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Theatre Review:
Tarantula

As the audience enters the theatre, Lola is apparently asleep on a day bed in her cabin. In a semi-reverie she begins to speak, rave almost, about the tarantula, which she equates with the tantalising, complex, even destructive powers of desire. Desire is shown as a complex force in Gina’s life also as it confronts her with questions about her own needs and ambitions. Neither Lola nor Gina find any kind of lasting fulfillment because they are driven to seek it in desire, which in itself is transitory.

The play was fast-paced, funny, intelligently constructed and engaging. The leads, Zoe Carides and Michael Whalley, were captivating. The costumes were wonderful, and costume changes managed simply and effectively. A cellist (Richard Mills) sat to one side and one time even joined the action onstage. The set (designed by Sarah-Jane McAllan) featured a cabin trunk from which various props were taken – symbols, intrusions almost of characters from Lola’s past. These gave the impression of the constant “entrances” and “exits” of her own life – different countries, different men, different “roles”: “Spanish dancer”, “great beauty”, “influential friend of King”, even “wife to American local newspaperman”. Most roles ended in a fiasco or failure, and Lola “reinvented” herself again in a new role. However, as the Ballarat episode of the play shows, Lola’s performance of life was threatened by ageing, which she describes as “the sin with no name”.

The King Street Theatre is an intimate space – an apt environment in which to pose questions of a sensual and sexual nature. In what ways have women’s powers changed in the intervening years between Lola and Gina? What have the attitudes of the churches contributed, concealed and revealed?

Eventually, Gina comes to the conclusion that Lola pushed Noel Folland overboard. She seems excited by the discovery of the capacity for murder in Lola but the audience may feel less comfortable with this revelation. At the close, we are left with admiration for Lola’s ingenuity and resilience, sympathy for her struggle to be a successful entertainer, but suspicious of the darker elements of her nature. Ultimately, we don’t really know who she is.

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