It is a blessing and a curse that Memmie le Blanc has its premiere in Perth. While it has been reviewed with open arms and peppered with fantastic reviews, we’re still in Perth folks and that means that this kick ass production is not receiving all the attention it should. The good thing is that Memmie le Blanc is a perfect touring show and I wouldn’t doubt for a second that the fab cast is capable of it too.
Memmie le Blanc is newie from Hilary Bell and it has her signature all over it. Bell writes to make us think, and it’s clear that she thinks about what she writes too. She spoon feeds us nothing – letting us ponder and make our own meaning of things. As a huge fan of Bell’s work, I was very keen to see this.
This is based on a true story. In the 1700's in Champagne a wild girl of around 10 years of age (original documents place her at 17 or 18 years but who’s to know now?) was found and eventually christened Marie Angelique Memmie le Blanc. In a time when Europe was obsessed with science, medicine and biology it was ‘natural’ to refer to Memmie and treat her as if she wasn’t even human. Manners, good breeding and civilisation “made” you human – being biologically human wasn’t enough it you weren’t cultured.
Memmie le Blanc by Deckchair and Vitalstatistix focuses on making Memmie more ‘human’ but also shows us that we too are animals – we manipulate, lie, are selfish, feel grief and anger and have guttural instincts as strong as any other creature.
The set here is fantastic. Is it an old-style cartoon palm tree? A climbing frame? The Orang-Utan enclosure at Perth Zoo (my first impression)? It could also be symbolic of the bubble of civilisation that Memmie is forced into and trapped in…or it could be symbolic that WE are trapped in civilisation and real freedom lies outside out cities, towns, social structures and the fact we think that as humans we are so high and mighty. When Memmie and Robert the Orang-Utan (yes, you read right) start to swing around and on top of the frame, eventually breaking through it from all angles, we realise that we – humans, animals, and wild children who are somewhere between the two – are so very similar. Hundred of years ago, people sought civilisation, industrial revolution and being a country dwelling peasant was a horrible thought. Ironically now we seek the country, we seek to get away from the city, civilisation, the responsibilities, thoughts and stresses that come with apparently being the most intelligent and self aware breed of mammal on this earth.
Anyway – enough of that. You’ll make your own meaning from it. Back to the show.
Anni Linder is Memmie and is the hottest thing on stage in Perth right now. What a stunner. Anni comes alive when she dances. Every movement is so precise. This woman has mind bogglingly good body awareness, it’s stunning. Every little detail – from the twitching of Memmie’s nose and her odd swagger to her careful climbing on the set is so beautifully executed. Wow.
Take note of the deliciously designed costumes and look closely at the fabric. Go see it! I’m not telling you what I mean…go look for yourself. The fact that this fabric must have been so hard to source, the designs and the way it all fits the actors like a second skin is a credit to Issac Lumis, the costume designer. Wouldn’t mind a skirt with Orang-Utans on it myself, actually.
Oops! Gave it away!
What a transformation Netta Yashchin has gone through playing Catherine Michel – she’s great! I keep looking at the program thinking “No way…that’s not the woman I saw on stage!” I am so completely shocked. I never thought I’d see acting like this in Perth of all places. Hurrah Netta!
The lighting was nice and subtle. Good on you, Andrew Lake! This designer has captured what others in Perth haven’t – lights should be subtle. I should forget that they are electrical lights and unconsciously recognise them as natural light and shadow. This is a beautiful example that theatre lighting rarely needs to be so bleeding obvious or burn out my corneas.
One must mention the Orang-Utan. Or rather Sete Tele who is being an Orang-Utan. Another dancer, Sete displays a physical strength and ability that this overweight reviewer gawps at. If I tried to swing around on bars like that I’d damage something. Very, very cool Sete. It’s amazing he didn’t drop dead from exhaustion wearing all that fur. If you are reading this from the east coast, take into consideration that the temperature that day had been up in the high 30s and Victoria Hall is notoriously stuffy. Sete Tele was wearing furs AND swinging, dancing and singing under lights. Like Anni Linder, Sete Tele’s this physical awareness and research into the roll is first-class.
If I mentioned every single person and company involved in making Memmie Le Blanc happen this would be far too long. Let’s just say that you have to go see this. Beg, borrow or steal the ticket money and go. Go twice. I would. What a beautiful surprise for the people of Perth – you can’t not go to Memmie le Blanc. Go for Hilary Bell's great writing, go for the actors and go for the director’s last hurrah before being stolen away from us. But most of all go for Deckchair Theatre. This company is going through some hard times with funding but they just keep getting better – which is more than I can say for other Perth companies who are rolling in cash. If Deckchair disappears I’ll move over east and I’m pretty sure that the theatre companies over there don’t want me writing about them – so help us both out, okay? It’s partly up to the Perth public to keep Deckchair going. Go see this play! Understand?
Fothergills presents the deckchair theatre and VITALSTATISTIX production of
MEMMIE LE BLANC
by Hilary Bell
Venue: Victoria Hall | 179 High Street, Fremantle WA
Dates: 10 November – 2 December 2007
Times: Tues – Sat, 8pm / Sun, 5pm
Tickets: $32, $27 Conc / 4+, $22/ 10+ dct members, $15 Student Rush. Tropicana Meal + Show $50.
Bookings: BOCS 9484 1133 or www.bocsticketing.com.au
Read our interview with HILARY BELL»