Left – Tim Smith, Katie O’Reily and Bridget Walters
Dealing with the major theme of science and its place in belief systems, Alex Vickery-Howe’s Molly’s Shoes is a confused look at the place of the religious belief of creation theory in modern science.
In the late 1990s, David (Tim Smith) and Elsbeth (Rachel Jones) are beginning their first year of university, meeting in Professor Molly Taft’s (Katie O’Reily) Physics class. Despite conflicts over science, David and Elsbeth form a relationship, until the conflicts become too big to resolve.
In the present, David (John Mauriece) is taking care of Molly (Bridget Walters), as her highly analytical brain fades away. He asks Elsbeth (Joanne Hartsone) to return, to help move Molly into a nursing home – or to help Molly end her life.
When the younger Molly tells David he must be more creative in his view on physics, he rather peculiarly looks towards Creationism. Rather than choosing to create characters grappling with the complex scientific proponents for the Theory of Everything, the play instead takes a rather reductionist approach.
While the playwright attempts to balance David’s unjustified arguments with the atheism of Elsbeth and the staunch approach to science of Molly, Vickery-Howe rather disappointingly constantly gives the balance of power on stage back to David. This lack of balance not only results in the play seemingly overall a supporter of Creationism, it also results in a play seemingly in support of David’s misogyny.
This theme comes up at several points through the production: younger David yells at Elsbeth for being a feminist, saying it is a dying rhetoric. Older David attacks her for her hand in the “destruction of life” in IVF – saying the moment when life beings is just “semantics.” Younger David says he considered motherhood to be the ultimate fulfillment; both women end the play relationship-less and childless, while he is married with three boys.
Of course, representation of these themes, of Creationsim and misogyny, is not the same as an endorsement. But Vickery-Howe places so much of the show on the shoulders of David that his voice is dominant.
Performances are generally strong. The four in the roles of David and Elsbeth are best when they are allowed scenes of conflict; particularly Jones and Hartsone demonstrating strength of character that is too often not present in the monologues. O’Reily and Walters create the most interesting character in Molly. While painted as acerbic, as younger Molly, O’Reily creates the most compelling performance of the most fascinating character; as the older Molly, Walters gives a generous performance to her audience.
Despite these actors, Joh Hartog’s direction fails to add to the confused script. Many scenes see all cast members on stage with their backs to the audience, other scenes have lines delivered from the stairs of the auditorium, so only those sitting in the back half of the theatre can view the action. Vickey-Howe’s script is all exposition, and Hartog has failed to find any room for subtleties or subtext.
Ultimately, Molly’s Shoes is an overly ambitious and disappointing play that fails to truly meld together themes across two timelines, and shows a lack of understanding of the major scientific ideas with which it tries to grapple. And if anyone could explain to me the significance in the nonsensical 12 years real time, but 20 years ‘real time’ between the two time periods, it would be greatly appreciated.
Accidental Productions presents
by Alex Vickery-Howe
Venue: Bakehouse Theatre, 255 Angas Street, Adelaide
Dates: May 20 – June 4, 2011
Times: Wed to Sat at 8pm
Tickets: Adults $23;Conc $19; Fringe Benefits $16