A Response: Blessed | Attic Erratic, Poppy Seed Festival & Malthouse

November 16, 2016 § Leave a comment

The walls are torn, they’re a grimy green and at their feet lie garbage bags filled with God knows what. There’s one window, too high to see out of, which lets in a stream of sunlight that throws the gloomy darkness into relief. Then there are the fluorescent lights of the interior. They’re harsh and unforgiving, particularly on those dank green walls. So much light, yet so much darkness.

Two people take their place within this world as we watch on. One is a slumped, defeated man called Grey (Matt Hickey) and the other is a self-assured but hardened woman named Maggie (Olivia Monticciolo). It’s his place. Why is she here? They’re old lovers and it’s been ten years since they’ve seen each other. Recently she woke up dreaming about him. She’s been getting sick, vomiting, and felt compelled to track him down. She called his mother, who wasn’t even sure he was still alive. He is. He’s here. She’s found him. But he’s changed. No longer the dorky, gawky fifteen-year-old she met and fell in love with, he’s sullen and sunken, living in squalor. She’s changed too; no longer the doubting, unwounded girl she once was, she’s now prickly, rough, as though she’s ‘seen things’. Their past plays out through a series of flashbacks. How their relationship began—him and his mates calling out numbers to label women on a scale of 0–10—how it unfolded and finally, why he left.

(Spoliers from here) Grey hears voices. He always has. He believes Maggie is the mother of God. And that he is the angel Gabriel. He ran away to protect her. By keeping her ignorant of this information and sacrificing his own life—he now lives in hiding from the world and God—he can ensure that she lives her life as ‘normally’ as possible. Now he informs her, she is pregnant with a second coming. By the finale, Grey has embodied his true form, wingspan spread across the flat and Maggie is convinced that her child will be exactly what this cruel and rotten world needs. The play ends with a tableau of an angel, a mother on a bed, and a blinding light. « Read the rest of this entry »

A Response: Anti-Hamlet | The New Working Group & Theatre Works

November 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

A response in four parts.

Part one — Jean Genet

Born in 1910 Paris, Jean Genet was said to be a pious and docile child; until, at the age of ten, he was accused of stealing. And being so described, a thief, he was resolved to become a thief. This anecdote, as described by Martin Esslin in his study of theatre of the absurd, comes from Jean-Paul Sartre, an existential philosopher of the time, who wrote on Genet, as well as the nature of freedom and choice.

Esslin tells us that after this incident Genet became “an itinerant delinquent.” He travelled. He spent time in prison. He wrote poetry and plays. He wrote about and engaged in homosexual acts. One of his plays, The Maids, tells the story of two maids (who would have thought?), sisters, who serve the same mistress. They have an intense love and hatred for her, a desire to become and destroy her; they take it in turns dressing up in her clothes and becoming her, one maid becomes the other to complete the game. While mistress is out they perform a ritual that moves from adulation to revolt. Of course, the games always end before the point of no return. On this occasion, however, the two maids come to realise they are to be found out for their part in putting the mistress’ husband in gaol. Their only solution is to commit to the role-play and commit suicide as the mistress; one of them assumes the identity of the mistress, the other becomes her sister, and serves her the poisoned tea they were unable to give to their real mistress earlier. Illusory choice, unfixed identity and queer politics play out in a fabulous, absurd spectacle.

Over a hundred year’s since Genet’s birth, Cate Blanchett, Isabelle Huppert and Elizabeth Debiki took to off-Boradway stages at the Lincoln Centre Festival performing The Maids. The Sydney Theatre Company production was met with mixed reviews, certainly, but no one questioned the talent, force and grandeur of the play. The play’s use of theatre and meta-theatre reflects to the audience a society of contradiction and ever-changing facade. It questions choice itself and asks can we ever be truly free?

Meanwhile, in 2016 Melbourne Australia, Anti-Hamlet has taken to the stage.

 

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