Left & cover – Brian Lipson. Photos – Sarah Walker
An actors'/theatre lovers' work is Edmund: The Beginning – a show where Brian Lipson offers a delectably rich performance which will resonate most deeply with his peers.
Edmund: The Beginning is a one-man investigation of the emotional range of performance in the traditional vein, an exploration of fascination and despair at human limitations. Lipson comes into a nearly empty space and it’s a while before he says anything; he engages in a ritualistic setting up about him of various objects which later come to represent characters.
Among the things Lipson sets out on the ‘stage’ are a glass of milk and a plate of bread and butter. After the show you recall that Sylvia Plath, one of the characters he references, set out exactly these things for her two children before she gassed herself. Nicholas and Frieda Hughes appear as well as their parents. Other characters are a publican/theatre director Daniel Brand, along with the playwright Harold Pinter’s son, undone by his famous father’s treatment of his mother (actor Vivien Merchant), Edmund, the younger brother of William Shakespeare, who we know even less about than we do the playwright. What we do know is that although Edmund was an actor he was never on the books of The Kings Men, Shakespeare’s own company, or mentioned in any documentation of performance by said company, and that his name was, unkindly, given to the ‘base bastard Edmund’ in King Lear.
Why these things might be so, and the impact of his status as an ‘outer’ on Edmund (and indeed of this on all the characters) are given voice in this work. As well, Lipson stretches out the notion of wit, with words and action; he makes visual jokes, beginning with a quote he writes on the wall with chalk. To be honest, I’d like to see this again without trying to work out who Lipson playing from character to character; I was distracted trying to ‘keep up’ with who he was talking about/being.
If you’re literate and versed in the English canon you’ll adore this show, if not you might feel alienated. The best thing to do is let the performance twirl you off emotionally, as it does. Lipson’s performance range is deep and impressive. Lipson makes clever and beautiful use of the twilight, with the tone of the piece shifting as the sun goes down. A rare show, something lovely, poignant and archival, if that makes sense.
Arts House and Antechamber Productions present
EDMUND. THE BEGINNING
by Brian Lipson
Director Peter Evans
Venue: North Melbourne Town Hall, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Dates: 10 – 22 November 2015
Tickets: $30 – $15
Bookings: artshouse.com.au | (03) 9322 3713