Although I’ve been in my adopted home city of Melbourne for almost seven years now (where has the time gone?), I’m still finding that there is so much still to discover. One such recent theatrical discovery is the Melbourne Writers’ Theatre and the wonderful work they are doing.
In existence since the early 80’s, MWT declares itself proudly unfunded, relying instead on its supporters, with its lack of government funding freeing it up to do their thing.
Their latest thing is the 2017 version of an annual season of The Melbourne Monologues. I could have easily missed MM 2017 because life is hectic, there is so much stuff to do in an ever shrinking leisure time, and none of the names involved stood out (other than company head Clare Mendes).
However due to the curly unpredictability of circumstance, I did indeed find myself at La Mama Courthouse on a random Tuesday night, and what a wonderful little surprise the evening was.
The point of The Melbourne Monologues is to match the works of new and experienced writers with new and experienced actors. There are six monologues, each approximately 10 minutes long. Either there is a hell of a lot of untapped theatrical talent around, or Melbourne Writers’ Theatre is very, very good at finding this talent.
Watching this collection of monologues gives the same satisfaction of reading a good collection of short stories. It’s the bravest kind of theatre; no set design, just an empty stage with story and actor. There is nothing to hide behind, so you need to get it right. Which is exactly what this ensemble did.
The collection is book-ended by two stories of death, both tragic, but in very different ways. After the intriguing mystery of To Understand, we move into the slightly weird, slightly funny, very thought-provoking No Feet. For all its oddity, it’s actually a very serious piece.
Girls’ School Delights is less serious. It’s very funny and here the acting outshined the writing. Cosima Gilbert did an amazing job of acting out several schoolgirl types and did it pretty perfectly. I think I heard that she is in her mid teens. You will be as amazed as you will be amused.
Also standing out (look, I feel a bit mean not mentioning every actor and every writer… they were all good, it’s just some stood out for various reasons) was Jack McGorlick as the titular Garry. He was so perfectly cast in this very funny role that I am keen to see him in another role. Very funny piece of writing and Jack – like Cosima and Alec Gilbert in No Feet – clearly had fun with the role.
The mood swings back to dark again with The Bystander Is The Gatekeeper. While you initially want the humour to continue, you are quickly drawn into this noir narrative. Which leads nicely into the very real tragedy beautifully misnomered Fairy Dust. Very touching.
Criticisms… not many at all. Erm… yeah no, it was all pretty good. Maybe a bit more intimacy could have been achieved with the opener To Understand if Ruth Katerelos had made more direct eye contact with audience members, speaking as she was, I think from memory, in the second person. Or at least, to the audience (Judge? Jury? Investigator?). But I’m nit-picking now.
I’m glad I accidentally saw this production of The Melbourne Monologues. I want to read more of the writers’ work and I want to see more of the actors’ performances. It’s only on for couple more nights. If you enjoy new, authentic, quality theatre I strongly suggest you see The Melbourne Monologues.
Melbourne Writers' Theatre presents
THE MELBOURNE MONOLOGUES
Venue: La Mama Courthouse | 349 Drummond St, Carlton VIC
Dates: 17 – 22 October 2017