BWW REVIEW: Guest Reviewer Kym Vaitiekus Shares His Thoughts On DEADHOUSE SEASON 2 TALES OF SYDNEY MORGUE
Saturday 26th October 2019, 7.30 pm. The Crypt, Under ST JAMES CHURCH, SYDNEY
DEADHOUSE SEASON 2 TALES OF SYDNEY MORGUE, Louisa Collins: A Poison Crown.
This immersive theatre experience tells the tale of the last Australian woman, Louisa Collins, to be sent to the gallows.
We are welcomed into the Crypt by the Guide (Kyla Ward). With a warm demeanour that has a chilling edge, we are told of the stories of yesteryear.
We're invited along the corridor to witness the scene where it's discovered that Louisa's two husbands died of the same infliction.
We move to the courtroom to experience the four trials that Collins has to endure. The first three find a no verdict result, due to a hung juries.
On the fourth trial she is found guilty.
Is it circumstantial evidence or is it due to misogyny.
After her conviction, we witness the ministers of parliament debate her innocence, with protests from the women of the day, claiming injustice.
Louisa, the 'Borgia of Botany', suffers a botched hanging, firstly waiting for the gallows to fall and then is almost decapitated, hanging by her spinal cord.
Kyla ward as the Guide gives a superb performance of combining story telling that's intertwined in performance. Linking the characters to her discourse and merging the audience with the event.
Her demanding, felicitous and engaging demeanour takes us back to the 1880's with aplomb.
Alexandra Smith does a fine job of Louisa's daughter who unwittingly presents evidence against her mother. Smith also plays the Paperboy and street kid and is so convincing I thought they were other actors.
Sandra Campbell is deliciously engaging as the women characters for and against the accused.
Steve Donelan holds court with an authority that transports us to the past halls of justice.
David Attril is steadfast and powerful. Chris Miller, a strong and charismatic Lusk/Carrington. These three actors create the courtroom with authenticity and engagement.
Their performances, along with the immersive set up, take us back and into the history books.
I wondered if the guide ensured only men sat in the juror's seats that this would help recreate the experience of a sexist world for the audience to experience.
Joanna Eve adds colour and light to the variety of characters from a time gone by. Shaun Foley and Liviu Monsted add strong and engaging performances. Young actors to watch out for in future productions.
Jacqui Robson has a tough job in portraying a character with a complex history and characteristics. She does a fine job presenting the sad, troubled yet detached Louisa Collins. It's a shame the script doesn't allow the audience to get to know her character. To allow us some more empathy, which would involve us more in her plight.
Playing someone facing the gallows is a daunting task. Robson is truthful and earnest in her portrayal.
With the immersive set up and close proximity to actors, if we were able to discover the depths of this personal scenario, it would transport this theatre experience to another level.
The script and performance combine to present the facts with telling a heartfelt story.
As a piece that is factual, the story is interesting to hear but only somewhat remarkable.
In that there is the exploration of a society that judges people on their gender roles and there's some exploration into how facts have a subjective perspective.
As a piece that explores the emotional journey of a woman rightly or wrongly accused the text and performances are not complete. To combine facts with a soulful journey in an hour is a tall order, this group does a fine job.
I felt there are many elements in this production that took us back in time, especially the courtroom scene, with some further work and development this piece will hit the mark.
Photography by Phyllis Wong