Ladies Day by Alana Valentine opened a day early on the 13th Feb – but it was certainly Valentines day itself at the Griffin as the audience cheered and applauded her newest work – an extraordinarily moving and intelligent exploration of how we all craft our own realities from the facts we choose to reveal.
As Griffins headline act for the Mardi Gras Festival, it was very refreshing to see the piece eschew the predictable cloying temptation of the gay coming out story and instead focus on much more universal themes that transcend sexuality or gender. Instead we are treated to a sometimes confronting, often funny and unexpectedly mature journey through the steps we are prepared to take to keep our hearts safe in an unsafe world. The lies we tell – to our friends, to the world, and most importantly to ourselves.
The heart of the work derives from a series of revealing monologues peppered throughout the piece, that have been drawn from interviews with men and women from Broome and environs. But as so often with good stories, the universal is drawn from the very specific. Alana Valentine has used the writing device of a playwright collecting interviews, to weave the contents of her research into a very moving and riveting piece of theatre. Then she plays with our awareness and viewpoint in such a way as to leave us questioning our own very personal relationship with the truth. It cuts close to the bone at times, exploring often-challenging questions of morality, violence, justice and revenge, and whether love and time has the power to transcend or merely conceal the wounds they leave.
Director Darren Yap has created a superbly even production, addressing the material with respect and simplicity. There are big issues and heightened emotions at play, but the delicate and intelligent staging complemented fine and heartbreakingly truthful performances by four really talented actors. There is some great work here.
Quite simply I believed every word. No small feat. Elan Zalevsky is a welcome return to the stage, bringing a measured honesty to his series of characters. Lucia Mastrantone was extraordinary. Distilling immensely personal issues into a series of simple truths. Wade Briggs had perhaps the most difficult emotional journey to traverse through the piece, but with every scene built on the one before to a finale that echoed hauntingly with pain and regret. Sailing through it all, Mathew Backer as Liam created an inner life for his character of such richness and believability it was hard to believe the words were not his own. Mature, detailed and utterly convincing.
And if that were not enough – on occasion they even sing too! And very well. The music and sound design of Max Lambert assisted by Roger Lock underscored the emotional journeys with subtlety and style.
Don’t be fooled by the frivolous fascinator in the marketing imagery – this is no Priscilla wannabe. It is a meaty and thoroughly entertaining work – and this production a must see event in the Mardi Gras calendar.
Griffin Theatre Company presents
by Alana Valentine
Director Darren Yap
Venue: SBW Stables Theatre | 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross NSW
Dates: 5 February – 26 March 2016
Tickets: $55 – $35