31 January 2012

Review: Girls Do Gertrude!

Girls Do Gertrude!
Black Apple Theatre
24 January 2011
Northcote Town Hall
to 29 January
midsumma.org.au


Forty women spent six days in Falls Creek with Gertrude Stein. The result is Midsumma's in Girls Do Gertrude! at the Northcote Town Hall. 

I haven't read any Gertrude Stein, but I saw Midnight in Paris at the flicks and read Alice B Toklas's recipe for dope brownies (that she didn't write), which both leave me wanting to be in Paris in the 20s trading wit and boho style tips with the cool artists. Although I suspect I'd want to slap Hemingway.

The Gerty done by the girls is two of her plays; neither of which left me wanting to read more Stein. Her language is much easier to appreciate on a page and written for readers as remarkable and well-read as Stein herself. What makes Girls So Gertrude! so lovely is that both directors create ways to make the text utterly enjoyable to an audience without forcing understanding.

A Circular Play is a storyless collection of music-like texts written for an ensemble of voices. Director Cheyney Caddy places it in a pastel 20s salon complete with paper lanterns, chaise lounges, overflowing greenery, a goldfish and a bunny. With live music and in the too-perfect deco hall, 11 women sing, dance, recite and chat in circles about circles. It's all style and plenty of substance that's best enjoyed as an atmospheric indulgence rather than a literary appreciation.  And Debra Hallum's ridiculously beautiful frocks ensure that every woman is drop-dead gorgeous.

Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters was described by Stein as a melodrama and written when she was hiding out in Vichy with her Jewish wife as war ravaged their beloved Paris. Three sisters, who are not sisters, and twin boys are bored and "play a play" of murder in their pjs. Its repetition underlines the impact of repeated behaviour and questions the lines between play and reality, but it's really a lot of fun. Director Yvonne Virsik finds this humour, adds some more and lets her cast play with the play without losing the delicacy of the text.

Girls Do Gertrude! brings Stein dancing into the now and will leave you wanting to charleston the night away with an enticing girl in a pastel, drop waist gown. Just try to get a seat in the front row if you're not blessed with height.

Photo by Sarah Walker

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com


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