element when we are herded by a cowboy through the van into the La Mama courtyard.

However, the actors are vocally limited and the troupe that teem out of the van on occasion are awkward. Dialogue is clumsy and sections of poetic text are incomprehensible.

In Bouffon's original form- so goes the unwritten story -  the deformed, inbred children of the French aristocacy lived in the swamps as outcasts until All Souls' Day, when they were permitted to perform in the cathedrals of Paris.

They were happy in their isolated community and lived unhampered by their deformities. This group of disaffected fringe dwellers performed cruel parodies of the ruling class and church.

There is yet to be an appropriately acerbic and relevant version of this for contemporary Australia. An actual disabled or minority group would make a political statement through the form.

 CIA's work does not touch the Bouffon's potential for social parody. It remains a thin satire with no darkness, depth or intensity. Some of the actors have not grasped the style yet.


By Kate Herbert

Saturday 1 June 2002

Casa d'Alba, June 1, 2002

 By Federico Garcia Lorca  
 School of Drama, Victorian College of the Arts Studio 45 Sturt St
June 1 to 11, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Federico Garcia Lorca's  play, Casa d'Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba) is written for six older women. This makes it all the more extraordinary that this production is so very successful. All six actors are very young graduating actors from Victorian College of the Arts.

Playing so far above one's age is difficult for professional actors but the exceptionally stylish and tasteful direction by Tanya Gerstle brings out a maturity and passion in these women that is inspiring.

Gerstle highlights the stillness, silence, the heat and sexual frustration of the women in Bernarda Alba's  house. She weaves amongst Lorca's dialogue, snatches of exotic flamenco and abstracted movement.

The production is beautiful both aesthetically and dramatically. The huge warehouse, designed by Danielle Harrison,  replicates a stone courtyard with distressed stone wall at the rear.

The whole is steeped in sepia tones enhanced by warm lighting ( Michael Jankie  that seeps through peepholes to the outside world. Under the voices lies an evocative soundscape by Jacqueline Grenfell.

The story takes lace after the death of Bernarda's husband. She incarcerates her four adult but unmarried daughters in her Spanish home.

The eldest, Angustias (Shelley Krape) is to marry the raffish young Pepe le Romero,.Adela, (Ming-Zhu Hii), the youngest sister, is already Pepe's secret lover.

Yet another love-starved sister, Martiro,( Karissa Lane) is infatuated with Pepe, the man we never see.

A calmer fourth sister, Magdalena, ( Suzannah McDonald) and an old servant, Poncia,  (Anica Koprivec) watch the tragedy unfold. The stage is infused with sexual repression and sexuality.

The performances are strong from all six women. However, Melissa Chambers) as Bernarda is exceptional. She plays the matriarch with composure and stateliness and a powerful vocal and physical quality.

McDonald is engaging and versatile as both Magdalena and the mad grandmother. Koprivec plays the wise servant with great humour and earthiness.

This is a delightful production of a passionate and provocative play.

By Kate Herbert