Sydney Theatre Company’s season closer Mariage Blanc says a lot about sexuality and identity, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so much.
The plot is fairly simple – two young sisters have very different sexual awakenings. One lustful and gluttonous craves attention and finds joy in expressing herself sexually, the other, about to marry, feels trapped in her role as a woman within the institution of marriage and has terrifying nightmares about phalluses.
From this premise, we dive head first into the family’s life, exploring their desires and the difficulties they face, all trapped in some aspect of their own existence. This production succeeds due to both the energetic and perfectly pitched performances of the cast and Sarah Giles’ insightful and zany direction.
Giles has truly captured the elements of farce and absurdist humour in Melissa Bubnic’s adaptation of Taduesz Różewicz’s 1970s subversive Polish play. There’s a wedding scene with the cast standing awkwardly in nude suits and animal masks, eating carrots and squawking, which is particularly bizarre.
The action plays out on a simple, yet effective set by David Fletcher, with black walls on all sides, covered with black doors. It’s lit beautifully by Gavan Swift and allows the characters to make both grand and hilarious entrances and exits, keeping the pace of the whole performance up.
Paige Gardiner and Katie McDonald as the two sisters Bianca and Pauline are both fantastic. Gardiner’s Bianca is curious yet terrified whereas McDonald’s Pauline is young, boisterous and perhaps a little perverse.
As the mother and father, Lucia Mastrantone and Sean O’Shea go beyond the archetype of 19th Century parents, tackling the comedic moments in the script head on.
Sacha Horler lights up the stage as the Aunt, delivering some of the piece’s best lines with wry humour.
Peter Kowitz is suitably creepy as the Grandfather and Gig Clarke is great as the young Benjamin, struggling to come into his own.
The real strength of the cast is in how well they work together. This is really a play about complex relationships and much of the humour and social insight has to come from those relationships.
You’ll either find it difficult to hold back laughter or difficult to work out exactly what it is you’re witnessing. Or maybe even both.
You could over-analyse this play until the cows, or any other copulating animals that appear onstage, come home. But what you’re ultimately going to get is great laughs, surprisingly touching performances and a cast of the country’s finest gallivanting around the stage in nude suits and gigantic strap-ons.
You’re unlikely to see anything quite like this on a Sydney stage again anytime soon. This really is a lot of fun.