Tag Archives: Sarah Purdue

Archway Theatre Company presents Alice Gerstenberg’s OVERTONES

Production pic by Stefan von Reiche

On the wrist of the character Hetty in OVERTONES playing at Archway 1 is a tiny, almost invisible diamond bracelet. It sometimes catches the light as do Margaret’s sweet little blue earrings. In fact each of the four female characters has something shiny about them and this interpretation of a classic work gives an audience time to delve into that detail. Overtly hidden aspects draw the viewer into this gem of a production, a diaphanous opal.

Written by Alice Gerstenberg in 1916, OVERTONES is considered one of the first examples of an attempt to represent the subconscious on stage. The two women we meet first are Harriet and Hetty who are the elemental selves of one woman. They are waiting to meet with an old frenemy- A woman who married their jilted ex- lover.

When Margaret-Maggie arrives, the twin stones of artifice and truth will be set side by side to create a glittering piece. The surface characters Harriet (Stephanie Cowton) and Margaret (Celia Finter) politely have a catch-up over tea while Hetty (Sarah Purdue) and Maggie (Shannon Dooks) reflect the real agenda. Only once do the latter speak to each other. Spoken at the same time, their line is “I’m going to rob you” which is motivation in summary.

The cast have really mined down into the characters and the rapport between the ego and its id is charming and entertaining. Cowton presents a fine example of ‘wife’ in its context and is accessible despite being such a nauseating representation. She poses a great deal and more variety was needed in that stillness but her use of the stage area with familiarity and a sense of entrapment was well expressed.

Purdue gets to lounge around in pajamas and curlers and has the best of the subtextual lines. Her initial discussion with her alternate “ I want to talk to you” self sets up the premise and it was perfectly placed. She balances the less attractive aspects of her character well with the drive to escape their marriage.

Finter is elegant and calm despite the hunger hidden so well in her alternate self. There is an occasional shakiness to her tone which resonates the inner turmoil as she delivers her lines with surety and responsiveness to the woman with whom she is sharing tea. And she and the others do well to ignore the energetic goings on of Shannon Dooks.

This is a really funny show and there are lots of laughs but the biggest laugh of the night is for Dooks and her surly, truculent, rage-filled entrance. Hers could be a scene stealing performance but the director’s hand is too sure to allow that. Instead she is the shiny, funny girl at the party and we get to enjoy her facile face and body and rye delivery without it being too much.

Modern audiences are familiar with OVERTONES’ mirroring technique which can these days appear trite and overused. It is a standard acting workshop. However, clever conceptualization by director Bianca Bonino has given the audience a distraction from the style by departing from the original text in some key ways.

Though they are two aspects of the one woman, the characters are not dressed the same as each other. The costumes are created such that the audience has to work out what each altar(ego) shares with their visible selves.

In addition, the work has been moved to the late 1950s when consumerism began what Bonino calls ‘systematic brainwashing’. To bring the point home she has built a TV screen into the upstage wall and the audience is treated to femaleness ads, old movie promos and how to be a lady instructionals. Is the Holly Golightly and Gilda footage there because the characters were both good time girls? Defiance of assigned roles as evidence or undercurrent, overt or hidden?

Archway 1 Theatre Company is in a unique space in a brick viaduct at the bottom of Annandale and I always think of it as an above ground underground venue. Their 2015 work/season  is centered around Women Playwrights and Women Directors and if this show is any indicator it will be a sparkling season.

OVERTONES continues at Archway 1, Annandale until the 7th June.

For more about Overtones, visit http://www.archway1theatre.com/overtones#.VWk7Ac-qqko


Sarah Purdue as Hilary, Melanie Robinson as Meg, and Gemma Munro as Pippa as the three sisters in Hannie Rayson's HOTEL SORRENTO. Pic Mark Banks
Sarah Purdue as Hilary, Melanie Robinson as Meg, and Gemma Munro as Pippa as the three sisters in Hannie Rayson’s HOTEL SORRENTO. Pic Mark Banks

‘Melancholy’ is the title of Meg’s autobiographical novel that has brought her fame and a tilt at the Booker Prize, and which sets the sparks flying within her family in leading Australian playwright Hannie Rayson’s 1990 play, HOTEL SORRENTO. It is also a good word to describe the tone of Rayson’s play which has a Chekhovian feel to it, that deep sense of time passing, and the inevitability of the winds of change sweeping away everything in its path.

HOTEL SORRENTO charts an emotional reunion between two sisters, Meg (Melanie Robertson) and Pippa (Gemma Munro) who have been living overseas, Meg in London, Pippa in New York, and their elder sister, Hilary (Sarah Purdue) who has been the carer of their frail father, Wal (Barry Moray) and is also the mother of a sweet ten year old boy, Troy (Oliver Beard). The reunion is held at the family home in the pretty, sleepy Victorian seaside town of Sorrento situated on the Mornington Peninsula.

Continue reading HOTEL SORRENTO