Review: Of Monopoly And Women (Brave New Word)

brandnewwordVenue: Exchange Hotel (Balmain NSW), Jul 9 – 24, 2014
Playwright: Pamela Proestos
Director: Sascha Hall
Actors: Ainslie Clouston, Bianca Raess, Victoria Greiner, Mark Taylor
Image by David Hooley

Theatre review
Relationships between siblings are often neglected by storytellers. They seem too mundane for the stage, and are a part of life that many take for granted. Pamela Proestos’ script places focus on a trio of sisters and demonstrates that there is much to be explored. Each woman has distinct qualities, and as a collective, they are complex and fascinating. Their bond is exceptionally tight, and within that closeness, they relate to one another with great humour, as well as unbearable cruelty. This calls to mind a quote from spiritual writer Marjorie Pay Hinckley, “home is where you are loved the most, and act the worst.”

In Of Monopoly And Women, we see the machinations of sibling rivalry in all its glory. In the security of their home, our leading ladies live, eat and breathe together, with a no holds barred attitude. They are always their true selves, allowing Proestos to reveal facets of human nature, good and bad, that are universal and unerringly reflective of our own lived experiences. With brutal honesty, she shows us how we treat the people we love, sometimes with unbelievable impertinence, but always amusing.

Production design is thoughtfully executed although its shoestring budget is evident. Demitra Sealy’s set efficiently creates levels and spaces that assist with scene transitions, and adds visual interest with colour and texture that feel homely while also providing a look that is delightfully theatrical. Lighting by Luke Holmes is sensitively created, turning a challenging venue into an effective performance space that provides fluctuating moods.

All performances are accomplished, and the chemistry between actors are well harnessed by director Sascha Hall. It is crucial that the family ties being portrayed are believable, and the production succeeds on this level. The symbiosis of love and hate is delicately balanced and deeply interesting. There is however, a deficiency in some scenes that require a greater range of emotion and comedy. The script allows for quite extreme quarreling on one hand, and hilarity on the other, but a few of these opportunities are missed. The action is fast paced, but charming lines are sometimes not given enough emphasis for them to work more powerfully. Supporting actor Mark Taylor is memorable for giving the most natural performance in the cast, playing one of the women’s boyfriend. His character is simplest to handle, but it is noteworthy that Taylor’s work is consistently compelling.

This is a production that has its heart in the right place. The team has identified the script’s essence accurately, and they present it well, but the show needs a few more dramatic turns in performance tone to prevent its domestic scenarios from descending into a space of mundanity. Ella, Kate and Zoe are multi-dimensioned and likeable women, with inter-playing dynamics that are thoroughly explored and beautifully written. The play and its themes are enjoyable and easy to identify with, even if it exposes us for being so careless with the people we love the most.