Dangerously daring, up-and-coming playwright Anna Houston’s play In The Garden explores strong, contemporary themes in an explicit and stylistic fashion.
Presented by: Hook In Eye Theatre ProductionsVenue: Deckchair Theatre, Victoria Hall, Fremantle
Saturday 30 July 2011
Dangerously daring, up-and-coming playwright Anna Houston’s play In The Garden explores strong, contemporary themes in an explicit and stylistic fashion. As part of the Umbrella Project, this new and risky play is right up the alley of the Deckchair Theatre, presented by Hook In Eye Theatre Productions.
Driven by the tortured Violet, portrayed emphatically by Jo Morris, the play follows the disjointed events of her violent, deteriorating marriage to her high school teacher. Through memories, Violet recalls the disappearance and death of her disturbed mother Eva, and history repeats as they both indulge in adultery. Shirley Van Sanden dominates the stage as Eva, and every interaction between mother and daughter is electric.
Innovatively drawing inspiration from Margaret Atwood’s powerful, idealistic literature, and the Australian novelist Gillian Mears’ The Mint Lawn, Anna Houston’s script is inventive, if infrequently crude. The use of coarse language is initially tasteful, however escalates to an unnecessary level in the second act. While the plot isn’t complex, its unchronological order is creative and preoccupies itself with the construction of authentic characters.
Designed by Monique Wajon, the set is highly stylised, as is Joe Lui’s coloured lighting. This generates a surreal atmosphere and consequently removes the audience from engaging fully with the characters. By comparison, the use of space in the Victoria Hall is broad and diverse, and the gentle changes in light and colour allows for a fluid transition between present and past events and reality with Violet’s internal turmoil.
At times the purpose of the play is unclear and the significance of the garden confusing. Due to this, the final epiphany, while indicating a definite end to the play itself, leaves the audience partially dissatisfied. Although this encourages curious speculation, it also denies the audience a concrete resolution.
Tackling explicit and highly confronting content, each and every performer demonstrates courage in their roles, particularly Jo Morris and Andy Blaikie. Their circumstances unsettle the audience, so perhaps being removed somewhat by the combination of realism and surrealism is clever directing.
Deckchair Theatre prides itself on presenting emerging and precarious works, and this world premier adaption of Anna Houston’s In The Garden certainly complies. While the excessive use of coarse language is needless, the overall script and structure is imaginative. The themes, including childhood trauma, domestic violence, and adultery are bravely portrayed and fully committed to by bold director Michelle Sowden, as well as the entire cast and technical support. Bookings: www.deckchairtheatre.com.au Thursday 14 July – Saturday 30 July(Season now closed)