No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Patrick Graham

Review: Buried Child

And so begins David Mealor’s director’s statement, showing us that Buried Child can be summed up with the same plot as 90% of plays set in rural Midwest and Southern America.

The ideal or criticism of the Great American Dream runs through much of that country’s literature.  Written in the late 1970s, Buried Child came off the back of a nation recovering from the Watergate scandal, deep in recession and high in inflation, a country unhappy with the war in Vietnam. In his script Shepard is extremely critical of the mythology a country burying its past, looking forward to a new day.

In a gothic farm-house in Illinois, rain pours down.  Matriarch Halie (Jacqy Phillips) yells down the stairway onto the largely un-listening ears of patriarch Dodge (Ron Haddrick), as he sits and coughs on the couch, watching the television and swigging from a hidden bottle of whisky.  Their son, the lumbering and slow Tilden (Nicholas Garsden) appears, in his arms an old sack, bushels of corn plucked from the depths of the yard.

Over years, the family has become destroyed, fortunes trapped in a rural farm-house, dreaming of what has been lost and hiding away from what can never be regained.  Their other remaining son, Bradley (Patrick Graham), is an abusive lout, and Halie pains for the now dead son who was her great hope.  Halie and Dodge have for many years lived in separate rooms; her dreaming of a happier life that was and escaping the house for a happier life in town; he alive perhaps only by a stubbornness to not leave the house to anyone in his family.

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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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Review: Fugitive

TThe king has abandoned his kingdom, the knights have taken over, and tyranny rules the land.  Robin returns after a two-year absence, and quickly falls back in with his friends: Marion and Wil.  When Robin fails to save the life of a young boy, he and his band, joined by Little John, move into the woods and steal from the rich to give to the poor.  This is Robin Hood like you know it, and yet nothing like it.

Eamon Farren as Robin Hood.

With carpeted lounge, two walls with forest photographic wallpaper, some doors, chairs, and logs, in Fugitive Jonathon Oxlade has created a delightfully simple set: the changes in locations (along with many props) exist only in our imaginations, yet we are never left with any doubt as to where they are.   Exceptional lighting by Richard Vabre, and composition and sound design by Luke Smiles help to compete the puzzle, and are both as integral to the narrative as the dialogue.  It is a true testament to this production and team that these three arms of design never seem like distinct entities: they are constantly working in such an incredible balance it seems as though they were created by the one mind.  Coming together with these elements, the story and production doesn’t need to spell things out, because through this creativity a world much bigger than could ever be realised on stage is created.

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