At Studio 77
October 7 – 10
Reviewed by Jackson Coe
Sexual politics abound in Vic’s final three shows of the year.
The opening play is written by Tony Kushner and has a rather long title, which I shall write here in full simply for the novelty of being able to do so. It is called Terminating, or Sonnet LXXV, or Lass meine Schmerzen nicht veloren sein, or Ambivalence, and is directed by Charlotte Bradley. Hendryk is a self-proclaimed gay man, played by Ralph McCubbin Howell, who has developed an unhealthy connection which he takes for love with his psychologist, herself gay, played by Hannah Smith. It becomes apparent that the two are both incredibly lonely despite also being involved in separate relationships, and their complex entanglement explores, to appropriate the title, an ambivalence towards sex and sexuality.
The show is beautifully designed, with two golden statues played by Alex Lodge and Jake Preval forming an arresting image in conjunction with the sumptuous red curtain flowing down the back wall. This commitment to detail follows through to the performances, notably the two leads whose attention to characterisation and psychological complexity belies real talent. With luscious cello music elegantly complimenting the show’s visual components, overall I am left with a deep sense of satisfaction.
The second show of the evening was The Successful Life of Three, written by Maria Irene Fornes and directed by Tamsin Dashfield. At times I was perplexed by the play’s intention, but given that Fornes is a playwright of a feminist persuasion I’m going to have to assume that the regressive stereotypes of the play were intended to call attention to the politics of sex and gender roles.
The show is a farcical exploration of a couple consisting of three people – a trio, if you will – whose relationship is dysfunctional at the best of times. The vaudeville format calls for fast-paced physical comedy which is delivered, but at times the line delivery didn’t quite pack the punch it could have. This said, I did find myself in the throes of a loud chuckle many a time.
The final show of the night was Salve Regina, written by Edward Bowman and directed by Sam Smith. The junkyard setting was certainly appropriate, as the show was composed of a mixture of various theatre styles from across time. A Queen sits atop an oil drum with her two fools to either side, who soon bring back an astronaut who challenges the Queen and pushes her into a grave.
The two Commedia-esque fools, played by Uther Dean and Christopher Smith, stand out with their witty banter and astute use of body and voice, and their performances are well supported by Anita Rossbach and Angelique Browne. The set could have pushed a little further to create a more immersive junk-yard rather than just a single pile, but it served the purposes of the show well. Over-all, I was impressed by the strength of the physical presences of all the cast.
It has been a pleasure to see all twelve of the directing pieces this year, and I look forward to bright work from each of them in the future.