Griffin Theatre Company, Hothouse Theatre and Merrigong Theatre Company, Stables Theatre, May 8
In her new play The Bull, the Moon and the Coronet of Stars, Australian playwright Van Badham takes a contemporary love story and gives it a mythic dimension by entwining it with the Greek legend of Ariadne and Theseus.
It’s worth knowing the basics of Ariadne’s tale. (Briefly, she helps Theseus defeat the Minotaur, they elope, he deserts her and she marries the god Dionysus.)
Here, Marion (Silvia Colloca) is an artist-in-residence at a museum where she falls for the married publications officer Michael (Matt Zeremes). After a night of passion in the museum he dumps her. Heartbroken, she flees and, while teaching art classes to a group of raunchy septuagenarians, meets Mark (also Zeremes), a sommelier with an eye for the ladies.
On one level it’s a small, intimate play: a two-hander running 80 minutes. But Badham’s lush, poetic language and mythical references tap into the epic, overwhelming emotions we feel when in the grip of love or heartbreak.
Simply staged on Anna Tregloan’s set, which uses rectangular wooden frames in various formations for different scenes, the focus is very much on the words.
The text slips between third person narration, interior thoughts and dreams, and dialogue, which occasionally overlaps. Written with an innate musicality, it needs to be precisely performed – as it is by Colloca and Zeremes, who give lovely performances under Lee Lewis’s direction.
It’s a passionate play but for some reason it doesn’t really connect emotionally. It’s perhaps the size of the venue. As the two actors tune into the mythical aspect their performances sometimes seem too large for the tiny venue so rather than being drawn into their emotional world, it feels like the play is coming at us.
Also, because there’s more dramatised narrative than dialogue, we are told rather than shown things so that at times it feels almost like a short story rather than a fully-fledged drama and the characters don’t emerge in quite the emotional depth that they might.
But it’s still an ambitious, potent piece of writing that is sexy and funny with a beautiful, romantic ending.
Stables Theatre until June 8, Hothouse Theatre, Albury-Wodonga, June 13 – 22.
An edited version of this review appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on May 12