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October 31, 2012 / Siobhan Argent

The Stairs Are Moving – La Mama Courthouse

Published October 2012 in Beat

Melbourne Writers’ Theatre’s production The Stairs Are Moving is an ambitious play that aims to make a new space within the realm of melodrama. It is, however, let down by uneven pacing, a difficult structure and a slow opening third.

The plot of this production is straightforward—two siblings, Marjory (Sarah Plummer) and Dmitri (Maurice Mammoliti) go to the funeral of a hated Aunt (Carolyn Masson) to exact post-mortem revenge on their cruel relative. Marjory does, anyway; Dmitri is too busy drinking away his past to be capable of anything more than sullen distrust of everyone he encounters. Meanwhile, the hyperactive and super-organised Tulip (Charlotte Nicdao), Aunt Petunia’s servant, buzzes around like an unswattable fly, adding a thin layer of lightness to the proceedings throughout this dark and depressing production.

One of the more interesting aspects of this play is the surrealist touch. It’s small but significant, revolving primarily around the titular stairs and the way in which their activities lead directly to the ‘downfall’ in the play’s climactic ending. Still, it’s not enough of a quirk to change the overall tone of the play or detract from some pretty depressing proceedings. When you spend that much time covering abuse, depression, alcoholism and pent-up rage, it’s easy to miss the surrealist woods for the melodramatic trees.

There are other elements, too, which make this play a difficult one in terms of audience engagement. Characters, for example, very rarely interact with each other in real time, speaking instead mostly to the audience. And after 90 minutes, it’s difficult for an audience to maintain interest in how characters might relate to each other when it’s indirectly shown.

The Stairs Are Moving makes bold attempts on several levels, including a different approach to character interaction and surrealist sub-elements that leap to the fore just when required. But it’s always difficult for audiences to become engaged when characters rarely speak directly to each other while treading a well-worn path to emotional deliverance.

The Stairs Are Moving  is playing at La Mama Courthouse from 24 October to 3 November.

Australian Stage’s review of The Stairs Are Moving


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