08 December 2009

Review: The Flood

The Flood
Finucane & Smith and La Mama
6 December 2009
La Mama Theatre

A trip to La Mama can be a long hour where you look forward to browsing the Readings sale table and choosing a pastry at Brunetti. The Flood isn’t one of those shows. It is the best piece of new theatre I’ve seen this year.

Jackie Smith is best known for her divine direction of Finucane & Smith's The Burlesque Hour and other wonders, but she has written a script that puts many writers to shame and I’m wondering if she was hanging out with the Shelleys and their friends in Geneva in 1816.

Gothic is more than old Cure albums and spider web tattoos or even knowing when Mary Shelley conceived the idea for Frankenstein. Gothic literature explores the horror within ourselves and society. It has spawned many a B grade monster, but the authentic stuff really makes your soul shudder. Finucane & Smith’s Gotharama helped me past my false conceptions of Gothic, but The Flood makes me want to start wearing copious amounts of eyeliner and abandon my habit of wearing bright colours.

Two estranged sisters and their demented mother spend a night on their family property. They are isolated, spooked and full of secrets. It’s an Australian Gothic horror that defines the genre.

The story surprises, shocks and still keeps its secrets. It lets us laugh, but never undermines the characters, who are those rare fictional beings so real you know them. They evoke love and hate in equal parts, as you want to stand up and slap them, but can’t because you understand everything they are doing.

The script is remarkable, but it shines with Laurence Strangio’s contained direction; Bronwyn Pringle’s lighting and the Sisters Hayes’s design that creates the most space ever seen in La Mama, while still making us feel cramped; and Natasha Anderson’s sound design makes you want someone brave to go outside and check the rising river.

Which leaves the cast: Shirley Cattunar, Caroline Lee and Maude Davey. I’m at a loss for words. They never let us see the acting.

The Flood will move to bigger theatres, but none will have you in the living room with them or capture the cramped and spooked atmosphere of La Mama. So see it now. It’s sad and oppressive and holds your heart in your throat as you beg to know truth, but know the truth will hurt too much to know. See it. See it. See it.

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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