State Opera Studio, Tue 8 Mar
The huge black space that is the State Opera studio gives a looming sense of the vastness that can be found in country Australia. David Lampard’s striking set, with layers of civilization peeling off a remote house to reveal the fragile infrastructure of the rooms within, and the crunching gravel drive leading nowhere, beautifully set the scene for the nature of this piece.
The haunting cello and strings over the opening scene of a troubled woman, Corinne, played brilliantly by Jo Stone, assure us that something is very wrong in this domestic picture.
A city doctor, Richard, excellently portrayed by Nathan O’Keefe, moves to the country with his wife, Corinne, and their young children. When Richard brings home a young woman he claims to have found unconscious by the road, Corinne is suspicious of her husband’s story. There is ‘history’. Natalia Sledz as the young woman, Rebecca, creates an intriguing mix of triumphant hubris and ‘bunny boiler’ fragility.
While Martin Crimp is acclaimed as one of the “world’s greatest contemporary dramatists”, the style of this script is so wordy and over-written, that even in the hands of this terrific acting ensemble, the dialogue becomes contrived, relentless and extremely irritating. The whole cast was speaking so fast, talking over each other and repeating the other person’s words ad nauseam. It was like being in a Woody Allen therapy session for neurotic miscreants and the rare pauses allowed were the most powerful moments on the stage.
While I love dark and unusual theatre pieces, the sinister dishonesty, desperate self-indulgence and confusing emotional reactions throughout this piece made it difficult to care about any of the characters, while the relentless diatribe eclipsed the clues and through-lines in the story. Even the unseen fourth member of the cast, Morris turned out to be creepy.
You’ll either love it or hate it.
The Country continues at State Opera Studio, at various times, until Sun 13 Mar.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Image by Rodeo