When I was young and taken to the local Presbyterian Church, there would be a fair held every year, which included a colouring competition for the kids. The submissions would be pinned up to look at, and there were the messy ones from those who didn’t know better, and a lot of very tidy ones. Then, there were the few where you got a feeling they could have coloured inside the lines, but chose not to. The shape was there underneath and they were going to make it raw and wonderful.
The setting for Blessed is certainly more rough than raw. Raw connotes a lack of craft in the writing, that there is an absence of labour. That is not the case here. Fleur Kilpatrick has written a strong, unsettling text that turns the set not into a diorama, but a foundry.
Anyway, a diorama is a crafted object, a setting in miniature carefully built. In the tower theatre of the Malthouse, it looks like it was assembled by way of Set Designer Luc Favre’s amygdala, a section of unit torn away from the rest of the halfway house the characters take refuge in.
The unit belongs to Grey, an addict, who is surprised by the presence of Maggie. He doesn’t want her near him, regrets he ever saw her, but ultimately knows there’s a reason he did. And then he shows her what it is.
Both actors were delightfully horrid in their portrayals. What was great about their performances (as well as another quality of the script) is that despite the ugliness on display, they were always compelling. You wanted to listen to them.
Olivia Monticciolo was outstanding as Maggie, finding moments of beauty amongst the brutality. Her polemic about the state of the city’s less fortunates and how they are made invisible, pushed out of sight rather than helped, was incredible.
Matt Hickey was splendid playing Grey. His posture and physicality spoke to the story before this story, of being brought low and tainted through contact with the world. For all of Grey’s shouting and frustrations, there were lovely moments of stillness.
To be sure, there are many moments where the text almost becomes percussive in its volume and intent. It’s a relief then to have those other moments of stillness and silence. Director, Danny Delahunty, has done some very fine work with his cast in building a play that is purposely not gentle or tidy. It colours outside the lines and is all the more brilliant for it.
Writer: Fleur Kilpatrick Director / Producer: Danny Delahunty Performers: Olivia Monticciolo, Matt Hickey Set and Properties Design: Luc Favre Lighting Design: Rob Sowinski Sound Design and Composition: Tom Pitts
The Tower – The Coopers Malthouse, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Performance: Wednesday 9 November 2016 – 8.00pm
Season continues to 20 November 2016
For more information, visit: www.poppyseedfestival.com for details.
Image: Matt Hickey and Olivia Monticciolo in Attic Erratic’s production of Blessed – photo by Sarah Walker
Review: David Collins