There is nothing better than observing characters with real depth build a solid connection with their theatre audience. The Bitterling achieved this instantly through gripping emotion and a sincere story.
Pentimento Productions and La Boite IndieRoundhouse Theatre, Kelvin Grove Wednesday, 31 March, 2010
There is nothing better than observing characters with real depth build a solid connection with their theatre audience. The Bitterling achieved this instantly through gripping emotion and a sincere story. The three-hour time frame at times was tedious with information that didn’t always seem relevant or important. But it was those details that gave the show its authenticity. It’s worth the time when the audience is allowed the chance to get to know their characters on a level that is not easily achieved in theatre. Rose Cutler is best described as a raging bogan. Intimidating, loud, obnoxious, cruel, over-sexed and misunderstood are some other words that spring to mind. It’s the 1974 floods and Rose returns to Brisbane after running away 15 years before, abandoning her baby son to be raised by her mother, Ruby. It’s not obvious at first why Rose has returned home. It seems she only wants to stir trouble. She tries to get to know her son by taunting him, and tries to find closure with her mother by doing the same. Rose never knew her father who died in World War II, and it’s clear there is an underlying issue as Ruby’s undying love for him is emphasized. Swenson’s focus in the story is freedom – what people choose to do with it and its importance. Louise Brehmer’s performance of Rose was sharp and powerful. She managed Rose’s harshness in a way that the audience could loathe and admire her at the same time. Brehmer excelled in Rose’s story-telling, her intimidation, her brashness and her softer side. She was moving when real tears were shed on several occasions. Dash Kruck brought a beautiful innocence to Kevin that shaped the entire character. But while I thought Kruck’s performance was commendable, the character of Kevin didn’t sit right with me. He had the emotional maturity of an adult, but the social skills of a 10-year-old. He was supposedly very intelligent, but he came across mentally under-developed. His timidity seemed much too young for his age, and I found his excitability and bond with his grandmother very un-typical of a 15-year-old boy. Despite this, Kruck built a strong connection with the audience – as much as the other characters. It was easy to sympathise with his situation. Ruby was a loving and gentle grandmother with Kevin, but a cold and detached mother with Rose. Kaye Stevenson portrayed this role openly, allowing her two different manners to leave their mark. Ruby’s devotion to her late husband was initially touching but later became sickening when the history between her and Rose became clearer. The usually spacious roundhouse theatre was successfully transformed into an intimate space that resonated that of the Sue Benner Theatre. This was absolutely essential in building the intensity of the story. Design by Tim Wallace was well done, along with good lighting by David Walters and interesting sound by Phil Slade. The Bitterling is absorbing and will hold you until the end. Even with the season almost coming to a close, it was no surprise to see a sold-out show last night. Season Closed