Circle Mirror Transformation

Circle Mirror Transformation
By Annie Baker. Melbourne Theatre Company. Director: Aidan Fennessy. Set and Costume Design: Marg Horwell. Cast: Deidre Rubenstein, Roger Oakley, Ben Grant, Kate Cole and Brigid Gallacher. Lawler Studio. 17 August – 17 September, 2011.

Appropriately simply staged, in a mirrored workshop space, this natty little play comprises sequential highlights of a series of Drama Workshops that resonate as extraordinarily realistic. The workshops are run by an earnest and well meaning facilitator Marty who is played to perfection by Deidre Rubenstein. Marty is apparently determined that her process will be productive and supportive, regardless of the lack of dynamism or stability engendered by an inadequate number of participants.

This adds an edge for anyone who has attended or facilitated similar workshops, knowing the secret ingredient is enough participants. Then there is always the risk of a meltdown of the barriers between public and private. The whole could easily become very messy by being tipped into psycho-drama or a kind of Art Therapy.

To begin with there is discomfort and awkwardness as well as a sense of urgency. The glue that holds the whole thing together seems to be each individual’s innate sense of responsibility for success and Marty’s implied insistence of generous and nurturing affirmation of one another.

In Annie Barker’s uniquely perceptive form of hyper-realism we are truly able to witness events from the perspective of a number of protagonists. She does display an acute sense of the human condition. Individuals are affected, grow and are changed by interacting with one another. Ultimately, the two most unlikely participants are rewarded by gaining the greatest insight from the intimate and at times difficult process. 

The acting is uniformly excellent as all actors are perfectly cast to play their subtle and sensitively written characters. One gets the feeling that it is so well written that it could almost direct itself. A great choice on Aiden Fennessy’s behalf and very nicely managed.

This is a play for most theatre goers - particularly anyone who has participated in, or run, a series of Drama Workshops and those wanting to keep abreast with developments in contemporary theatre.  

Suzanne Sandow

Images: Top - All Cast (Kate Cole, Brigid Gallacher, Ben Grant, Roger Oakley, Deidre Rubenstein). Lower: L to R (Deidre Rubenstein, Roger Oakley, Kate Cole). Photographer: Paul Dunn.

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