The EisteddfodI walk into the Downstairs Theatre at Belvoir Street to be greeted by an intricately detailed miniature set, sitting like a tiny balcony, looking out into the audience. The edges of the stage are cluttered with a variety of old books and children’s dolls, there’s a small bed one corner, a little black board and radio hang from the roof. The space is stuffed to the gills but somehow doesn’t feel crowded. Perhaps it is the plastic safari scene spinning on the 7” gramophone that fills the otherwise claustrophobic space with a sense of escapism. This attention to detail is carried throughout the entirety of Stuck Pigs Squealing’s production of The Eisteddfod and is one of the many contributing factors to the shows success.

The Eisteddfod opens with Lally Katz (writer) providing a short narrative that introduces the protagonists, Abalone (Luke Mullins), Gerture (Katherine Tonkin) and their situation; the siblings were born into a house torn asunder by adultery and when their parents are both killed in a tragic pruning incident the children begin to withdraw from society and construct their own lives, fulfilling their growing adult desires with role-play and fantasy. Abalone dreams of winning the local eisteddfod with all the associated glory, while his sister Gerture slowly slips away into her own private world where she works as a teacher. Afraid of being left alone Abalone offers Gerture a supporting roll in his solo production of Macbeth for this years eisteddfod, but are either of them ready to face reality?

Both Mullins and Tonkin deliver outstanding performances, not only nailing the fragile subjects of Abalone and Gerture but also showing great versatility through the varied roles they take on as the characters of Abalone and Gerture’s fantasies. One moment they’re reminiscing together about their childhood, the next performing Macbeth, the next re-enacting scenes between Gerture and her lover. Each change is seamless and at no point was I confused as to who or what I was watching. All of this is complemented by Chris Kohn’s astute direction whereby Katz’s sharp dialogue and deliciously black script are brought to life.

The whole production is as tight as Costello at the end of the financial year, but far more satisfactory. The opening night audience chortled at Abalone and Gerture’s idiosyncratic flaws only to be left gasping at real tragedy of their situation. Kohn has directed his cast like a conductor would a symphony with crescendos and diminuendos placed exactly where the score demands. The more of Katz’s writing I experience the more I like her style and if this production is anything to go by I would love to see more from Stuck Pigs Squealing. This is a magnificent display of contemporary Australian theatre and should not be missed by anyone.

Arts Project Australia present a Stuck Pigs Squealing production in association with B Sharp
The Eisteddfod
by Lally Katz

Belvoir St Downstairs Theatre, 25 Belvoir Street, Surry Hills
Friday 8 June- 24, 2007
Tues 7pm, Weds-Sat 8.15pm, Sun 5.15pm
$29/$23 (preview $20, Cheap Tues pay-what-you-can, min. $10)
9699 3444 or

{mosgmap mapid=31}

Most read Sydney reviews

Piano Mill’s success has been due to it offering an alternative means of experiencing fresh,...

Real estate is just dirt, when you boil it right down, and Mamet’s pedlars of property sure are...

The behaviour of the men is misogynous. The behaviour of men in authority menacing. The...

Proof that Shakespeare can shake up lives and his plays hold a mirror to life, The Twins sees...