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.

5 Questions with Olivia Satchell

oliviasatchellWhat is your favourite swear word?

What are you wearing?
A black-and-white polkadot dress and a tartan cape.

What is love?
I’ve been struggling with this one for a while. I have to try and describe it in my show and I think the closest I can manage is this:

“If you don’t care about someone you don’t know where their scars are. You can’t describe the beauty of their smile.”

Failing that, the best definition I’ve read comes from Rochester in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre:

“It is a long way to Ireland, Janet, and I am sorry to send my little friend on such weary travels: but if I can’t do better, how is it to be helped? Are you anything akin to me, do you think, Jane?”

I could risk no sort of answer by this time: my heart was still.

“Because, he said, “I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you – especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous channel, and two hundred miles or so of land some broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly. As for you, you’d forget me.”

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
8 Gigabytes Of Hardcore Pornography at Griffin Theatre Company. Four stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Yes, I think it is. It’s about our need to understand our family and our need to make our lives meaningful, which I think nearly every person can relate to because it is, essentially, what makes us human.

Olivia Satchell new work is My Name is Truda Vitz, by Somersault Theatre Company.
Show dates: 25 Jun – 6 Jul, 2014
Show venue: TAP Gallery