Tag: Patricia Cornelius

Review: Slut

Pertinent and permeating progressive perfection

By Owen James

Witnessing an ensemble of collaborators and performers so in tune with each other, as well as in tune with the message and tone of the work they are presenting, is a rarity. Slut is a powerful dissection of the tangible inner conflict imposed on women making their journey from childhood to adulthood; and this is a production that for me comes close to perfection.

Patricia Cornelius’ exemplary yet disconcerting script was first performed in 2007, and as director Rachel Baring notes in the programme, “it is really hard when you take a piece from 2007 and it is just as relevant now as when it was written”. Baring has taken the raw, exposing elements inherent in Cornelius’ work, and turned the flame to high. Presented in the insanely intimate Fitzroy space ‘The Burrow’ (journey down a laneway off Brunswick Street to find a very cozy black box seating only 25), these feminist depositions are brutally honest and grippingly confronting. Baring ensures the dialogue and impressively rapid-fire choreographed movement are always as perturbing as the claustrophobic space these oppressed performers are unnaturally confined within. Lighting and sound design by John Collopy and Daniella Esposito respectively is exquisite, enhancing the text and direction at every turn.

The majority of dialogue is shared by a narrative triad composed of Lauren Mass, Jessica Tanner and Michaela Bedel. So impeccable is the timing and communal commitment to concentration shared by these three that we are transfixed with every word and gesture. Laura Jane Turner plays social renegade Lolita (named for the connotative qualities title “Lolita” recalls), and fearlessly delivers much of her exposition with disturbing composure mere centimetres away from audience members. This perfectly-matched company of four are of such high calibre I could happily have sat there fully engaged for hours.

A 30-minute show for almost $30 is a hard sell in our relentless economy where getting bang for your backbreaking buck is not only expected but necessary. But I’m here to tell you your spent dollars will be bereft of regret thanks to the dedication and expertise of these creatives. Slut is everything great theatre should be – urgent, relevant, and a good story well told; and proves how access to only limited resources is no obstacle to talented theatre-makers.

Don’t miss Slut, a powerhouse rollercoaster that propels itself forward with turbulent momentum at every turn, and will leave you simultaneously thrilled and terrified.

Running until March 21: https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=586996

Photograph courtesy of Michaela Bedel.

Review: Anthem

A stunning, contemporary triumph

By Owen James

“These are urgent times,” speaks one character in the opening scene. Four words that foreshadow the next two hours, and that have stuck with me since. Anthem presents a snapshot of contemporary Australia, inspired by a piece from 21 years ago called ‘Who’s Afraid Of The Working Class?’ that was written by these same five highly influential writers, and at that time presented a snapshot of Australia in 1998. Anthem is possibly the most important piece of theatre presented in Melbourne this year, and we are so very lucky to have a collaboration of this scale to represent our turbulent country.

Five stories converge, variations on a theme by Andrew Bovell, Patricia Cornelius, Melissa Reeves, Christos Tsiolkas and Irene Vela – all inspiring, intuitive writers whose collective voice is dynamic and conquers definition (and whose individual works of brilliance live permanently on my bookshelf). Their intertwining pieces cover racism, classism, privilege, and economic instability, and together crescendo into a call to arms against the prejudice and discrimination inherent in our stilted political system. It’s beautifully shocking and overwhelmingly resonating.

Masterful direction from Susie Dee creates a cohesive theatrical experience that is measured and expertly crafted. Her handling of this mammoth undertaking ensures the hefty thematic content is accessible throughout, creating an undoubtedly gargantuan yet also deeply personal experience for the audience. Her cast of fourteen are a perfectly balanced company, filled with the same flavours of diversity we see when we leave the theatre on the streets of Melbourne. Their varied backgrounds aid in demonstrating touching, accurate depictions of unnerving but realistic characters. Every actor’s separate performance is honest and mesmerising, but they seamlessly blend together as one perfect ensemble.

Composer Irine Vela underlines every scene with an extraordinary score that, while performed only on violin and double bass, fills the Playhouse with the sound of a full orchestra. The skilfully timed compositions focus our attention on the text with a driving pulse that continuously escalates.

I couldn’t have higher praise for Anthem. It’s a thrilling concoction by visionary professionals at the top of their game, where two hours passes like two minutes. Moving and ambitious, this flawless reflection of our “urgent times” had a terrifyingly short season of only seven performances as part of Melbourne International Arts Festival. Anthem should be compulsory viewing for every Australian concerned with taking a stand against justice and inequality – and even more compulsory for those who aren’t. Anthem will stay with me for a very long time.


Photograph by Pia Johnson

Review: TENDERNESS – Two Plays

Teenage years need some tenderness

By Deborah Langley

Walking into the Footscray Community Arts Centre was a little like stepping back in time into a black box, a quiet gymnasium with just a hint of white smoke. Enough equipment to know we were back at school, but not enough to imagine these kids could be in any way privileged. 

Tenderness begins with Christos Tsiolkas’ play “Ugly” – a story of three young people who love each other through epic milestones with horrific consequences. With dynamic physical performances these three actors take us into their world: a world where the boys need to be men – bigger, stronger, tougher – and the girls are either pretty or invisible. 

Matt Hickey embodies male toughness, almost enough to be frightening. This hedonism oozed teenage frustration and complete loss. Supported by brilliant performances by both Stephanie Capiron and Rebecca Mezei (who justified the setting with effortless circus-style rope work), this play was beautifully indirect, weaving physicality and narrative through the labyrinth of the teenage mind

In a short silence of the brilliant soundscape laced through both plays, our young boy disappears and new performer Peta Sergeant steps onto stage, offering up a new story by way of a bowl of chalk dust.

“Slut” written by Patricia Cornelius tells the female story of playground games; laughing, fighting, teasing, ostracizing. With the addition of extra ropes, we are no longer inside the gymnasium but instead taken to the battlefield of growing up and finding yourself: who you are, who you want to be and how those choices can affect the rest of your life.

The energy shift from such a strong male sense is a little jarring, but it doesn’t take long for these three amazing performers to hit their stride and pull us into this new world – a world known by too many – of sexuality and the innocence of youth combining to a frightening outcome

Two modern morality plays, distinct from each other in their voice and form, Ugly and Slut are pulled together with some compelling theatrical techniques, that at times are excessive, but give space to raw and powerful performances.

Tenderness– Two Plays

Performing until Sun 11 Sep 2011

8pm Tue – Sat, 5pm Sun 

Post-Show Matinee Forums (approx. 45 mins)

12pm Thu 1 Sep, Fri 2 Sep, Wed 7 Sep and Thu 8 Sep 4pm Sat 10 Sep

Footscray Community Arts Centre

45 Moreland Street, Footscray

Tickets: $20, $10 conc, $5 secondary students