With one tongue firmly set in the history of English romantic literature and the other firmly planted in cheek, past and present are delightfully fused in this parallel journey of two Harriet’s (Madeleine Swain) and two Molly's (Ruth Katerelos). Opening with a parody of Du Maurier’s Rebecca, the stage is set for a veritable virago odyssey, between “a willful lady and a humble country lassie”. These mythic avatars find their modern day form in the likenesses of two contemporary women who have met at a conference, and rather unremarkably - sans drama -have exchanged mobile phone numbers. There is a flicker of interest, not like the great roaring bonfire of vanities of Ye Olde England. The play unfolds between the two eras - the high drama of adventure steeped romance and the reality of getting to know someone by short interrupted phone conversations in an era of jet travel and limited mobile phone networks.
Songs, swordplay, soft toys, hard riding crops and hair shirts under nun’s habits make for great theatre folly and often-riotous moments between the two historic women; both curiously struck by involuntary swooning and strange libidinal stirrings. Lady Harriet Helstone is full of pomp and circumstance befitting a noblewoman. Swain’s comic and robust performance is flawless; she transports us with vim vigor and vexatiousness, to the foxhunts, cascading stairwells of English manors and fragrant orchards of classic romance. Molly Penhallow is the naive servant girl who loves all creatures great, small and furry, she could bring no harm to any living soul. Katerelos despite an occasional attack of the nerves beautifully evinces the free spirit of kind heart, unshackled by the ruthless class system of her era (or indeed today) and is wary of her bombastic mistress - 'From the moment I first set eyes on you, I have hated you from the bottom of my heart'.
Director Sarah McCusker has cleverly crafted the play’s tensions and time frames, to juxtapose the nonsense and sensibility of the great narratives of romance and it's conceits - that both delight us, sicken us and take our breath away. Alongside - the profound and humbling ordinariness of true love that awakens the soul while we are singing a daggy Karaoke song with the one we love. Ben Kiley’s musical direction is equally deft, comic, poignant and at times reflective. Art Direction by Georgina Campbell and Hope Hayward Rowling is modest yet inventive with an ingenious use of soft toys - a dead deer included. Simple stylised costumes by Melanie Hertz and Ella Misso help us make the great magical shifts between today’s women - academics, executives, students and yesterday’s great ladies, poor house staff, hunchbacked grannies and foppish titled men. Wishing Well have created a gem of a production that will have audiences chomping at the leather riding crop for their next hilarious production and has earned itself a place as a must see highlight of the current Midsumma theatre line-up.
WishingWell Productions presents the Australian Premiere of
Her Aching Heart
By Briony Lavery
Venue: Old Council Chambers, Trades Hall | 54 Victoria Street, Carlton South
Dates: Wednesday, 24 January – Sunday, 11 February, 2007
Times: Wednesdays - [email protected] 8.00pm & Sundays @ 6.30PM
Tickets: $22/17 $20 groups of ten or more.