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BWW Review: EXTREMITIES at Space Theatre

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Wednesday 23rd November 2016

Mystique Productions & Tony Knight Acting are presenting William Mastrosimone's Golden Globe nominated powerful early play, Extremities, to coincide with White Ribbon Day, 25th November, and part of the proceeds will go to White Ribbon Australia. Tony Knight was the head of the National Institute of Dramatic Arts Acting Programme for two decades and now teaches in Adelaide, as well as bringing all of that knowledge and experience to directing for this new company. Sydney's loss is most definitely Adelaide's gain.

Mastrosimone's play is hard hitting, swiftly moving from a physical attack to a psychological battle of wits when the tables are turned. Through his male eyes he presents four different views on rape. Marjorie is at home alone while her two housemates are at work, quietly working with her houseplants, when a stranger, who we eventually discover is named Raul, suddenly appears in the doorway. He claims to be looking for a man who owes him money and whom he had dropped off at the house on a previous occasion. Marjorie explains that there is nobody of that name living there, but he shows no sign of leaving and she becomes uneasy. Things quickly worsen until he rips out the telephone cable and makes it clear that he is there to rape her and, when they return, the other two women. Fortunately, she eventually manages to reach a spray can and sprays him full in the face, incapacitating him.

She binds his arms to his side with his own belt, which he had just forced her to remove, ties his hands, and uses a dog collar and lead to restrain him, seating him in the large open fireplace in the centre of the room. The perpetrator now becomes the victim. Raul actually makes things worse for himself by pointing out that there is no proof of his intentions, as the rape did not occur and there is not a mark on Marjorie to show that any attempt had been made, so calling the police would go against her as he is the one injured. Having pointed out that he will go free and she could end up in prison, he thinks he is in control. He does not expect her to decide that, to avoid that possibility, and the inevitability of him revisiting at a later date to complete his attacks, she must permanently dispose of him. Her escape turns rapidly to revenge, and madness.

First to return home is Terry, who is alarmed by what she finds and wants nothing to do with it. Marjorie is determined to go ahead with her plans in spite of this lack of support or help and takes a spade out to the garden to dig a grave. Raul begins his routine of protesting his innocence whenever she is absent, sowing seeds of doubt that Marjorie's madness seems to confirm. Patricia arrives last and becomes the voice of reason, trying to save Marjorie from herself by referring to the law and wanting to call the police. Like Terry, she is subjected to Raul's protestations of innocence. He has been stalking them for some time and knows a lot about them, beyond their names and routines, so he is able to cause conflict, turning them against one another. In particular, he tells Terry that Marjorie is having an affair with her boyfriend. When the other two are out of hearing, though, he taunts Marjorie, and she responds violently, leading the other two to question more and more who is telling the truth.

Rachael Wegener plays, a role requiring her to run the gamut of emotional states during the course of a little under ninety minutes. Wegener gives an astonishing performance, with a high level of physicality running alongside, and reinforcing the text. Wegener takes us on what seems to be a logical progression after Marjorie subdues and restrains Raul. Marjorie first intends to find a way to contact the police and have him arrested but, accepting that she has no evidence, and could end up in trouble herself, decides that she must find another solution. Logically, and terrifyingly, that solution means killing him and hiding the body. The perpetrator of considerable physical and a degree of mental violence becomes Marjorie, herself. Wegener brings out Marjorie's rapid descent into madness and hideous revenge with scary verisimilitude.

Raul is played with a superbly unbalanced edge by Adam Tuominen, who begins by displaying that the character's needs are Marjorie not merely physical. Raul wants to dominate, and insists that Marjorie role play for him. She has to convince him that she loves him and wants what is to come, adding humiliation to her situation. Tuominen has Raul switching rapidly between anger and violent tendencies, to smiles, as Marjorie switches between displaying fear and loathing, and pretended pleasure. It is often said that rape is more about power and control then sex. Tuominen develops the character further as the play proceeds, with Raul becoming manipulative and playing his mind games, Tuominen expertly bringing out the subtle layers of Raul. Tuominen also injects the moments of very black humour into the play as he pits the three women against each other.

Terry is played by Nikki Elli Souvertjis, who gives Terry a cautious and tentative approach as she tries to avoid any involvement with Marjorie and her plans for Raul, for very personal reasons. Terry's reticence and quietness is explained in a very moving monologue in which Souvertjis emotionally explains Terry's own rape as a young girl by an uncle, and her decision to say nothing about it.

Stefanie Rossi plays Patricia, who takes a cool and reasoned approach to the events. Rossi shows us a sensible and sympathetic side to the character, nicely balancing the desire to stop her housemate from making things worse for herself, and feeling sorry for Raul who has been blinded and disfigured by the spray, insisting that medicine be bought.

Knight has created a strongly delivered narrative that made member of the audience uneasy, asking serious questions about many aspects of rape and revenge. It asks the audience to consider how far they would go to protect themselves and whether they would exact revenge if the opportunity presented itself. Discussions were continuing even after the post-performance session with the cast and director. With only a few more chances to see this marvellous production, which closes on Saturday, you must be quick to book tickets.

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