Photos – David Parker
The Melbourne Theatre Company sure did choose to ease it’s audiences into the season this year, with something first off the rank that’s light and joyous, designed to delight and... no... wait. No rest for the wicked it seems; The Other Place ain’t no comic romp, but it IS a powerful piece of theatre.
Centred around the downward spiral of geneticist Dr Juliana Smithton (Catherine McClements), The Other Place tackles a lot of weighty issues in 85 minutes. Loss of mind, loss of self, loss of loved ones, loss, loss, loss. Grabbing the audience by the arm, it jumps from public conferences where a groundbreaking new drug is being introduced, to heated one-on-one interviews, to intimate phone calls with family members. Down the rabbit-hole and into a cave where truth is fuzzy, and the viewer feels a sense of foreboding about where they’re being lead. Along the way we pass the likes of Juliana’s long suffering husband Ian (David Roberts), and A Man (David Whitely) and A Woman (Heidi Arena) in various incarnations. Juliana really is incredibly unlikeable at the onset of the piece, but by then end you feel nothing but pity for her and the people her situation has inadvertently affected.
Catherine McClements is a tour de force in The Other Place. She’s on stage the whole time and has well and truly bought a ticket on the emotional rollercoaster. She’s incredibly uncomfortable to watch at her most vulnerable, and why shouldn’t she be? She’s doing a remarkable job at highlighting the utter panic and chaos that comes with everything Juliana is experiencing. David Roberts frustration and grief is palpable as her husband, Ian, and the strength of the ensemble really is a plus for this production. Opening night adrenaline resulted in some “energetic” acting moments, but they do hit the marks and take the audience where they need to be.
The quality of the ensemble being highlighted, it just doesn’t seem to be enough at times to ensure the overall success of the production. There’s an uneven nature to all the gear changes in the story that make it ever so slightly clunky. Present day, flashbacks, phone calls, real and imagined people; there’s a lot going on and, while very interesting, an inconsistency in the naturalistic vs heightened style of these changes creates distractions. This isn’t a major deal breaker for the overall quality of the show, it just makes it a little wanting.
Nadia Tass always seems to deliver the goods as a director. She understands what she wants and gets the best of her actors, letting them breathe and grow organically on stage. The design of the play was subtle and unobtrusive on all fronts, which is a great credit to the team behind it.
Melbourne Theatre Company are well and truly out of the gates this year with The Other Place. It’s a confronting and challenging piece and plays until march 2 at the Playhouse.
Melbourne Theatre Company presents
The Other Place
by Sharr White
Directed by Nadia Tass
Venue: Playhouse | Arts Centre Melbourne
Dates: 26 January – 2 March, 2013
Tickets: $33 – $99