04 February 2013

Review: The Other Place

The Other Place
Melbourne Theatre Company
31 January 2013
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 2 March 2013

The Other Place opens the MTC's 2013 season and is sure to be a subscriber favourite. Twitter told me there were people in tears at last night's opening and I'm believing Twitter, even if there were hard-arse non-criers in my row.

As it's the MTC, it's about middle class, middle age professionals (this time, doctors instead of academics) and this Broadway hit, by US writer Sharr White, is so dependent on the mystery of its plot and characters that it's hard to write about it without spoilers. But it's about MCMA profs in crisis and includes children, illness and estrangement; you know what to expect.

Catherine McClements is 50ish Juliana, a medical researcher at the peak of her career. She's on stage all night and by holding back and letting Juliana be difficult to initially like while easy to trust, her heartfelt performance builds to create the empathy and shared pain that deserves the audience's tears. She's supported by Heidi Arena, David Roberts and David Whiteley who each rightly let Juliana decide how they support her.

In the opening scenes, the mystery sits like a slinky at the top of a staircase. It's irresistible not to push and interesting enough to watch and see what's revealed at each step, but once it's started to tumble, its trajectory is known from that first nudge and there's no hope of unexpected deviation or twist. It's not that the script doesn't hold onto its secrets, but the direction (Nadia Tass) and design (Shaun Gurton with David Parker's film) play the clues obviously and use sentiment to highlight what, I suspect, most people figured out far too early in the night. It's like they don't trust the audience enough to let them be surprised or shocked.

The Other Place is ideal for an MTC season, but is it $98 show? Even a concession ticket is $77 or under 30s can spend $33. If $100 is a lot of money for you (it sure is for me), I suggest you start this weekend's theatre at Theatre Works for The Dead Ones or the Northcote Town Hall for Caravan Burlesque and you'll still have enough change for dinner and/or another show, or even have a good blub at War Horse, but wait and see if The Other Place turns up on a discount ticket site. If it does, see it.

Photo by David Parker

This was on AussieTheatre.com

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