Archive for Malthouse Theatre
It’s an oft dished-out dictum: “your teenage years are the best years of your life”. For Claryssa (Sarah Ogden) and Sebastian (Dylan Young) of Declan Greene’s Moth, the response is a resounding: “fuck you”. Moth is a co-production between Arena Theatre Company and the Malthouse Theatre, and is also the much anticipated major stage debut of Greene, one of Melbourne’s most exciting young theatre artists. Worlds away from his work with Union House Theatre (Rageboy 2006) and his trash-camp company with Ash Flanders, Sisters Grimm, Moth is an intense and poetic exploration of isolation, insecurity and adolescence. Rhythmic, tightly structured and then carefully unravelled (like the gloomy grey rolls of Jonathon Oxlade’s set), the real strength of Moth rests in Greene’s resistance to glorify or embellish not just teenagers, but ‘quirky teenagers’ too – Claryssa and Sebastian aren’t like Juno, the gang from Skins or the girls from Ghost World. They are complex, confused, charged and changing individuals who are also painfully, painfully alone. There is an honesty to the text, emphasised in the performances of Ogden and Young and the undercutting, haunting score of Jethro Woodward, that is affective, engaging and completely heartbreaking. The intelligent simplicity of Chris Kohn’s direction not only suits the work and the intimate Tower space, but allows for subtle moments of intense impact – stark sounds and bursts of light – to break through, even when apparently very little is ‘happening’. Moth is, much like a teenager, beautiful and uncompromising, challenging and disorienting, occasionally hilarious, raw and wild. It reaches to the margins of adolescence, the frustration and the fear, to tell a story that needs to be told.
May 13 – May 30, Tower Theatre, Malthouse.
Bookings at http://www.malthousetheatre.com.au
This review will be featured in Farrago, Melbourne University newspaper, edition 5 2010.
The last few years have signalled important, and exciting, changes in the approach to new Australian theatre writing that have, in turn, helped support a new generation of writers now on the cusp of local and international breakthrough. And while the changes have come from many levels; the continued resurgence of independent theatre, restructured and rethought bodies such as PlayWriting Australia and so forth; not all writers are satisfied with the direction that the bigger theatre institutions have taken. The transformation of Playbox into the Malthouse is, really, ancient history – it happened well before I even arrived in Melbourne. And yet frustration, even thinly veiled bitterness, remains fresh in those who so freely spurt about the glory days of Melbourne theatre and exactly what it was that the Playbox represented. I cannot test their claims, but I can see why the Malthouse season opener Woyzeck stands in such stark opposition to their writers’ theatre: this extraterrestrial oddity of a performance is an exercise across genre, discipline and form in which the writing definitely takes the backseat.
The last time that I saw Benedict Andrews and Marius von Mayenburg collaborate on a piece of theatre was El Dorado in 2006 at the Malthouse in the Merlyn Theatre. Aside from the slow-burning, epic narrative and the immediately striking aesthetic of the glass enclosure, what had a lasting impact on me, and what seared a still vivid imprint onto my mind, was the opening prologue: Robert Menzies, pressed against the glass, sweating, spitting and delivering a breathy monologue before disappearing into smoke. Few theatre beginnings, outside of a couple of MIAF shows, have commanded my attention in such a way since. Which leads me to ask: what, oh what, were von Mayenburg and Andrews thinking with the opening of Moving Target?