Madagascar | Black Swan State Theatre CompanyPhotos - Gary Marsh and Rebecca Mansell, Gary Marsh Photography.

An eerie presence began to filter through the auditorium and stage during Madagascar, and it gave me goosebumps. Gideon (also known as Paul) is the focus of the three characters and is never seen, yet managed to invade the stage with his absence. I could almost see him in the room with the performers. Directed by Kate Cherry, Madagascar is Black Swan State Theatre Company’s last show for 2010, and an excellent production to end the year on.

Written by J.T Rogers, Madagascar is the story of a missing man and the impact his disappearance has on his family. Told in a series of interweaving monologues, the audience meets the characters at difference points in time at the same location, a hotel room in Rome.

Lilian, (the mother) speaks from five years ago as she waits for her son Gideon (Paul). Paul’s twin sister June speaks to us from a few days ago. She has been living in the hotel for a number of years, working as a tour guide in Rome. Nathan is a mid level middle aged economist who was friends with Lilian’s deceased husband. He is also the long term lover of Lilian and speaks to the audience in the present.

The characters are American, and I originally thought the accents would grate too much to enjoy the show. This concern quickly faded as the performance progressed, and although the accents seemed to slip a little in the emotional scenes it wasn’t distracting.

The set (designed by Alicia Clements), was stunning. A vast and sparsely furnished hotel room with ornate mouldings in muted blues, creams and gold echoed the history that was described outside, and I would quite happily have moved in! Large windows in the far corner assisted with the lighting changes for each scene. Lighting designer Jon Buswell did a splendid job to define each characters different experience and time in the hotel as well as light the many different areas within the set that the cast used.

Rebecca Davis is June, the 30 something sister to Paul. She is a lost soul, explaining her love of anonymity in Rome after fleeing her life in New York. Davis beautifully captures the fragility, hurt and mental instability behind June that is revealed more in her tone and movements than the words itself.

As Nathan, Greg McNeill was able to inject the majority of the humour into the play, cracking multiple jokes about his profession and lack of success with women (Lilian not withstanding). It was his scenes that were often the most enlightening and carried some shocking revelations. McNeill was well cast, ably managing to recreate the intelligent economist who lacks some social skills.

This is (surprisingly) Amanda Muggleton’s debut with Black Swan. And a brilliant debut it is, commanding the stage during her scenes as Lilian, the matriarch of a wealthy American family. We see her highly excited about seeing Paul again after not hearing from him for 6 months, and reminisces on the holidays she had with June as Paul as children, and on being a mother. Muggleton emotions range from one end of the scale to another in a wonderful performance.

Madagascar as a whole is a great production, and one that will certainly get you thinking. Three amazing cast, excellent direction and creative elements, and an underlying eerie presence of something or someone missing. A fantastic way for Black Swan State Theatre Company to finish 2010.

Black Swan State Theatre Company presents
by J.T. Rogers

Director Kate Cherry

Venue: Playhouse Theatre, Perth
Dates: 23 October – 7 November 2010
Tickets: $54.50 - $20
Bookings: BOCS Ticketing (08) 9484 1133 |

Most read Perth reviews

After a trying 5 day lockdown it was a relief to be among the few who could revel in the...

A small group of amateur actors, some professionals, no overarching theme for some ten minute...

Every one of the eleven short plays were excellent. Their very different topics and...

To this critic, as to many Short+Sweet patrons, this programme of two peformances of 12...