Friday, April 28, 2017

A Perilous World

New Theatre's production of "The Chapel Perilous" by Dorothy Hewett requires stamina from the audience but is rewarding. This autobiographical work looks at a brilliant but rebellious youth growing up in a world at war, at war with herself and the society which tries to constrain her.

Julia Christensen as Sally Banner is center stage for almost two hours, raging against the system. Brett Heath transforms from the hellfire spitting lascivious Cannon to Sally's father very convincingly (although I kept thinking he looked like Clive James, an Australian poet and atheist who fitted more comfortably in the system). 

Costume designer Courtney Westbrook has brought an understated wartime feel to the production.

The set is dominated by a large luminous chevron, which acts as the "Chapel" and at times apparently the entry to hell.

All the actors give an energetic performance, perhaps at times a little over energetic. At times is is disturbing, as the playwright intended. However, some parts have dated. A fantasy scene where the authority figures burst into song is a bit too "Singing Detective". The references to Le Morte d'Arthur
and The Iliad show the playwright showing off their classical education. Also Parry's Jerusalem seems to crop up in New Theatre productions.

The New Theatre is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year. But perhaps it need to look to the future and contemporary issues, not just the last century. With the world perhaps on the brink of a third world war, starting in East Asia, there is scope for New Theatre to draw lessons from 85 years ago for today.

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