Good theatre is a pleasure to watch. Great theatre is a pleasure and a privilege to watch. Good theatre is being theatrically entertained. Great theatre is being theatrically entertained and intellectually fulfilled. Joining the Dots Theatre’s production of “W;t” is a great piece of theatre.
The script by Margaret Edson won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999. So its credentials are self-explanatory. The play follows the journey of an academic’s battle with ovarian cancer. Her entire life has been the study of the great British metaphysical poet, Sir John Donne. His words, wisdom and wit have nourished and fulfilled her and continue to do so as the cancer grows and spreads. Her passion for the poet is undeniable. Her journey is beautifully mirrored by the academics of science and medicine who surround her. They are just as passionate in their own way.
In lesser hands this play about a woman’s journey with terminal cancer could have been both long and maudlin. It was neither. It was, in fact, alive, richly human, absorbing, humorous, real and fascinating. It was the triumph of what happens when the sum of all parts of a theatre production are all of the highest order. I’m at a bit of a loss to find the right words to laud praise upon the production because the right words “Amazing”, “Awesome” and “Brilliant” have been so overused of late they have lost their impact. So? I’ll choose to describe it as “Stunning”, “Aesthetic” and “Complete”.
Great direction is something that should seem seamless. You should be totally unaware of it. Jeffrey Miller has achieved this. Believe me, nothing was left to chance. Every moment had been out-thought and presented with seamless intelligent design. I totally appreciated the dedication and intelligence underpinning this play. Thank you, Mr Miller; yours is professional work of the highest order.
I am a massive fan of good ensemble work and “W;t” is a great ensemble piece. However, it is almost a one woman show within the ensemble. Alison Chambers as Vivian Bearing, PhD, gives a master class in characterisation and performing skills— balanced and beautiful, earthy and almost whimsical. It would have been so easy, especially for an actress of a lower calibre, to have gone over-the-top and wrung out the drama to the point of melodrama. I really appreciated Ms Chambers’ ability to keep it real and yet still captivate and engage us.
The rest of the cast/ensemble were uniformly strong. Ian Mackellar (as Dr Kelekian and Mr Bearing) turned in his best performance to date and kept it very “real”. Brittany Morel (as Nurse Susie Monahan) and Jasper Garner-Gore (as Dr Posner) showed why the future of performance art in Australia is in such great shape. And finally Joanna Moore-Smith (as Dr Ashford) rounded everything off with two polished cameos as the academics’ academic.
The set was a glowing example of simplicity but totally effective. Basically a series of hospital screens and a bed were wheeled effortlessly around stage to create the scenes with minimum fuss and yielding maximum results. One of the many things a young performer can learn from this production is witnessing these effortless scene changes. They worked so well because they had been well rehearsed.
This is the first outing for newly formed company, Joining the Dots Theatre. Hopefully it will not be the last and they grace the Noosa stage with their offerings. And I really hope that this is not the only outing for this production. It deserves to be seen. It is the sort of show that could be performed anywhere and still achieve the same result. Congratulations to all concerned.
Finally, to the theatre community (both practitioners and audience members): Go See This Show!!!
It has a limited run at the Noosa Arts Theatre (5-8 Dec.)
but if I
can manage the 200k return trip from Maleny on a cold and wet Wednesday night, I am sure you can find time as well. Come and see what “Amazing, Awesome and Brilliant” really look like.
Simon’s postscript: I did have a few problems with the evening. But these were about the venue rather than the production. The small but intimate stage area at Noosa Arts can cramp productions very easily. I felt that this was the bare minimum size stage for this production. Quite a few times the stage was looking a tad too full. This again was reflected with the size of the cast. It seemed crowded. The sound was also a tad too loud and was starting to drown out the human voice on stage. I’m sure this is the sort of thing you discover on your opening night in any new venue. I really hope it’s a successful season as “W;t” needs to be seen. Incidentally, I am terrified, for obvious reasons, that I have used commas correctly in this review.