Saturday, March 2, 2024
HomeCultureTheatreOpening Night

Opening Night

Opening Night
Writer: John Cassavetes
Director and Adaptor: Carissa Licciardello
Belvoir Upstairs Theatre
February 26 – March 27, 2022

While the John Cassavetes 1977 sleeper-hit portrays the triumph of an ageing alcoholic “actress” over the back-pedalling role assigned to her by society, Carissa Licciardello’s clever adaption prompts the audience to realise the extent to which current perception has rejected an age or gender limitation on women’s self-development.

Sarah (Toni Scanlon), a 60s-plus playwright, has written the role of Virginia in The Second Woman according to her own lived experience of ageing. Basically: Unlike men, women do not improve with age and, if wise, when middle-aged, will graciously accept a minor role in life – and if lucky on stage. Also, when they’re over 60, they will agree to become invisible altogether. A sad story but while Myrtle (Leeanna Walsman) – middle-aged actor and heavy drinker, cast as Virginia – needs the role, she is conflicted about performing the part of a once in-demand actor who has lost her sense of personal autonomy.

The play opens with a play within the play as Virginia – uninvited – visits Maurice (Anthony Harkin) a former lover. Her appearance at the door wearing an iconic raincoat and sporting very blonde hair is hackneyed as is the predictable moment when she flings it aside to reveal a skimpy, black sequinned dress which she had – yes, really – worn at the height of their passionate affair 16 years ago. Wanting to revive a past in which she was desired and valued, she is humiliated and slapped by the now married, successful, well-off Maurice.

As Myrtle, she rejects the idea of accepting humiliation on stage but, doubting herself, she mourns her younger self that would have been more fearless and more competitive in the face of the ambitions of her male co-star. That self is referenced in the 19-year-old Nancy (Caitlin Burley) who adores the star with a youthful passion and who Myrtle imagines she has killed by thrusting her accidentally into the path of car just as she, herself, is being crushed by denial of who she is.

Versions of herself haunt and distract her as the unlikable director, Manny (Luke Mullins), bullies her and the apparently omniscient Sara invalidates Myrtle’s insistence that she, unlike Virginia, has a sense of self and cannot get into the part the script prescribes. Her inability to learn text she doesn’t believe in – a text that is “hopeless” – is resolved on opening night when Myrtle takes charge to the delight of the Belvoir audience. They have always been on her side along with Myrtle’s young dresser Kelly (Jing-Yuan Chan) because they know that it is Manny and Sarah who are the dinosaurs.

There is always the risk when adapting a success from the past that the new version will be less impactful despite the high quality of the present cast. Licciardello’s play is not challenging misogyny – both the male and female versions – but having the audience realise the extent to which they reject it. The final and very dynamic uplift is what they expect.

_______________
theatre@ssh.com.au

spot_img
- Advertisment -spot_img
- Advertisment -spot_img

Stingless bees at Mirrung Garden

Mirrung Garden at South Sydney Uniting Church in Waterloo is now home to a hive of native bees. The beehive is located in the south-east corner of the garden, which also includes a variety of native plants and trees, egg-laying hens, fruit and veggie plots, a beautiful contemplative garden,...

The Settlement needs our help

Did your kids go to The Settlement? Did you? Established by Sydney University Women’s College, this wonderful local organisation has been providing services for children and youth in our community for over 130 years. There are grandmothers and fathers in the neighbourhood who went to The Settlement when they were...

Volunteers’ News – February 2024

Welcome back to another year of the South Sydney Herald, still being published in our 23rd year, thanks to your support and readership.

Tennis legends criticised for boycott plea

Tennis greats Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert have been accused of “turning their backs on women” after pushing back on plans to hold the season ending WTA Finals in Saudi Arabia’s capital.

Photos from January 26

Michelle Haywood captures the mood of January 26 with this collection of photos from across South and central Sydney.

Melanoma treatment pioneers awarded 2024 Australian of the Year

University of Sydney Professors Georgina Long AO and Richard Scolyer AO, co-medical directors of the Melanoma Institute Australia, have jointly won the prestigious Australian of the Year award for their pioneering work in the treatment of melanoma.