Review: The Gigli Concert (O’Punksky’s Theatre / Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

opunkskysVenue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Apr 4 – May 4, 2014
Playwright: Tom Murphy
Director: John O’Hare
Actors: Patrick Dickson, Kim Lewis, Maeliosa Stafford
Image by Wendy McDougall

Theatre review
O’Punksky’s Theatre’s current production of The Gigli Concert at the Eternity Playhouse is the company’s fourth staging of the Tom Murphy work. Over the course of 16 years, their relationship with the play has developed into something remarkably complex and outstanding in its sophistication. This is a story about the madness that we encounter in our lives, its varying manifestations, and the degrees at which it rears its head. It is also about opera.

Expression through music is used in the production in a fascinating and original way. Director John O’Hare plays with the relationship between music and personal spirituality, and works with it as an instrument of salvation for the play’s characters, and in his staging, a mechanism for storytelling. O’Hare explores bravely, the effects of and experiential reactions to operatic music, almost as an antithesis of the spoken word. Psychoanalysis is a central theme in The Gigli Concert, but it experiments with a departure from incessant talking, and creates a space of meaning with music that reaches beyond everyday language.

O’Hare’s creation is multi-layered, and thick with ideas and intelligence. The show runs the risk of being too intellectually dense in parts, but it is a show that is careful to hold its connection with its audience. It goes on various imaginative flights of fancies, but O’Hare always intends on bringing us along. Along with his actors, he has created a show that is keen to challenge and also to entertain.

Maeliosa Stafford brings with him extraordinary presence, and a brilliant sense of theatricality. We almost expect him to break into arias at each appearance, with a fascinating and dominant energy, keeping us on the edge of our seats for what he wishes to unleash in every scene. His characterisation is consistently strong but also unpredictable, resulting in a portrayal that is full of colour and charm.

JPW King is played by Patrick Dickson whose work is detailed and solid. There is a thoroughness that can only come from extensive study and deep understanding, and Dickson’s performance is infallible. When an actor is in complete control, we get swept away in his confidence, open to all that he wishes to share. There is also an air of whimsy to the leading man that keeps us endeared, and keeps the play effervescent in spite of its frequent darkness.

The Gigli Concert shows us two men and their individual madness. We see them dealing with issues from different perspectives, but the universality of their stories keeps us engaged, and we understand them through the knowledge of our selves, and through the prism of our own madnesses. We achieve a greater understanding of life, and of the nature of human navigation through this incredible and absurd landscape.