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October 21, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

MelBorn reBorn (Melbourne Writer’s Theatre)

Published October 2011 at Arts Hub

This short play program is the opener for Melbourne Writers’ Theatre’s six-week MelBorn reBorn season. It is a showcase of eight short plays with wide-ranging themes and ideas.

Out of the Ash is a sometimes confusing but interesting construction of a post-disaster world, where the sexes are divided and have become somewhat odd in the process. Nadia Andary, who played an excellent comedic role as mother of a crazy teen in Wesley and Huxley Live the Life, now brings her quirky mother-type figure to a woman distressed by the thought of her sixteen-year-old daughter’s rebellion. The Greek chorus of friendly female oddballs adds to the post-apocalyptic atmosphere.

A World Apart is a weary, somewhat predictable hospital melodrama with enough tearjerkers crammed into one scene to harden anyone against empathy. With characters that didn’t really emerge past the stock-standard silhouettes we’ve come to expect of gay men and denialist mothers, the main saving grace was Maurice Mammoliti’s flamboyant transsexual, who added a bit of a flavour to an overdone. concept.

Demonstrating that length does not always restrict theatrical efficacy, Quick Dispatch Centre tells the audience very little but utilises the authoritative-versus-powerless dichotomy in a way that leaves you unsettled, but still a touch confused. With vague mentions of the ‘final room’, Jana Wilkes and Hannah Greenwood balance imprisonment and control respectively thanks to an interesting script.

The Girl Who Could Fly, in contrast, falls somewhere between an interesting script with challenging characters, and the easy temptation of predictable shock endings. Whitney Duff plays a deranged teenager/adult with passion. However the composition of the play, particularly in terms of flashbacks and melodrama, leaves you feeling a little cold towards the scene at hand and somewhat exasperated by the more artful elements of the play.

David Astle’s Luminous takes an interesting path down history lane, focusing on the attempted escape of two prisoners in what is presumably outback Australia. One man has an almost-there Irish accent (Jonathan Dyer) while the other is an Aboriginal familiar with the ways of the land (Mark Crees). Luminous had the potential to develop into an interesting racial/social divide and an analysis of male relationships, but floundered under a lack of thematic direction. While this play raised a couple of questions, it made no real attempt to answer them in the closing stages.

By far the standout of MWT’s showcase was Scott McAteer’s Wolf Man, a one-man show that was more of a humorous comedic rant than a solo performance. McAteer quite deftly weaved a neat storyline into his high-blood-pressure lesson in anger management. He also has a natural ability to deliver rage-lined black humour, making for a hugely entertaining few minutes.

Legacy’s rather sensational opening sees the audience confront a challenging hold-up situation. Unfortunately, it seems the actors each had a rather predictable role to fill: one spent the entire scene sobbing helplessly (Jennifer Monk), another waved a gun and ranted (Maurice Mammoliti) and another (Mark Crees) played the polite white guy trying to negotiate his way out of hell. Legacy reads relatively realistically until the ending which, despite the intense nature of the play as a whole, fails to inspire any real shock value due to the ridiculousness of its denouement.

Let’s Party starts off on a wonderfully whimsical note analysing the short lifespan of balloons. While it’s fun for the first few minutes, the play itself can’t live too long and suffered going as long as it did. Jana Wilkes and Carly Grayson frolicked in their balloon-light roles, which fluffed out the ending of a fairly eclectic evening.

The plays (around 15 minutes each, 20 minute interval after the first four plays):

Out of the Ash by Christine Croyden, dir. Elizabeth Semmel

A World Apart by James May, dir Bruce Cochrane

Quick Dispatch Centre by Bruce Shearer, dir. Neil Triffett

The Girl Who Could Fly by Carmen Saarelaht, dir. Michele McNamara

Luminous by David Astle, dir. Frank Otis

Wolf Man by Scott McAteer

Legacy by Frank Otis, dir. Neil Triffett

Let’s Party by Bruce Shearer, dir. Bruce Cochrane ‘HHHB’ written by Tom Bolton, Min Flipo and Bruce Shearer.


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