Photo – Ponch Hawkes
La Mama's Explorations series is a season of new and often experimental works that challenge theatrical boundaries and process and explore new ideas.
Virginia and Some of Her Friends is one of this year's offerings, and while it is not especially innovative in style, it does combine theatrical techniques that are not often seen in harmony.
This piece sits somewhere between the musical and the play with music. Like a musical, the songs deliver a substantial component of the character and some plot. But Iike the play with music, the songs jar, altering the flow of action and realigning the audience's attention not unlike Brecht's verfremdungseffekt.
As for plot, there is little to speak of. Those with a prior knowledge of Virginia Woolf's biography would be able to piece it together, but the play itself doesn't focus on the story.
The characters are richly developed and beautifully portrayed by four very talented actors. They deliver much of their impact by direct address and intense monologue, which allows a strong connection with the audience, even if it does make for a very wordy play. I felt myself thinking on a few occasions that I ought to have been taking notes as there was just too much to remember and no action to support it. It is, in this way, also a cross between a dramatic and a literary work.
The relationships between the characters, however, definitely stamped the work as dramatic. These interactions, occasionally stylised and often highly amusing, offered a respite from the literary nature of the monologues.
While the play's themes were perhaps very broad-ranging, they were in fact nicely balanced. None were too heavily weighed, not were they permitted to outweigh the characters, who shone through with brilliant clarity.
In all, I found Virginia and Some of Her Friends to be a refined, entertaining and even surprising theatrical event, definitely worthy of La Mama's support.
La Mama Explorations
Virginia and Some of Her Friends
Co-devised by Peter Green, Mia Landgren, Claire Nicholls, Chloe Reid and Andi Snelling
Venue: La Mama Theatre | 205 Faraday Street, Carlton VIC
Dates: November 11 – 13, 2013
Bookings: 03 9347 6142