Posted by Seanna van Helten
05. Nov, 2012
The Other One Productions marks its debut with mothersmilk, a confronting new Australian work combining a script by Joanne Trentini, live music performed by Earthwire, and moments of multimedia to explore one woman’s inner conflict.
Playwright Trentini also stars in the show as Kitty. From the moment we meet Kitty, it’s clear that she is in some kind of trouble. It is the morning of her ex-husband’s second wedding and Kitty is ignoring his repeated demands to have their two young boys ready in time for the ceremony. He also reminds her, via an answering machine message, that she has only days remaining to move out of their once happy marital home.
Surrounded by moving boxes (a key feature of the production design by Kathryn Hooper) and steeling herself for the difficult day ahead, Kitty is joined by three figures – two young men (Gerard Lane and Stefan Bramble) with whom she seems friendly enough, and a woman, Bonnie, who is both familiar and unfamiliar, an uncanny presence who urges Kitty to “do what she has to do” to protect herself and her sons.
As the day wears on, the lines between what is real and present and what is imagined or remembered are increasingly blurred. What is Kitty’s relationship to her companions? Who is the mysterious Bonnie, and how does she know such intimate details about Kitty’s childhood? Why did her husband leave? Where are her children?
The play delves into the messy psychology of a desperate woman. Exploring the debilitating effects of depression, Trentini’s script darts between mania and utter despair and contains some moving lyrical passages that attempt to represent an illness that can often seem unrepresentable. Her portrayal of Kitty, becoming ever more desperate as she propels towards the sinister finale, is sympathetic. The live band scores the protagonist’s inner tumult, just as the multimedia offers glimpses of her tortured reality.
But the tangle of Kitty’s complex psychology cannot excuse some confusing directorial choices. In particular, the supporting characters – whether or not they are intended to be real or imagined – were not clearly delineated, and the opportunity to develop their interrelationships missed. Without this, it is difficult to justify the play’s shocking conclusion.
mothersmilk is playing at fortyfivedownstairs, Flinders Lane, until Nov 11.
For more information and tickets visit fortyfivedownstairs.com
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