Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Jenny Kemp's Madeleine opens tonight

The second installment of Jenny Kemp's On The Edge cycle, Madeleine, opens this evening at Arts House (North Melbourne Town Hall) and runs through to Sunday.

The first work in the 'triptych' was Kitten, which opened the 2008 Melbourne Festival and caused quite a stir, here ["yet another Malthouse Emporers New Clothes wank fest" writes an anonymous commenter] and there ["The whole is informed by an excruciating sincerity which... makes the show almost unbearably dishonest" quoth Alison.]

That first link is to my thoughts on the night, where -- rather bizarrely -- I liken the show to the Geelong Cats losing the 2008 AFL Grand Final. (Kemp's work, in my defence, has a way of ricocheting through one's head and heart and history, like a free radical or some unstoppable subatomic particle... it also causes one to hopelessly 'mex' ones 'mitaphors'.)

After the jump, my Herald Sun review of Kitten.

Kitten by Jenny Kemp. Malthouse Theatre until October 25. 2008.

At its best, Jenny Kemp's work for theatre is like an Impressionist painting made three dimensional, or a dream made substantial. It's poetic. Sensuous. Enveloping. Full of alarming longings and intense desires.


Lady In The Water (1947) by Antoinette Frissell Bacon aka Toni Frissell

Kitten is not one of those works. So adjust your expectations.

A man is missing. Probably drowned. Possibly suicide. The wife Kitten is in shock and the best friend Manfred tries to comfort her.

In the past Kemp might have given us a meditation on grief or loss, or searched for a quintessence of emotion. For something universal. But, here, she offers us something surprising. And a bit mad. Kitten a pin sharp study of how one woman fails to cope with loss.

It's also one of the most graphic and remarkable studies of mania I've seen on the stage. Rather than accept her husband's death, Kitten tries to enlist the help of some dolphins to help find him.

This latterday Dr Dolittle tries to do rather too much. And rather too fast. And Kitten rapidly becomes a candidate for a CAT team. She plans to fund her rescue attempt by staging some benefit concerts. Jenny Kemp's dreamy twist is that music, finally, saves Kitten. Kitten the person, that is.

What rescues Kitten the production is the acting of Natasha Herbert, Kate Kendall and Margaret Mills who all play Kitten. Simultaneously. Herbert's voice is astonishing, gutteral then dreamy. But all three Kittens are utterly fearless. They don't meow, they roar.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris did you get to see Madeleine? What did you think - I don't think anyone reviewed it and it would be good to hear something about it as I missed the very short season.

12:47 PM  
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3:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you get to see this show?
What did you think?

1:48 PM  
Blogger Chris Boyd said...

Forgive my sluggardly reply, I did see Madeleine and liked it a lot. For all the agonizing in the programme notes about Deleuze and Guattari, fragmentation and bricolage, it turns out Kemp has written what we might once have called "a well-made play": it's conventional and narrative-driven with strongly-defined characters.

That in itself might be shocking enough. :-) But she makes a fair fist of it. Better than a fair fist of it. It's an intense and beautiful play, with broader than usual appeal. Acting is excellent. Nikki Shiels as Maddy makes me want to modify my absolutes... she was better than excellent -- if that's possible -- in a really challenging role.

As you'd expect from Kemp, Helen Herbertson, Ben Cobham, Jenny Hector et al, the direction, movement and design elements are refined and integrated. There's a throwback formalism, I guess you'd call it, in the costume design that reminded of (photographs of) modernist ballets of the sixties.

2:18 AM  

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