Left – Jane Phegan, Carmen Lysiak, Johnny Nasser, Andy Dexterity. Cover – Eliza Logan. Photos – Lucy Parakhina
Presented by Siren Theatre Co and Griffin Independent, The Ham Funeral is a play by Nobel Laureate for Literature, Patrick White. Controversial since its early days, it was rejected for the 1962 Adelaide Festival of Arts as it was deemed ‘too difficult’ for audiences to understand. That might still be the case today however in this production, you can suspend your desperation to find narrative and meaning and be swept up in the murky world of Mr and Mrs Lusty.
Directed by Kate Gaul, The Ham Funeral is set in a dim and decaying house where Mr and Mrs Lusty bicker about the state of their existence. A young poet who narrates their story places himself in the chaos. The lighting and sound superbly captured its bleakness, while the staging added to the mood, it was the performances by a stellar cast of actors that really makes this play stand out.
The poet, played by Sebastian Robinson, has a very calming yet uncomfortable presence on stage, as the audience are taken into his world of the Lusty house. His articulation of the quirky script is engaging, and his relationship with Alma Lusty (Eliza Logan) is tormented by the presence of a girl (Jenny Wu) who floats across the stage and taps in to his deepest desires.
Will (Johnny Nasser) is a strong character that, through body and voice, captures the simplicity of Mr Lusty. Nasser transports the audience to a different time and place in gesture and temperament. This was a talented portrayal of such an intimidating character, even after his death.
Even though it is difficult to picture the world of Mrs Alma Lusty, Eliza Logan provides a startling performance that draws out an immense amount of empathy. She carried emotion intensely and threw it across the stage with minimal effort. It was easy to feel her powerless and trapped situation, dreaming of what her life could have been without a man like Will.
The other players (funeral attendees) – Andy Dexterity, Carmen Lysiak and Jane Phegan, were as bizarre and creepy as they come. The second act, which is set at the ‘ham funeral’ looked like a funhouse ride gone terribly wrong. The giggling, stares and vaudevillian make-up really set the scene.
The Ham Funeral is a peculiar journey into the minds and emotions of a small family, mourning the death of a family member who seems to be as loved as he was despised. The characters are engaging in their oddness, making this production a distinct one.
Siren Theatre Co and Griffin Independent presents
The Ham Funeral
by Patrick White
Director Kate Gaul
Venue: SBW Stables Theatre, 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross NSW
Dates: 17 May – 10 June 2017