02 August 2014

Last chance: Green Screen and Purgatorio

What really must end this weekend is my time with a gastrointestinal virus. I'm excited that I can now get out of bed, but am leaving myself in quarantine until there is no sign of it. It doesn't needs sharing and I'm on my way to becoming an obsessive hand washer.

As I don't write well in the bathroom, some great shows missed out on reviews and they finish this weekend. There's time to see them both. Unless you are sick. Then stay home.

Green Screen
Sans Hotel
finishes Sunday

Nicola Gunn's Green Screen ends the second NEON Festival of Independent Theatre. I can't compare her theatre to anything because Gunn creates work that is like her unconscious explaining her soul.

The more of her work that I see, the less I understand it. And I never want to. I'm scared that if I begin to see how her creations work,  I'll begin to see the trick. Meanwhile, I have no idea how something that begins with a line of toy animals, hummus pasta, a green monster blow-up mattress and gold body paint can say so much and be so personal to someone who has never eaten hummus pasta.

And she's joined by Nat Cursio, Tom Davies, Jonno Katz and Kerith Manderson-Galvin who meet, talk and sing in a community centre that tries to calm with beach-scene wall paper. They are a complete joy.

Green Screen is bitingly cynical but deeply loving and, in a breath, the final moments bring the work's disparate events together to let us know what it's all been about. It's beautiful.

5Pound and Attic Erratic
The Owl and the Pussycat
finishes Saturday

Well, you might not be able to see this because it's sold out. But it can't hurt to call and check.

Melbourne audiences generally like to let a show run for a bit until they see it. This often means that people miss out on great shows by being cautious and waiting to hear if it's worth seeing. Lesson: go early and be among the people making the word of mouth.

Purgatorio is by Chilien-American playwright Ariel Dorfman, who's best known for Death and the Maiden. Here Purgatory is the soulless empty between Heaven and Hell where a Man interrogates a Woman over the murder of her children, and a Woman interrogates a Man about his guilt over his wife's death. It doesn't take long to recognise the Greek myth the stories are from, but it's far more than a reflection on Medea and Jason as Dorfman continues to explore what it takes for humans to do the unthinkable and if there's hope for redemption in a world set on revenge.

Director Celeste Cody finds the endless layers in the script without giving away its secrets, and she uses the tiny space of the Owl and the Pussycat to create a dark and empty world that's neither hellish nor real. And by placing the audience on either side of the room, each side naturally align themselves with Man or Woman.

But Freya Pragt and Jason Cavanagh ensure that the audience's allegiances are never firm. Both performances are riveting, but it's how they work together that makes this script so frighteningly real.

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