“If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly:” opines Macbeth over the assassination of Duncan. And yet he procrastinates.
Such hesitation over homicide afflicts “the heroine” of Howard Barker’s play JUDITH –A Parting of the Body, a widow-woman who achieved warrior status in ancient Israel for despatching by decapitation the enemy general, Holofernes.
On the eve of his planned annihilation of the Jews, Holofernes, muses on mass murder, philosophises on warfare, and concludes that the meaning of life is to fuck and to fight.
To his tent, intent on a tête offensive, comes Judith, attended by her servant, a sassy assistant in assassination. Judith’s mission is premeditated – seduce and slay the soldier. But as she and her target talk, the plan turns into a psychological parlay, cold hearts seemingly acquire cold feet, and it’s left to the minion to complete the mission.
Barker’s muscular script is superbly served in this Australian premiere production by a triumvirate of thesps under dynamic direction and detailed design.
Luisa Hastings Edge plays Judith whose journey from stoic to scion as it passes through the semi paralysis of procrastination is perfectly rendered, a wicked transformation from the reluctant to the resolute.
Anna Houston, robustly ribald as the servant who prompts, cajoles, and accomplishes, has an elegance of energy and timing that’s astonishing, and beautifully encapsulates that sense of subservient yet fervent cannon fodder, the subaltern whose guts garner her superior the glory.
Benedict Samuel is commanding as Holofernes, a strategist who from childhood discovered speech was a weapon he could wield with great efficacy with a skill for sprinting as strategic reserve for when words failed. Barker’s words do not fail him, nor does he fail the words in a deftly defined delivery. His frustration over life’s futility, the paradox of the primordial instincts to copulate and kill, to reproduce and reduce, to raise and to raze, is palpable.
Michael Hankin’s set design of a rope tent replete with camp bed, chair, and jerry cans is striking in its simplicity and evocation, aesthetically and practically pleasing to the piece and the space.
Director Cathy Hunt’s staging is disciplined and crisp, and this production augers well for the newly formed theatre company, The Impending Room. Watch this space.
In association with the Tamarama Rock Surfers, Cathy Hunt’s production of Howard Barker’s JUDITH opened at the Bondi Pavilion theatre, Level 1, the Bondi Pavilion, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Bondi Beach on Tuesday 18th October and plays until Sunday 6th November, 2011.