Now in their 34th year, Melbourne Writers’ Theatre continue their mission to foster and showcase new and established Australian writing talent with The Melbourne Monologues at La Mama Courthouse as part of their 2015 Page To Stage season.
Resident director and dramaturg Elizabeth Walley’s curation avoids the sometimes superficial pageantry of “messages or moral tales”, instead inciting a simple “call for engagement” with the emotional untidiness of the everyday – an exploration of the ongoing conflict between basic human desire and anxiety.
In Christine Croyden’s War Artist, an unnamed ex-soldier struggles to re-acclimatise to civilian life and the domestic stability of a loving relationship after the hateful horrors of modern war. Alec Gilbert is perhaps a little miscast as a character whose voice echoes the adolescent frustration and fire of a much younger man.
Mazz Ryan’s Lost, performed by Miliyana Cancar, paints a stark picture of the quiet daily agony of watching a loved-one grapple with their own fading mind.
Barry Revill explores the surreal psychological reality of a woman restricted to the physical and mental confines of institutional care in Cry of A Forgotten Woman. Brenda Palmer lends a wily wickedness and tender humanity to Revill’s forgotten matriarch, amidst the rich and poetic imagery of the piece.
In Bruce Shearer’s I’m A Certainty, Sean Paisley-Collins portrays a young man clinging to the promise of a lucky turn after a lifetime of adversity, with all the buzzing mania, volatility, desperation and denial of an addict.
I Have Everything I Want, written by Carmen Saarelaht and performed by Carolyn Masson, explores the price of corporate ‘success’, as an unnamed woman agonises over missed opportunities for a simpler and more personally authentic happiness.
First-time playwright Neil McGovern concludes the evening with perhaps the strongest piece of the set, I Love You, a sharply penned exercise in the complexity of extreme emotion under the weight of chronic neurosis. Alec Gilbert returns to bookend the evening and shines with a tense and discomforted comic presence that serves McGovern’s text perfectly.
With a diverse range of voices from a variety of backgrounds and experience levels, each piece stands independently strong while also resonating with a shared collective frankness and honesty that is wonderfully endearing.