Three Oaks, by Monica Raszewski,deals with a young woman, Margaret (Zoe Ellerton-Ashley) who, along with her sister Alex (Emily Taylor), seeks to uncover her late father, Janek’s, life (Adam Pierzchalski) and his relationship with two women: their mother (Olga Makeeva) and stepmother (Fiona Macys). Through flashbacks as perceived by Margaret, Janek’s life as an artist, father, and lover become visible as she herself struggles with his influence over her life and her artistic sensibilities.
The La Mama stage is transformed to wonderful effect, with pine needles spread on the ground, covering important objects that will later be seen, and ladders creeping towards the sky. The pine needles in particular, with their scent and ability to cling to the actor’s costumes,evoke a fairytale world that sits well with the storytelling aspect of the play. The lighting design by Ryan Hodge is particularly impressive and the music, by Pierzchalski and occasionally Taylor, is simple yet locates the Polish influence quickly and effectively.
Ellerton-Ashley is a very easy actor to watch as she effortlessly shifts between the styles of the play and the flashbacks from when Margaret was a little girl, to the present day. The other actors work well together with Taylor a particularly believable sister who teases, supports, chastises and loves Margaret.
Kimberley Grigg’s direction keeps each scene alive, although short scenes with blackouts in between often interrupt the rhythm of the play. Surely the scenes could have flowed into one another, as stories from memory often do? It is interesting that in a play that deals with the power of words, some of the most arresting scenes are when words are taken away and the play uses music and movement to reveal meaning. There is one short scene, between Janek and his first wife that manages to combine humour, surprise, romance and fantasy to startlingly beautiful effect in a very short time. These scenes are much more powerful than the device of the protagonist narrating to the audience.
This is a strong production from Rah Rah and left me with many questions about identity and memory. How much are we linked to our past? Can the past reveal truth? What influence do generations have one each other? Ultimately it is all these questions that will take a lifetime (or more) to answer.
a Rah Rah production
Venue: La Mama, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton
Season: July 23 – August 10, 2008
Week 1: July 23, 24, 25 at 11.00am and 1.30pm, July 27 at 6.30pm (no perf July 26);
Weeks 2 & 3: Weds & Suns at 6.30pm, Thurs to Sats at 8.00pm;
Matinees: July 30 & Aug 6 at 1.00pm, July 31 and Aug 7 at 11.00am
Tickets: $25 (full) / $12 (conc.)
Duration: 75 mins approx.
Bookings: 9347 6142