No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Stefan Gregory

Briefs: Face to Face; Into The Dark

I’m not entirely sure when my life got so busy. Or, perhaps, how I used to fit it all in. I’m currently in Newcastle to speak on a panel called I Started A Blog … Now I’m a Critic for the Crack Theatre Festival as a part of This Is Not Art. Over the next fortnight, I will be in Melbourne, where I am producing Sepia in the Melbourne Fringe, and then it is down to Goolwa for the Regional Arts Australia conference Kumuwuki / Big Wave. I then have a couple of projects I’m working on when I’m back in Adelaide, that I can’t wait to share.

In light of this, I have edited down two pieces I worked on and then were relegated to the “to finish when I have time” pile. I know I can be rather less than brief, perhaps this is the start of a new experiment.

Face to Face was the second stage adaptation of an Ingmar Bergman film I saw this year. I unfortunately didn’t find the time or brain space to write about Persona at Theatre Works, but Alison Croggon does a wonderful job of capturing how the team took this story that was told originally in a film exploitative of the medium, into a play exploitative of its medium. In Face to Face co-adaptors Simon Stone and Andrew Upton approach from a similar place: taking the screenplay and not the film, they create a work which is of the theatre.

In Face to Face we watch the unraveling of the life, and subsequently the mind, of Jenny (Kerry Fox). Through the sparse set (Nick Schlieper), times and places roll over and into one another: the movement of sets on and off the stage in unison choreographed movement with the cast brings some of the most powerful visual images to the work.

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Thoughts: The Seagull

Almost a month ago, I travelled to Sydney to see The Seagull at Belvoir.  I absolutely intended to write a review of the show; in many ways I wish I had.  But somewhere in between being caught up in the excitement that was a weekend in Sydney, and the overwhelm I felt from the production, every time I sat down to write something it felt like an impossible task.

Had it been in Adelaide (a small town, with fewer critical voices, and where most of my readers are) I’m sure I would have found a way to say what I could.  It being in Sydney both gave myself a remove from the need to write about the production, and reviewers whom I keenly agree with: I feel James Waites in particular had a very similar experience as me, and wrote about it more eloquently than I could have.

Judy Davis as Arkadina and David Whenham as Trigorin.

But this week a friend asked me if I would describe Benedict Andrew’s script as a new Australian work.  Saying no, he pressed me for a more detailed answer.  Here was my response to him, mixed in with some of the thoughts I’ve scribed down over the past month whenever I’ve given this write-up a try:

To define Benedict Andrews’ The Seagull as a new Australian text or not inherently hinges on your definition of what exactly is a new Australian text, which to me implies a uniqueness of character, a separation of itself from works which came before it.  If Andrews had used Chekhov’s script as a launching point to craft an original work, then perhaps my answer would be different.  But for me, a true strength of the work was that Andrews was so faithful to the original as to truly highlight the timelessness and universality of themes on youth, art, country towns, and, with particular significance to me, of writing.

What Andrews did with Chekhov’s text is to set it in an inherently, unabashedly and unashamedly Australian setting.  I, admittedly, don’t have an overly large knowledge of Chekhov, but it felt so honest and faithful to Chekhov I can’t believe it was anything but.  He brought forth a contemporary context and an Australian vernacular to the work, but within this it still felt like a translation rather than an adaptation: he was just translating more than the language, he was also translating years and countries and context.

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