Another Night in the Theatre … but O, what a night!

19 March, 2008 by No Comments

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Those of us who spend our lives working in theatre are used to the disappointments that come all too often it can seem. One production somewhere is OK, or doesn’t work … quite, despite the best efforts of all concerned; we forgive and perhaps forget. Another somewhere else can be plain awful … and at times like that you sit in the darkened theatre thinking murderous thoughts about ticket prices and wasted time, and whether leaving at interval is the right move. Every so often though a pearl of a production comes along … a joy of an experience that makes the ho-hum, the ordinary, the disappointments fade away. Hell, they can’t all be fabulous after all, you say … and yes, this is why one works in and for the theatre.

I Am My Own Wife by Doug Wright has won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony and a swag of other awards, and it was for me quite simply, an enormously satisfying experience in the theatre. Last night I saw the current production at Queensland Theatre Company directed by Michael Gow and with Jean-Marc Russ in many roles, but principally that of the extraordinary Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf, a transvestite, survivor of Nazi Germany and the Communist regime, and eventually national treasure. There is nothing quite like this dame, believe me!

Of course the script is utterly deserving of its Pulitzer Prize for Drama status, but it’s the sort of text that screams to be brought to life in performance; read it without this in mind, and you could be disappointed. Russ’ performance is a natural tour de force and he effortlessly … and I use the word advisedly … glides through the almost 2 hours of performance without missing a beat, transforming from one to another to another of 40 characters … wearing a dress, charming us, beguiling us, and finally endearing us utterly as Charlotte. The audience rose in applause at the end … even the 15 year old girls sitting behind me who had had a modicum of difficulty with the whole man-in-a-dress thing for the first half. By play’s end, they were quiet as mice, riveted and loving it.

It’s a thrill to see an actor in a break-through role; this is Jean-Marc Russ’ as was the night.

If you’d like to hear the Playbriefing featuring Mr Russ and Michael Gow on the production, you can listen to the streaming audio on the Queensland Theatre Company website. Enjoy. If you’re anywhere around Brisbane right now, go and see it.

Image: Thanks Christiane Michaud