Johnny Castellano is MINE

Johnny Castellano is MINE
By Emma Gibson. Presented by the Canberra Youth Theatre and The Street Theatre. Direction: Karla Conway. Performed by Alison Plevey. The Street Theatre (ACT). 3-12 April 2014

I found myself mesmerised by this production, based on the timeless themes of obsession, fantasy and rebellion. Gibson’s latest play concerns the uglier side of adolescent yearning, where childhood gives way to monstrous hormonal self-destructive drives. Throughout, sole performer Alison Plevey performed an intense contemporary dance of sinuous, muscular movements, with perfect control, continuously, in perfect synchronisation with Stephen Fitzgerald’s superb modernist sound design. At the same time, Plevey brought Alice to life with a convincing, varied and compelling delivery of the script. It was a remarkable and energetic performance.

Johnny Castellano is MINE is a magic realist fable with folk roots. The perpetual motion alludes to The Red Shoes, a Hans Christian Anderson tale, in which a girl, Karen, is trapped in red ballet shoes which force her to dance without break until she eventually slices off her feet. Gibson’s text is a tightly scripted prose poem, which benefited from Karla Conway’s direction, who was able to show the light and humour in this tragedy. The last time I saw Gibson’s work was Widow Bird in a production which unfortunately suffered from a heavy-handed director, so it was great to see how the material could shine with appropriate treatment.

Samantha Pickering's design is inspired, with mirrored surfaces reflecting Plevey’s dance and at one point transforming the space into a pool. Excellent use was made of fluorescent tubes hung vertically and horizontally forming loose crucifixes representing the overbearing influence of the church.

This hypnotising and disturbing play was well realised by a talented team. The dark subject matter and genre will not appeal to everyone, but those who enjoy challenging theatre will find this satisfying.

Cathy Bannister

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