A man unconscious, supine on the floor, his top hat off his head. Slowly, he regains consciousness, getting himself erect, and hatted. But he, seemingly, is still “off his head”.
This Georgian era clad gent with top hat and tail coat seems not so much resuscitated as resurrected. Is he off his head or really been reanimated to act as a guardian angel to a madman more than two centuries hence and on the other side of the world from his proper place? He has been transported to 1972 Australia to watch over a young man called Morgan Stern. Morgan is never seen, he lives in our imagination conjured by the dense and melodic narrative of The Gent.
Gina Schien's play, Morgan Stern, is an exploration of schizophrenia informed by her own brother's battle with mental illness. It has a lyrical, poetic quality, full of reprise and refrain, making a ballad of the monologue as The Gent traces his time with Morgan through the Seventies and Eighties as well as revealing his own story and the sorrow wrought from his daughter's similar disease.
Central to Goldele Rayment's production is a towering performance by Graeme Rhodes as The Gent, presented with a laser focus, a gravitas of presence, and clear and articulate diction. In a play that is concerned with confusion and requires audience concentration, Rhodes is a colossus of clarity.
Integral to the tone of the play and a perfect adjunct to the central performance is Tegan Nicholls' sound design, a kind of droning buzzing with a hint of lapping waves on the shoreline. Roderick Van Gelders lighting design similarly augments the tone and texture of the piece.
Morgan Stern had its initial run late last year at the Blood Moon space at the World Bar, Kings Cross. This interim engagement at Belvoir Downstairs gives the play a better space to breathe, to fill its sizeable lungs for its next incarnation at the Edinburgh Festival next month.
Company of Rogues presents
by Gina Schien
Director Goldele Rayment
Venue: Belvoir St Theatre
Dates: 1 – 2 July 2017
Tickets: $45 – $39
Bookings: 02 9699 3444 | belvoir.com.au