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September 28, 2009 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

peoplearefragilethingsyoushouldknowbynowbecarefulwhatyou putthemthrough


Colour me impressed—the Theatre 304 Directing folk have really showed us what they’re capable of with peoplearefragilethingsyoushouldknowthatbynowbecarefulwhatyouputthemthrough.

Pinter’s Ashes to Ashes, directed by Uther Dean, was an intimate and powerful production. Seated on three sides of the stage, we watch Rebecca (Fiona McNamara) carefully apply makeup while Devlin (Ralph McCubbin Howell) stares through a window into the garden. Rebecca offhandedly describes being physically abused by a past lover and, just like that, the play has begun. Throughout the piece both actors worked to build and release incredible amounts of tension, creating an electrifying atmosphere. The round table and enclosed stage resulted in beautiful moments of stillness (I’m a fan of symmetry, it’s a genetic thing). Benyamin Albert’s wonderful lighting was so subtle that I didn’t notice it had gradually dimmed right down until both actors were cloaked in shadow. Although I had an inkling that Ashes to Ashes would be dark I severely underestimated how much humour it contained—my startled snort of glee at the line “I think you’re a fuckpig” was proof enough of this. Full of energy and gleaming with polish, Ashes to Ashes delighted, distressed and questioned the past and parentage of a pen. You had to be there.

Seated around four slumbering characters on a gargantuan bed, we watched Caryl Churchill’s Three More Sleepless Nights, directed by Hannah Banks. An extraordinarily engaging production, when the audience weren’t joygasming with laugher we were choking on the casual cruelty displayed in front of us. A brutal argument between married Margaret (Melissa Reeves) and Frank (Jack Shadbolt) provided beautiful contrast to the disquietingly disconnected relationship of Pete (Eli Kent) and Dawn (Erin Banks). The decision to have all actors on the bed for the entirety of the piece was an effective one which nimbly sidestepped any transitional problems. The use of music in Three More Sleepless Nights fully supported the play, adding haunting undertones to Dawn’s misery and wrapping up the show with nice élan.

Savage/Love, written by Sam Shepard and directed by Paul Waggott, was originally a monologue relating to the different stages of a relationship. Waggott has divvied up the script to provide actors William O’Neil and Rachelle Fons with the characters of a man and a woman who journey through the rise and fall of an episodic romance. The empathetic and intelligent remoulding of the original script combines with the ability of the actors to reveal two whole and different characters. The piece was performed on a traverse stagem and both sides of the audience could view screens opposite which named each episode in the play as it transpired. My favourite segment was “beggar”, what was yours? The set of Savage/Love (marvellous work from the season’s set designer Mitch Tawhi Thomas) was made up of a web of red and white ribbons which looked stunning and created interesting patterns and spaces on the stage. The sound design added an otherworldly quality to the piece which complemented both the set and the wonderful work on the stage.

Written by Harold Pinter, Caryl Churchill, Sam Shepard & Joseph Chaikin
Directed by Uther Dean, Hannah Banks and Paul Waggott
With Fiona McNamara, Ralph McCubbin Howell, Jack Shadbolt, Melissa Reeves, Eli Kent, Erin Banks, William O’Neil and Rachelle Fons
At Studio 77, 77 Fairlie Tce, 23 – 26 Sept 2009
Part of the seasons of THEA 304 Directing Pieces


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