Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Street Theatre: The Flood

Ooooo, another piece about sisters, their mother and differing childhood recollections!

This one-act play by Jackie Smith is an absolute cracker. Janet (Shirley Cattunar) and her elder daughter Dorothy (Maude Davey) live on an old farm back of Burke somewhere. Janet, Dottie and farm are all growing more decrepit by the hour. One day, younger daughter Catherine (Caroline Lee) who's been living overseas for more than 20 years, turns up on the doorstep. She knows something's not right, but what?  And then the flood comes, and to everyone's dismay, she's stuck there.

And then the whole fabric of their lives unravels.

I could not look away from this play. In one act of 80 minutes I did not once find myself glancing at my watch or silently estimating the length of the queue at the bar. Director Laurence Strangio builds the pace slowly but it never flags, with just the right number of laughs to make the tension bearable. You think you know where this inexorable trajectory is going to take you, and you're right, but there's much more to it than that. It's relentless, and dark, and really, really good.

The set, by the "Sisters Hayes" (though there is also a designer credit for Kathryn Sproul) instantly gives the audience all the information they need about how Janet and Dorothy now live. The relentless rain, courtesy of sound and light designers Natasha Anderson and Bronwyn Pringle, creates a sense of claustrophobia, and when the cast go out in it, their hair really is wet; their feet really are muddy. It's very effective.

Caroline Lee is excellent as the brittle, affected Catherine, and Shirley Cattunar so natural as the addled Janet that it was all I could do not to step out of my seat, call social services and start cleaning up the set.  But as Dottie, who shifts from implacably strong to completely ruined, and back again, Maude Davey is utterly convincing, and absolutely devastating. Truly one of the best performances I've ever seen, and all the more intense in the tiny space of Street Two.

Seriously, if there is any way you can get yourself to this, go see it.  Go tomorrow. Tell everyone.

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