Cameron Lukey, Neil Gooding Productions, Helen Ellis
to 24 March
|Toby Truslove, Ellen Burstyn, Lisa McCune. "33 Variations". Photo by Lachlan Woods|
33 Variations with Oscar-Tony-Emmy-winner Ellen Burstyn finishes on Sunday. Her star power alone is enough to ensure its popularity. And her moving and complex performance proves why it'd be worth seeing her in anything.
There have been plenty of great reviews including Time Out, Keith Gow, The Age, My Melbourne Arts.
33 Variations by Moises Kaufman (best known for The Laramie Project) was first seen in 2009 on Broadway with Jane Fonda in the central role. Writing for women in their 70s and 80s is awesome.
Musicologist Katherine has an illness that's going to take her life sooner rather than later. But she's not going to stop working and goes to Bonn in Germany to read Beethoven's sketch books (notes about his music and life) and continue to try and understand why he composed 33 variations on a waltz by his publisher, Diabelli. Despite tehir awkward relationship, her daughter (Lisa McCune) and her daughter's new nurse boyfriend (Toby Truslove) travel to Bonn where Katherine has met archivist (Helen Morse) who is happy to help Katherine how ever she can. As Katherine reads the sketches, Beethoven (William McInnes) writes them and deals with his own disability and end of life, his secretary (Andre de Vanny) and Diabelle (Francis Greenslade).
It's about losing the fear of mediocrity and connecting in ways that really matter – no matter the variation. The writing sometimes slips into the melodramatic and predictable but the cast never let it slip into sentimentality and ensure that the emotion is always real.
The worlds are connected by pianist Andrea Katz playing the variations and director Gary Abrahams gently parallels the themes in variations of style ranging from historical drama to magical realism.
This is the sort of production that wouldn't be seen in Melbourne without independent producers like Cameron Lukey, Neil Gooding and Helen Ellis. Commercial companies rarely take risks on works that aren't proven. But trusting in audiences pays off and when we see a commercial production of 33 Variations, remember to thank the indie producers who took that risk.