Review: The Days And Nights Of BeeBee Fenstermaker (Phable Productions)

phableVenue: The Factory Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Nov 29 – Dec 3, 2016
Playwright: William Snyder
Director: Candice Story
Cast: Jack Berry, Eileen Camilleri, Ryan Madden, Lauren Orrell, Bronte Sparrow, Helen Stuart, Charles Upton, Chantelle Von Appen
Image by Lauren Orrell

Theatre review
When we first meet Beebee, she is a young woman full of optimism and ambition, poised to conquer the world. We soon find out that although she has the ability to envision a bright future, our protagonist is ill-equipped to make her dreams come true. William Snyder’s play is about the lessons that we need for a good life. It makes us consider if all the knowledge that we inherit, from family and from school, can ever protect us from falling. Beebee takes a great big tumble, in spite of all her smarts and confidence, and we are surprised that her story is not of the fairy tale ilk, but understand simultaneously, that she can always pick herself up again. No matter how battered and bruised life leaves us, for those of us who are still here, we know that hope always remains.

Candice Story’s direction of the piece is effective in its more melodramatic sections. The stage is ignited by big, vivid emotions when characters get into fierce altercations, but the production is less resonant in scenes that require humour or melancholy. Nevertheless, it is an engaging story relayed with sufficient clarity to comfortably sustain our attention for its two-and-a-half hour duration.

Actor Chantelle Von Appen keeps us invested in Beebee’s misadventures. Her passion drives the play, and even though a more technical and precise approach would give her portrayal a greater sense of psychological accuracy and hence allow us to identify better with her adversity, we never lose interest in how the character evolves. A trio of sisters, played by Eileen Camilleri, Lauren Orrell and Helen Stuart, sends sparks flying with their depiction of complex family dynamics. All the love and hate we experience at home is never easy to articulate, but these sisters, and their understated but potent chemistry, allow us to reflect on how we act and how we feel, when dealing with the nearest and dearest.

In a world determined to tell us what we cannot do, it is the brave and resilient who will get the most out of life. Nothing special comes from an easy ride, and the ones who refuse to accept defeat, will always emerge greater. Beebee may not have begun her journey with every privilege to make everything run smoothly, but the hard knocks that she endures, will provide what is necessary for her to survive and thrive. It may not be that she will end up where she had wanted at the play’s beginning, but with some luck, she will discover peace of mind and happiness, as we should all hope for, for ourselves, before too late.

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Review: The Maids (Phable Productions)

phableVenue: The Depot Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Apr 27 – 30, 2016
Playwright: Jean Genet (translated by Bernard Frechtman)
Director: Angelo Samolis
Cast: Jessica Saras, Chantelle Von Appen, Louise Harding

Theatre review
The women are suffering an acute case of cabin fever. They are maids who live and work in their employer’s home, cut off from the world, with only bitter resentment as company. Fuelling each other’s appetite for destruction, they go about their days imagining scenarios of retribution towards their Madame, a lady of leisure whose narcissism makes her increasingly unbearable to the weird sisters.

Jean Genet’s ideas in The Maids are provocative, but Bernard Frechtman’s translation, although poetic is not particularly theatrical. The language’s floridness does not lend itself easily as dialogue, and even though director Angelo Samolis ensures that meaning is conveyed in a broad sense, it is a challenge trying to find nuance in the text. We follow the plot, but are unable to explore its controversial concepts at much depth. The three actors are energetic and focussed, with an adventurous approach to physicality that provides buoyancy to the production. Design aspects are simple but thoughtful, with an appealing visual aesthetic achieved through a fairly minimal touch.

There is good work in how the show conveys emotions, but we receive little in terms of psychology. The women go on outlandish rambles without providing sufficient insight to hold our interest. The maids do not appear to have a hard life, but their jealousy has become overwhelming. Without resources or ability to withdraw themselves from their predicament, their journey becomes a downward spiral into disaster. People can create lemonade out of lemons, but we can also make the worst out of any situation. We observe the characters in the play make poor decisions, but also wonder how else they could have lived.

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