No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Jason Sweeney

Review: Pornography

There have been three major terrorism attacks in the past decade which significantly cut through to the Australian media, and thus our own dialogues about terrorism. The first, the 9/11 attacks in the USA. The second, the Bali Bombings, targeting Australian tourists. And the third, the London Bombings.

Each year, we notice their anniversaries. Eleven years after 9/11, much of the currency around the discussion of the remembrance focused on the choice of major US newspapers to no longer carry the anniversary as front page news. Ten years on from the Bali Bombings, the event was carried with significance.

The London Bombings perhaps though, held the most currency looking back from 2012. Occurring the day after the announcement the 2012 Olympics would be held in London, the two events would be inextricably linked.

Simon Stephens wrote Pornography in the aftermath of the bombings, in a city which was very much in repair and recovery. His work distills the event down into stories of a handful of people in the week leading up to the event, at the same time almost makes a point of the fact that this bombing was just one day in the lives of people which are frequently full, and complicated, and messy.

The impact of the bombings, the immediacy of the event, the knowledge that these characters lives will now forever be tied up in a narrative of what occurred that day is at the forefront throughout Pornography. Directing the work for the State Theatre Company, Daniel Clarke holds tension throughout the work: relief in humour is short lived, as audience members we are privileged in knowing where the work is taking us. Jason Sweeney’s composition, too, weaved throughout the production, holds the audience on teter-edge.

And yet, the bombing is almost the least important part of the work and the stories. While these characters stories culminate in this event, more pertinently Stephens writes about a fractured England.

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Review: Three Sisters

Peter O'Brien and Ksenja Logos. Photo: Matt Nettheim

This review originally appeared on ArtsHub.com

Today, a team of archeologists are exploring an old house; they dust off glassware, take photos to document the past. In turn-of-the-century Russia, one year on from the death of their father, at the birthday of Irina (Kate Cheel), she and her sisters Olga (Carmel Johnson), Marsha (Ksenja Logos) lament their small town lives. Over several years in nearly three and a half hours, we watch the lives of the three sisters, their brother Andrey (Patrick Graham), and the people who move in and out of their house, as they continually ask the questions: what does it mean to live there? What legacy will they leave?

Adam Cook’s traditional reading of Three Sisters for the State Theatre Company is fine, but it does little to show the relevance or importance of the text to a modern Adelaide audience; which is interesting considering the position Adelaide – and art in Adelaide – is often finding itself in relationship to Sydney and Melbourne.

Cook’s set, co-designed with Gavan Swift, places the Prozorovs’ dilapidated house at the bottom of an archeological excavation. While the dilapidation of peeling green paint exposing red stone walls is beautiful, and in itself an interesting frame for the unhappy lives of all who pass through, in the end, this only serves to detract from the text. Framing the work in a context that highlights the museum qualities of the piece does precisely that: it highlights the staid approach, the old Russian ideals, and the clipped language of much of the script.

While visually stunning, within the context of this classical reading the set is logically confusing – draped with red dirt of arid deserts, rather than the black soil of cold Russia – and thematically distracting. I expected something to happen or to be said in the ‘modern’ world of the dig, but the archeologists remain silent through their scenes, which are little more than taking to the stage at the top of each act, helping to change sets. These characters further are infused with a fuzzy logic: while at the start of the play they are oblivious to their Russian counterparts, by the end of act four they seem to be standing and filming their existence.

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