Revlon and Razor Wire is a fantastic title for the memoirs of Kerry Tucker. This play is a culmination of Tucker’s life in a maximum security Victorian prison, and a part of her PhD work. Taken from Tucker’s personal diary and utilising her Master of Arts in writing, she creates a world that seems harsh but fair, damaged but humble, and presents an insight into the unfamiliar role of ‘criminally convicted mother’.
Despite the text being an interesting, poetical, image evoking, insight into the world of an Australian women’s prison, Tucker’s performance lacks energy, confidence, and seems to be directed heavily stage left and at the front two rows of audience. Absence of degrees of emotional connection to her story, slightly off timing with punch lines, coupled with an uncomfortable feeling of unfamiliarity with the stage, makes the world that burns in Tucker’s memory on the page, turn to ash in translation to the stage.
Chris Sinclair’s direction is simple, safe and predictable, starving Tucker of the opportunity of expressing a physical and personal dynamic, which, for Tucker seems undeniably strong, full of wit and engaging. Simple stagecraft is sacrificed, with Tucker floundering at times, for words, writing unconvincingly in a diary that contains printed text and collecting items from a stage person who appears casually from behind the masking black curtain, expressionless. This would be an interesting choice perhaps, if it were addressed more thoughtfully and comically.
Within the flat line regurgitation of the memoir, comes some relief, with interjections of a voice controlled ‘strip search’. This lifts the wilting momentum, using a choreographed sequence to examine all nooks and crannies of Tucker’s body, punctuating the constant suspicion that covers her with a fresh layer of guilt. The final strip search sees Tucker shed her prison blue tracksuit and runners, to reveal a glamorous, high heeled, joyous woman who earns her humble freedom.
Emma Ten Eyck’s acoustic guitar and vocals provide the play with an etheric, melancholic quality that permeates the grey, monochrome, lifeless set design of Robert Ten Eyck, strikingly contrasting the highly manicured, tanned and tweezered Tucker. The steely, cold set included a dressing table covered in 80’s style lace, makeup mirrors, and wine glass, in the downstage right corner. It was used, fleetingly, to indicate Tucker’s freedom, already being communicated by large slide-style personal photographs on a backdrop screen, and indicated by the previous chrysalis to butterfly transformation of the final strip search.
A debut theatrical work from Kerry Tucker, Revlon and Razor Wire certainly has heart. But like a diamond in the rough, it needs de-sanding, refining and polishing, from cathartic experience to a theatrical work. With this thought comes a great appreciation for LaMama Theatre whose warm support and passion for new Australian work creates the opportunity for a valuable gem to be mined.
La Mama presents
Revlon and Razor Wire: A Performed Memoir
Written and performed by Kerry Tucker
Directed by Chris Sinclair
Venue: La Mama Courthouse Theatre
Dates: 24 – 28 August, 2011