Thursday 19 October 2017

The Melbourne Monologues - Theatre Review

What: The Melbourne Monologues
When: 17 - 22 October 2017
Where: La Mama Courthouse
Written by: Louise Baxter, Katie Lee, Anita Sanders, Bruce Shearer, Adele Shelly and Carmen Saarelaht
Directed by Elizabeth Walley
Performed by: Alec Gilbert, Cosima Gilbert, Celia Handscombe, Ruth Katerelos, Jack McGorlick, and Karissa Taylor
Lighting by: Adelaide Harney
Stage Management by: Mazz Ryan

Karissa Taylor in 'The Bystander is the Gatekeeper' - photo by John Edwards
Melbourne Writers Theatre(MWT) was the founding company at La Mama Courthouse and it is great to see both the company and its relationship with the venue live on with their annual season of The Melbourne Monologues. Presenting six monologues written by local artists, this season follows their short play season Six Degrees In Melbourne.

MWT is committed to supporting and developing Melbourne writers and whilst they rarely fully produce plays, public presentations of these kinds are essential building blocks in the craft of storytelling. Taking advantage of this opportunity in 2017 are six exciting writers with varying styles and a range of intriguing explorations.

Kicking of the night was Katie Lee's 'To Understand' performed by Ruth Katerelos. 'To Understand' sees Katerelos trying to come to terms with death a mere 48 days after the loss. Anyone who has experienced such a loss knows that 48 days is merely the beginning. This monologue is intriguing because most writers either look at the issue from the immediate perspective or with a greater distance of time. What Lee presents in this monologue is the anguish as meaning is sought where there is no meaning. Understanding is sought where none will be coming. The quote of the night for me comes from this work: "Hope exists when you are trapped." Katerelos was suitably somber but to give the piece more life she needs to find the restlessness and discomfort in the grief processing.

Stage stalwart Alec Gilbert was next with Carmen Saarelaht's 'No Feet'. This is a dangerous monologue and only an actor with the incredible depth, range, and understanding of Gilbert could deliver it and tread respectfully over the minefields inherent in the work. Trying to explain and contextualise body dismorphia, Saarelaht dares to consider it along with transgender issues. It is through Gilbert's ability to find the truth of the pain and then let the audience in to understand that this monologue reaches the realms of enlightenment.

The MWT seasons have been a bit of a Gilbert Fest this year, but this only means good things for audiences. Hot off the heels of a great performance in Six Degrees In Melbourne Cosima Gilbert is back to bring us Adele Shelley's 'Girls' School Delight's'. At only 14 years of age herself, Gilbert was a shoe in to play A, B, C, and D in this high school romp. Exploring the personalities of 4 teenage girls in the class room this monologue is hilarious if somewhat cliché. The teenage girl as a clown is prominent in our society as we saw in How To Kill The Queen of Pop. I was disappointed to not see more depth to the portrayal and Gilbert needs to find more definition between B and D, but the piece is a phenomenal achievement and the audience showed their appreciation.

In stark contract we see saw Jack McGorlick portray a young apprentice in Bruce Shearer's 'Garry' delivered with great earnestness and respect. Ironically, I felt McGorlick needed to explore the character's paranoia more to bring out comic elements.

The next monologue was a piece I admit I just didn't understand. Anita Sander's 'The Bystander is the Gatekeeper' was completely over my head, set as it was in the world of computer programing and hacking. A morality tale about standing aside and not speaking out and wonderfully performed by Karissa Taylor, I just don't know enough about coding to understand the work.

Ending the night was 'Fairy Dust' by Louise Baxter. Performed with great delicacy by Celia Handscombe this beautiful monologue was a perfect ending to an enchanted evening - complete with a final spray of flutter!

The Melbourne Monologues was a wonderful evening. What a monologue gives us over a full play is the understanding that life is all perspective. Nothing exemplifies this more than 'No Feet'.

3 Stars

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