If there’s one thing that’s never really been in fashion in Australian theatre, it’s optimism. Our dominant style of gritty realism doesn’t often allow for fairytale love stories and the sheer joy of rom-com style happy endings. Which is perhaps why Van Badham’s The Bull, The Moon and the Coronet of Stars feels like such a breath of fresh air.
Badham’s newest work is a snappy 80-minute two-hander tracing a woman’s romantic experiences with two very different men. Based on the Greek myth of Ariadne and Theseus, it has everything you’d want from a love story – suspense, heartbreak, triumph and one of the funniest and hottest sex scenes you’ll see onstage, even though the actors are full clothed and not physically touching.
Silvia Colloca is radiant as Marion, an artist-in-residence at a museum who gives into lust, and then punishes herself for betraying her partner. Marion starts out self-assured and vivacious, but Colloca makes her reclusive turn completely believable.
She’s matched by Matt Zeremes, firstly as Michael, the handsome publications officer at the museum where Marion works, and then as Mark, a hedonistic but well-meaning sommelier at the seaside village Marion escapes to. Zeremes brings loads of energy to the table and has a kind of unassuming charisma that completely justifies Colloca’s Marion falling so hard for him. They both negotiate the quirks and challenges in the script with ease.
It also doesn’t hurt that Colloca and Zeremes are both lovely to look at, because as well all know, in a rom-com you only truly care about the beautiful people.
Badham masterfully teeters between comedy and drama, weaving her own voice around Greek mythology. The plot is tried and trued, but the execution is novel with perfect dramatic structure. Badham has given the characters a kind of self-narration, which means that as well as dialogue, the actors speak like the omniscient voice of a novel, filling in the blanks for the audience.
It’s an idea that’s reflected in Lee Lewis’s effective and fiery direction, which sees the actors working the entire stage to tell the story physically. Anna Tregloan’s set of three-dimensional timber frames are transformed from the interior of a museum late at night to a peaceful seaside retreat. It’s simple, effective and the magic happens all in the mind. But don’t underestimate the magic of a mirrorball.
The ending doesn’t shy away from the rom-com cheese factor and will have you either sighing in delight or groaning at the cliché. It’s light, fluffy and a fitting conclusion to a heart-warming, fantastical ride. And don’t we all need a little fantasy in our lives?