Between the Streetlight and the Moon: Rose Reviews New Play

Joanna Dowling, who plays French doctoral candidate Dominique. Photo: Clare Hawley
Joanna Dowling, who plays French doctoral candidate Dominique. Photo: Clare Hawley

MR 1MopHead Productions presented the world premiere of Between the Streetlight and the Moon, a new play by writer, director and performer Melita Rowston at the Kings Cross Theatre in Sydney. It is now playing until May 27.

This engaging, complex play is layered with narrative, ideas, art and relationships.

Integrating visual arts and theatre, where the play follows an art academic that is writing a book about the illicit affair between two artists and is searching for proof of the relationship, is exciting and mysterious.

The enigmas of the narrative intersect between the characters on stage and the imagined story behind the portraits.

Ideas are communicated in the academic and cultural settings of London and Paris, where robust dialogue intrigues and draws the audience into a web of fact and innuendo.

The art of past masters and current art practitioners is juxtaposed in an intelligent, sympathetic and meticulously researched framework.

Ben McIvor and Lucy Miller in Between the Streetlight and the Moon photo (c) Clare Hawley

Ben McIvor and Lucy Miller in Between the Streetlight and the Moon photo Clare Hawley

The relationship between the two dead artists runs parallel to the relationships of the current characters on stage. The relationships are fraught with unanswered questions and illusive assumptions.

Jeremy Allen (Set and Costume Designer) has sympathetically studied the script and created an aesthetically ambient set that begins as a metaphor for a blank canvas. This concept is beautifully aligned to support the themes and structure of the play.

Streetlight & Moon

Two white screens hung on opposite walls. Throughout the play locations, quotes and images were projected onto the screens to clarify meaning, stimulate thought and provide visual clues. Adjacent to one wall rested two light weight easily manoeuvred white minimalist sofas. Stretched canvases leant against the other wall.

A single chair was draped in a white sheet that folded and fell elegantly. The chair was a symbolic link between the past and the present. Its contours were ever evolving. The intimacy of the setting immediately absorbed the audience in the production.

Benjamin Freeman (Piano, Composer & Sound Designer) reinforced this intimacy with piano playing that aptly captured the mood of the play. There is always something magical and refreshing about live music and Freeman’s artistic sensibility enriched the drama’s tone.

Zadie (Lucy Miller) has notionally been writing a book for six years to prove that an illicit affair between Eduoard Manet and Berthe Morisot actually occurred. She ardently believes an original letter will prove her theory. However, securing the letter is an enthralling challenge.

 Joanna Dowling, who plays French doctoral candidate Dominique. Photo: Clare Hawley

Joanna Dowling, who plays French doctoral candidate Dominique. Photo: Clare Hawley

She idealises this love affair and is obsessed with its ostensible perfection. She explores the evidence of this affair through charting the contents that guide her interpretations of eleven intimate, tense and revealing portraits.

Zadie herself is troubled by her own love affair with Jeff a highly successful artist. Lingering and clutching to her past memories leaves her powerless to confront the present and uncertain about her professional and personal future.

Lucy Miller’s performance conveys the range of emotional responses that give insight into Zadie’s tempestuous, sensitive and creative personality. Her interpretive skills accurately trace her character’s evolution and sustain the power of personal awareness and the freedom of comprehension.

Zadie is so anguished and embedded in her past that she effortlessly surrenders to the presence of Jeff’s (Lani Tupu) ghost. They reminisce and try to comfort one another, yet the sad demise of Zadie’s career as an artist is inextricably entrenched in the relationship. Aspects of gender equality and the destructive outcomes of cruel words are examined.

MR 3

Playwright Melita Rowston

The superficial suave and confident performance by Lani Tupi is decisively controlled to allow the audience to catch fleeting glimpses of the torments and self-doubts that bubble beneath the surface.

In her academic role Zadie supervisors Dominique, a French art student (Joanna Downing) but has also developed a deep friendship based on mutual respect and artistic fervour. They are allies in their quest for proof that will support Zadie’s theory.

Joanna Downing brings French chic and charisma to her role often playful and always compellingly articulate, assured and determined.

Janet (Suzanne Pereira) is Zadie’s superior, mentor and long term Australian friend. Much argumentative academic and personal discourse erupts in friction between the two characters.

Suzanne Pereira’s perceptive and eloquent portrayal gives her performance the tenacity and decisiveness that creates a convincing, wry and sharp character.

Barry (Ben McIvor) is in London hopefully to win a prestigious art prize and spend time with his friend Zadie. Although the relationship appears platonic there are subtle hints that Barry wants more. His approach as a working artist often conflicts with the academic perspectives of Zadie and Dominique.

Ben McIvor brings humour, energy, frankness to create an honesty and compassion within the role. He is pivotal in tempering the tension. He gives moments of respite to the intensity of the characters and their ambitions.

The artistic unity of the production has resulted from the distinct vision, research and analysis of the Director Anthony Skuse. The creative collaboration between playwright Melita Rowston and Anthony Skuse has guaranteed the play’s intention is saliently aligned to the production.

MR 2In notes from the playwright Melita Rowston writes.

“Manet’s portraits open us up to life’s infinite mysterious and possibilities. That’s why I’ve called this play Between the Streetlight and the Moon. Because sometimes it’s the spaces in between that are the most exciting.”

Rowston has evoked audience reflection as she plotted the process of creativity, the potency of the imagination and life’s endless searches and often surprising discoveries.

Rose Niland, Special Features, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017

Between the Streetlight and the Moon
May 5-27, Tue-Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm

KXT Kings Cross Theatre
Kings Cross Hotel, Level 2, 244-248 William Street, Potts Point




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