Review: Marisol (The Sydney Fringe)

Venue: Erskineville Town Hall(Erskineville NSW), Sep 3 – 7, 2019
Playwright: José Rivera
Director: Erin Louise Cotton
Cast: Chloe Baldacchino, Isabelle Fredericks, Sarah Maguire, Elizabeth Nicholls, Simon Thomson, Matthew Vautin

Theatre review
Marisol Perez is informed by her guardian angel that there is a revolt in the heavens. God is old and senile, no longer able to serve the universe, and a struggle for power is now under way. This means that earthlings are for the moment, no longer protected by the divine, and in José Rivera’s Marisol, it appears that when left to our own devices, we can only devolve into chaos and violence. The writing is surreal, and although approaching 30 years old, its apocalyptic sensibility seems more relevant than ever.

The production is at its most gratifying when actors are able to embody the play’s bizarre qualities, and approach the performance with an unabashed extravagance, whether dramatic or comedic. Matthew Vautin and Elizabeth Nicholls have strong moments on stage, both able to convey the dehumanised madness of the play’s dystopian vision. The eponymous role is taken on by Chloe Baldacchino, who brings a delicate timidness that can seem out of place. Director Erin Louise Cotton shows us the utter confusion of a world abandoned by all that is celestial, but without communicating anything particularly powerful with the text, Marisol leaves us with little more than an empty nihilism.

When we once again feel as if everything is going to hell in a handbasket, and the pessimism cripples us from being able to take any meaningful action that would make this world better, it is perhaps useful to indulge momentarily in delusions, that there are higher beings in the ether who have a greater purpose beyond our comprehension. It is one thing to feel disappointed with the way things are, but quite a lot worse when we turn hopeless, thinking that life is absolutely meaningless. The truth is that we know nothing outside of our tiny individual existences, but dreaming up gods and deities has always proven to be useful in making the human experience at least tolerable. We manifest the divine in our image and imagination, relating to them as separate superior entities, but actually, we can only ever pray to the sacred that resides within.

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Review: Speaking In Tongues (Chippen Street Theatre)

Venue: Chippen Street Theatre (Chippendale NSW), Jun 29 – Jul 7, 2018
Playwright: Andrew Bovell
Director: Jake Ludlow
Cast: Elsa Cherlin, Dale William Morgan, Simon Thomson, Josie Waller

Theatre review
A woman disappears in Andrew Bovell’s Speaking In Tongues, but it is the relationships surrounding the incident that are its focus. It is an unconventionally structured play about ordinary heterosexual people, and through Bovell’s contorting lens, our every day is made strange to reveal the inconspicuous nature of what takes place beneath the surface. Our dysfunctions as individuals and as couples, are brought to light, refreshing but bleak in their honesty.

A team of young actors play the middle age characters of Speaking In Tongues. A noticeable deficiency in maturity is thus inevitable, but there is certainly no shortage of conviction in what they deliver. Act Two commences with the cast performing a series of monologues, proving themselves particularly engaging when working autonomously. Director Jake Ludlow’s attempts at theatrical embellishment are well-intentioned, but his strengths reside more persuasively in the production’s plainer sequences. It is a raw presentation, with a healthy quotient of promise put on clear display.

There are things we pay little attention to, that quietly engineer the way we experience the world. The personalities in Speaking In Tongues are absorbed in all their immediate concerns, but it is us, watching from the sidelines who are able to decipher the deeper implications of their entanglements. There is a missing person in the play who works as a consolidating device, but in this not unappealing piece of drama about the bourgeois, we see that everyone is lost inside their own discontentment, and come to an understanding of the triviality inherent in so much of our own suffering.

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