Review: My Name Is Truda Vitz (Somersault Theatre Company)

TRUDA13Venue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Jun 25 – Jul 6, 2014
Writer: Olivia Satchell
Director: Pierce Wilcox
Cast: Olivia Satchell
Image by Julia Robertson

Theatre review (of preview performance)
Olivia Satchell’s work is a personal journey of discovery and invention. It is concerned with family history and Satchell’s link with her ancestral past. Truda Vitz is Satchell’s grandmother, and this show obsessively explores her life from memory, investigation, and rigorous fantasy. It becomes clear that lives today can be hollow without acknowledgment of what had come before. Satchell finds meaning and establishes her own identity by thinking about blood relations. She tries to see what her grandmother might have seen, and feel what would have been felt. From an unexplained longing, she makes a connection with the dead in her writing, acting, and through the music of her cello.

Satchell’s performance is quiet but it contains passion. There is not great sadness or elation, but we see the manifestations of a meditative process that is deeply truthful even though a sense of fiction is always present. As an actor, Satchell’s strongest quality is her presence and confident engagement with her audience. The weakest quality of the production is the overly languid tone that persists from beginning to end. Although it only goes for an hour, one cannot help but wish for greater fluctuations in mood and emotion. The show is sincere and thoroughly authentic, but it grows cool where more power could be fabricated.

The sound of Satchell’s cello is sublime. In the small venue, subtleties are easily magnified, and the musical instrument’s every nuance becomes sensationally beautiful. Widely described as being able to produce sounds that are closest to the human voice, it adds a dimension of dialogue to the one woman play. At certain times, it allows us to feel like Satchell is speaking with herself, and at others it represents a voice from the afterworld. The cello’s resonances are mighty, and its incorporation into the fabric of the work shows good creativity and impressive sensitivity.

Life without romance can prove fruitless, but romance itself often seems absurd. My Name Is Truda Vitz is more sweet than bitter; it is lighter than it is dark. Its melancholy is gentle and mild, perhaps an accurate reflection of the artist’s inspiration and inner world. This is theatre that embraces simplicity, in a time when simplicity might be at its loneliest.