Symmetry abounds in Miss Blossom Callahann. Until near the end, plenty of the sparring is one-on-one, characters facing each other from across the room. They often do this while seated in two chairs placed on opposite sides of the space, turned inwards. Another line of symmetry is the fourth wall, where the cast spend an inordinate amount of time staring out while the audience stares back in.
“Inordinate” isn’t quite the right word here, because it implies the time the characters spend considering the outside world is excessive, when it’s really a nice touch by Writer/Director Stephen House. It helps to reinforce the idea that while Blossom’s room has a door that unlocks and opens, the characters are trapped.
Another way House defines their quagmire is through the use of sound. When Blossom speaks of better days to Max, we hear music and the sound of crowds and applause. Yet, even though the horrendous weather in the present moment is repeatedly mentioned, no sound effect of rain or a storm is played. It gives Blossom’s apartment an unsettling silence, a weight that carries through until her final cries. It’s both a refuge as well as a prison.
After a splendid beginning, some of the later moments didn’t work as effectively. We never really see Max’s transition from humouring Blossom to being increasingly irritated with her, so by the time he starts yelling at her it doesn’t feel organic. Also, despite the landlord’s threats, when she lets herself into Blossom’s apartment, the first thing she does is gaze out the window before engaging in a stilted argument with Blossom and any tension that was built up has disappeared.
Rosemary Johns gave a delightful turn as Miss Blossom Callahann. Hers is a pitiful character caught somewhere between Blanche DuBois and Norma Desmond, and Johns did well in navigating Blossom from pleasant to fantasy to anger and back again.
Marc Opitz did lovely work playing Max, particularly in early scenes. Max is a brute, but one that uses charm as much as his fists and Marc succeeded in making Max more than just a mere thug.
Ruth Katerelos was suitably cantankerous in the role of the landlord, Geraldine, while Will Ewing turned the dishevel up to 11 for his performance as Junk. Admittedly a moment of violence between Junk and Blossom lacked physical commitment, however, he took the character’s unstable mix of humour and addiction and told a coherent story.
Kudos are also deserved for how House chose not to double down on the despair with the ending, nor go for a happy one either. Instead, it’s a surprising return in some ways to how Blossom was at the beginning. She may wake up in the morning by herself, maybe not. Regardless, she will wake up in the same life as the day before. She’s caught in a cycle with no idea of how to get herself out of it.
Miss Blossom Callahann
La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton
Performance: Thursday 4 May 2017 – 6.30pm
Season continues to 14 May 2017
Information and Bookings: www.lamama.com.au
Image: Rosemary Johns stars in Miss Blossom Callahann – photo by Annabel Warmington
Review: David Collins