Review: Transience (Leftofcentre Theatre Co)

leftofcentreVenue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Sep 13 – 18, 2016
Playwright: Clare Hennessy
Director: Clemence Williams
Cast: Julia Christensen, Kate Pimblett, Eve Shepherdson Beck
Image by Charlie O’Grady

Theatre review
Gender has always been a means of policing behaviour. We look at one’s genitals at birth and assign a whole universe of expectations that have nothing to do with the individual’s own nature and desires. The world is split in two halves, male and female, and any deviation that threatens to transgress that dichotomy is traditionally prohibited.

In Clare Hennessy’s pseudo sci-fi Transience, society continues to monitor us through gender expression, but this time only one mode of existence is permitted. The script is rich with modern ideas, and memorable for its progressive and discerning attitude. Although its concepts are deeply contemplated and well articulated, its plot does not develop far enough to create a stronger sense of narrative. A quirky comedy is effectively manufactured throughout, but its character’s emotions are depicted too gently to elicit a more empathetic response.

An accomplished cast of youthful actors is impressively connected with the material at hand. Passionate and accurate with the play’s messages, their portrayals convey an inspiring and firm sense of purpose. There are issues however, with conversational rhythms causing the show’s pace to feel excessively ambling, but proficient work from lighting designer Liam O’Keefe and composer Nick Turton offer valuable variance to the production’s mood that helps retain our attention.

Transience is concerned not only with gender. It is also a discussion on matters of free speech and social cohesion. With the advent of information technology and social media, democracy has evolved into a new beast that demands a constant evaluation on how our voices are heard. As individuals gain ever-increasing access to platforms for their unitary thoughts and politics, it is tempting to see humankind as being fractured and divided. Our egos want to feel special and we want always to be recognised as different from the rest, but in fact, our humanity is only, if ever, slightly divergent. Unity of life is an ultimate truth, but our minds do not easily come to terms with it.

Review: Femme Fatale (Leftofcentre Theatre Co)

leftofcentreVenue: Old 505 Theatre @ 5 Eliza St (Newtown NSW), Jan 19 – 23, 2016
Playwright: Clare Hennessy
Director: Carissa Licciardello
Cast: Rebecca Day, Tiffany Hoy, Henriette Tkalec

Theatre review
The femme fatale is a figure usually conjured up as a source of threat to the masculine of our species. She seems sexual, devious and powerful, but only exists in opposition, having no meaning independent of her male counterparts. In Clare Hennessy’s Femme Fatale, we look at humankind’s first three women according to Western mythology; Eve, Lilith and Pandora, and their conception as originators of evil and sin. Each were made responsible for releasing to the world a perpetuity of harm. Their myths have framed womanhood as initiator in the eradication of purity and goodness, and the feminine is forever tainted with malice.

The writing is unabashedly poetic, and although full of passion, its structure is insufficiently dramatic. Its abstraction has a deliberate and obscure beauty, but is of the sort that can be too alienating for emotional connection. The production’s atmosphere of foreboding is effectively orchestrated, although greater variation in style and tone between scenes could prove to be more rewarding. The cast is well-rehearsed and each actor shows excellent commitment, with Henriette Tkalec’s intense presence leaving the strongest impression.

It is not the most communicative of works, but its intentions are thoughtful and sincere. We can always rely on politics to give theatre its fire, and Femme Fatale is certainly spirited, buoyed by its many exciting, sometimes repetitious, ideas and inspirations. It makes an unambiguous feminist statement with what it attempts to say, but more so in how the show is put together. These young women have pooled their talents in collaboration for a piece that exists against all odds, in a landscape that is tenaciously patriarchal. No matter how we look at it, Australian theatre is still a boys’ club, but the bad girls are here to stay, and their ripple effect has begun.