The Old Fitz in Newtown

THEATRE REVIEW – Saturday Night, 5 July, 2014

 

 LA RONDE – directed Stephen Hopley & produced by ENIGMA.

CORONATION HALL, 95 Lennox st NEWTOWN, SYDNEY

On a cold winter night I went out with a friend to Newtown to see some theatre..

Well Newtown is alive and kicking ain’t it? What a thriving happening place it is atm! I was curious to find out what the Coronation Hall in Lennox st, Newtown was like, having never seen a play there before (and this might be the first in a while). I wanted to see what a theatre in this location could be like – as Newtown is screaming out for another fringe venue close to the action of King St. Usually a dance studio and apparently Ruth Cracknell and Gary Macdonald did something there, this Historic Hall has been re-born as a theatre for a show “In The Round”. So refreshing to see this form of perfomance used again and perfect for the play La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler. The Ensemble Theatre was the only theatre that kept this kind performance going for any period of time and it really is something different. You are right on top of the performers.

La Ronde image

 

10 couples, 10 scenes and everybody is cheating. This is a play about sex and self-gratification. Each couple has a person who is in the next scene, having an affair with someone else. Even the most earnest and ardent of the characters, is sleeping with more than one. Perhaps this play is making a statement that infidelity is nautral and that monogamy quite the reverse. The lust that each scene depicts and the fact that the entire play is set on a circular platform – just big enough for a bed – and the audience circles by seats around this platform, makes for a voyueristic spy, as these couples  push and pull one another to get their fix of love. Whether it is for security or titillation, the quest for sex is relentless and often just downright humourous.

All 10 performers sport their underwear at some stage. Given how close the audience is and the small house that was there, it often felt like you were in a life drawing class drawing nude models. But instead we were drawing our own conclusions about the motivations and morality of each character. One man asks for a “F**k”. One woman strips to a sexy Nun outfit , before fornicating with a vengence. One man pretends to be an ambassador to seduce an actress of high renown. And another just wants do it anywhere close.

I kept thinking that if we gave into our natures like these characters do, we would all be “F**king our heads off” most of the time. But because we as a society don’t condone what is going on in our heads, we do this dance of cloak, dagger and masquerade just to get our body up against at least two people in quick succession. It made me think that the strength of infidelity (in that you always have another option) is also the vulnerability, as you don’t really know what the other person is doing and you don’t have the security of a guiltless interior.

The performances engage. If at first you felt a bit uncomfortable as an audience sticking-beaking into the bedside manner of strangers, by the end of the 90 mins you will feel just as justified ogling these people, as they do cheating on their previous lover. Emily Elise was hilarious with her comic timing, as she broke the spell of mystery the others had laid. Jasper Gore was exasperating as a lover and totally relatable as someone who sometimes fails but never bites back with bitterness. Unlike Brendan Taylor who has something burning inside that must  be met, even if he is punching above his weight. Amanda Maple Brown was attractive and funny as she wielded her power to get what she wanted and Jaymie Knight looked like a man at a loss…as so many of us men do after sex. Emilia Grigoriou was innocent and pure, but strangely, still duplicitious. Leigh Scully cuts a tall blond handsome figure as he strings two women along and Alison Rubie gets accosted with a smile. The play is opened by Amy Scott-Smith and she closes the play as a prostitute layed upon us like a lamb for the slaughter. Wearing lingerie only, with no attempt to cover her up, she sleeps in front of us for about 10 mins while The Ambassador broods over his decision “to pay for it”. It seemed to me, and I am not a professional critic, just a seasoned theatre goer, that the coldness of this Rounded Dance (La Ronde) is much like a transaction. Not that the scenes do not depict love and tenderness (eyelid kissing noted) but that that tenderness is only a tool in the lovers kitbag to get their orgasm, their win, their sexual victory. Love and sex is like one big barn dance where you just change partners as you like.

Now I could be a sour puss here and say that some of the diction was lost and some of the acting was self-conscious at times, and I did have those thoughts during the show, but the experience of this sexual examination sent me out fulfilled and thoughtful as to my own relationship choices. I enjoyed it. Full stop. And I would see it again at a venue that totally works. May there be more.

And after all this stimulation and escapism, we headed down to The Courthouse – which was pumping – for a beer and a post mortem of La Ronde. Good Times. Newtown style. Highly recommended, as they only have one more week. Go see it  and savour the culture you have just conquered. Much like a lover you have just left.

 

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Gil Balfas

 

 

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