Review: Attempts On Her Life (Sydney University Dramatic Society / Periscope Productions)

rsz_suds___periscope_present__attempts_on_her_lifeVenue: University of Sydney Studio B (Camperdown NSW), Apr 23 – 26, 2014
Directors: Clemence Williams, Benjamin Sheen
Playwright: Martin Crimp
Actors: Daniel Beratis, Bridget Haberecht, Felicia King, Brittany Lewis, Brendan McDougall, Steffan Rizzi, Julia Robertson, Jack Scott, Harriet Streeter, Leili Walker

Theatre review
The subject matter is brutal, intense and grim. Martin Crimp’s writing however, is not interested in conventional storytelling. He places emphasis instead on exploring theatrical structures that work with plots in unusual and challenging ways. Artist and audience are required to invent new approaches in order to relate to the text and its artistic form. Preconceived notions about the nature of theatre are brought to turmoil in the face of Crimp’s determined sense of nihilism.

Directors Clemence Williams and Benjamin Sheen do an excellent job of extracting a style of performance from their cast of ten that is cohesive and authentic. The harmony and assuredness of the ensemble gives the stage an energy that captivates, and their individual personalities contribute to a show that is layered and complex. Williams and Sheen do well to create variation between scenes, which keeps things unpredictable and nimbly paced. It is noteworthy that the team is comprised of two separate groups, SUDS in Sydney and Periscope in Melbourne, but there is not a hint of discernible disjunction onstage.

Actor Leili Walker stands out with strong presence and a sharp focus. There is a lack of self consciousness in her performance that conveys confidence beyond her years. Also memorable is Julia Robertson who engages with clear motivations that are always intensely genuine. It is remarkable that she is able to introduce psychological truth into a performance that is persistently characterised by an overt anti-naturalism.

Somewhere in Attempts On Her Life lies a tale that is disturbing and devastating. Its insistence on a wildly non-narrative mode of expression means that the play does not move us emotionally. We are forced to access instead, our mental capacities, where we are, hopefully, more likely to be inspired for social change and political action.

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