Six Degrees in Melbourne

Six Degrees in Melbourne
Melbourne Writers’ Theatre. Directed and Designed by Mazz Ryan and Adele Shelly. Carlton Courthouse. 13 – 25 November 2018

Melbourne Writers’ Theatre always presents a stimulating and rewarding program.  One doesn’t necessarily attend their shows to watch slick theatre but more pertinently for the satisfaction of exploring, and dwelling, on interesting stories.  Most recently their programs have been comprised of monologues. However this year Six Degrees in Melbourne is made up of six ‘two handers.’  They are set in and around Flinders Lane and each one of them is intriguing.

With one exception this program seems a little under-rehearsed, resulting in some slow and monotonous rhythms.  However the tempo, rhythms and energy will surely pick up a few days into the run, once the actors feel a little better oiled from practice. Generally the direction by Mazz Ryan and Adele Shelly seems to be restrained.  Everything is given pretty equal weight.  Nothing seems significantly highlighted and nothing made light of, or just ‘thrown away’. 

The one exception is the final work, Love is a Dish, by co-director Adele Shelley, which is quite thrilling and quirky.  Sarah Hamilton excels as a talented chef and betrayed lover.  She delivers her lines that are riddled with puns, with wit, energy, precision and the perfect dash of irony.  Kyle Roberts makes an excellent foil for Ms. Hamilton to work with as the ‘not as clever as he thinks he is’ husband.  Just delicious!

Take 2 by Mazz Ryan is a very moving piece exploring aspects of meeting up with someone accidentally and unexpectedly.  This work highlights the fragility of the very delicate situation of choosing to be estranged from a significant other.  Both actors, and most particularly Carolyn Dawes, convey their individual characters’ emotional turmoil convincingly.

Do the Deal by the prolific Bruce Shearer is the most bemusing piece.  Tim Clarke and Rhys Hamlyn do a sterling job of working through a standoff embedded in a strange futuristic transaction. I am not whole-heartedly convinced that the directors were confident of what they were working with here.  What the transaction/deal actually is remained shrouded in a little too much ambiguity for this reviewer.

Robyn Lester and Yvonne Matthews play two delightful old female rogues in Imposture, written by Maree Collie.  It would seem they are living on a dangerous knife-edge due to some heist committed years ago.  We are intrigued by the mystery surrounding their dining in Flinders Lane.  Pending danger and comeuppance threaten these stylish old dames as they let slip something of their less appealing characteristics.

Joe Austin-Crowe’s Kept Bear is also an extremely heart-rending piece and will work even better in performance when both actors Carolyn Dawes and Kyle Roberts more fully inhabit the physicality of their characters. Again, I feel this awkwardness is due to limited rehearsal and the actors not having had enough time, or license, to delve adequately into the inner world of their characters and imagined environment. 

We Need to Talk opens the evening and sets the tone of naturalism. Writer Katie Lee presents a pretty a realistic exchange between a disgruntled pair.  A young man (Rhys Hamlyn) and woman (Sarah Hamilton) are in a relationship that has apparently fallen on the rocks.  They both appear convinced that the other is operating from a position of untenable selfishness. We watch them in an uncomfortable self-conscious process of arguing in a public place.  It is convincingly awkward.  We Need to Talk ends on an almost hysterical note, through an unexpected twist. 

A satisfying evening.

Suzanne Sandow

Photographer: John A. Edwards

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