May 22, 2010

Adelaide Theatre

Filed under: 2010,Archive

May 22, 2010

The Seven Stages of Grieving
by Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman
State Theatre Company of South Australia
The Space, Adelaide Festival Centre
May 22. . Tickets  $ 29 – 59. Bookings : BASS 131 246
Until May 29.  SA regional tour until June 17.

The Share
by Daniel Keene
The Bakehouse, 255 Angas Street, Adelaide
May 20. Tickets $ 20 – 25. Bookings : ph 8227 0505
Until June 5.

In the State Theatre Company revival of The Seven Stages of Grieving, Lisa Flanagan, the young Aboriginal woman narrator says “Everything has its time.” The time for writers Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman was 1993, a time of difficulty but also promise. Their daisy-chain narrative laments some grim experiences, both past and present.  But there is also a wry comedy, a sense of optimism, and the inevitability of change.

Building on the vibrant performance by Lisa Flanagan, director Rosalba Clemente has retained much of the appeal of Enoch and Mailman’s original production which many of us were fortunate to see. Performing on Morag Cook’s raised circular wooden stage, Flanagan, in a white sleeveless dress which doubles as a screen for projections of words and images, reaches into a battered  suitcase to find mementos,  photographs, press clippings, red earth  and other traces, to describe actual instances of injustice and oppression – deaths in custody, children removed from families, and discriminations, both trivial and profound.

Seeing the play performed again , even after the PM’s 2008 Sorry speech (or perhaps because of it ) there is a sense that  hope for change has mired in disappointment, that progress has stalled, and that the time has still not come.  All the more reason, of course, for Rosalba Clemente and Lisa Flanagan’s spirited  revival of this play and the uncomfortable questions it so artfully and concisely raises.

Independent Adelaide company, , has also found a play, not of our time, but for it. Daniel Keene is another Australian playwright who deals in inconvenient truths, and his short play from 2000, The Share, is an excellent example. As in other works by Keene, such as Low and Silent Partner, the characters’ lives are unraveling before their eyes. The title refers to the proceeds of a violent robbery committed against a drug dealer by two young men, Tex and Sugar, and whether there is also a slice for the one-eyed Kid who knows of other lucrative targets in the neighbourhood.

Assisted by Cassandra Backler’s minimal design, director Corey McMahon places the action disconcertingly close to the audience, managing the violence and brutal language with a minimum of guignol and a maximum of emotional effect.

As Tex and Sugar, Scott Marcus and Matthew Crook stalk, taunt and provoke each other into shared cruelties which are convincingly awful, while Cameron Pike’s monologue , as the Kid, describing his sexual abuse of a child,  is harrowing. This is difficult, bleak theatre but, as always with Daniel Keene (and ) there is a purpose to it. When Tex howls like a dog, it is cry from the heart – a foul, rag and bone heart, but a human one all the same.

Murray Bramwell

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