No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Simon Stollery

Review: In The Next Room, or the vibrator play

Amber McMahon. Photo by Shane Reid.

In this house in the 1880s, the drawing room can be the domain of Catherine Givings (Amber McMahon), the slightly frustrated wife, slightly depressed new mother. In the next room is the domain of Dr Givings (Renato Musilino). This is the room where the man of the house can do his work, treating his patients. Largely women. Largely though the power of that newfangled beast: electricity. And the newfangled thing that electricity powers: the vibrator. A strictly utilitarian machine for therapeutic treatment, the cure for hysteria.

Mr Daldry (Brendan Rock) is concerned about his wife, Sabrina (Lizzy Falkland). She is faint, shaky, tired, shies away from bright lights. Hysteria, Dr Givings diagnoses. Not to worry, he and midwife Annie (Katherine Fyffe) will treat her. Once daily. It will all work out fine. Not only is Sabrina treated, but she strikes up a friendship with Catherine, and offers her maid Elizabeth (Pamela Jikiemi), recently bereft of a infant son, up as Catherine’s wet nurse.

But now there is a new patient at Dr Givings office. Leo Irving (Cameron Goodall). But surely Dr Givings couldn’t treat a man? Or could he?

Sarah Ruhl’s In The Next Room, or the vibrator play, gives it all up to its audience front and centre. In this production under director Catherine Fitzgerald, the plot points detailed above are no more than window dressing: this is a comedy about vibrators.

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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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