Penelope (Siren Theatre Co)

penelope1Venue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Sep 12 – Oct 6, 2013
Playwright: Enda Walsh
Director: Kate Gaul
Actors: Nicholas Hope, Thomas Campbell, Arky Michael, Philip Dodd, Branden Christine

Theatre review
Attending a work by independent theatre companies in Australia is unpredictable. We hope for the best, and expect the worst. Resources are limited, and it is a challenge for semi-professional groups catering to audiences who are accustom to productions by dominant, well-funded companies. Siren Theatre Co rises to that challenge with a formidable cast and crew that have come together successfully and exceed expectations. Penelope showcases excellent work by all its actors, designers and technicians, with Kate Gaul at the helm, directing, producing, and proving herself to be a woman of exceptional ability and a brilliant visionary.

The show is at once intelligent, funny, emotional, audacious and confounding. Artistic licences are de rigueur, and no moment is spared of theatricality. The actors, all equally impressive, constantly negotiate the spaces between narrative and extravagance in their performances. There is a strong element of vaudeville in their work, and it is their commitment to the creation of a distinct style that gives the production a specific and memorable voice. Nicholas Hope shows himself to be quite the force of nature, playing the role of Quinn with extraordinary focus and strength. His no-holds-barred mode of performance is disarming and wonderfully mesmerising. Arky Michael’s Dunne is an amalgamation of rock star and Norma Desmond, an outlandish and madcap portrayal that is absolutely joyful.

Production design features prominently. It services the plot perfectly, transforming the relatively small space into one that is full of possibilities for the actors, while carving out an aesthetic for the production that is vibrant and innovative. Indeed, this is a show characterised by its vibrancy and innovation. This company has created something that overflows with ideas and enthralment, and because Enda Walsh’s script is not a simple one, one is compelled to revisit Penelope to experience her more deeply. The femme fatale beckons.