Saturday, 20 September 2014

Europe at the Reginald

Europe Reginald Theatre Seymour Centre September 2014 This is a gripping , dazzling performance of ‘Europe’ by Michael Gow in the Reginald theatre downstairs at the Seymour Centre. It was first performed in 1987. So much , yet seemingly nothing , has changed and the play is still spellbinding and relevant today. Director James Beach has led this excellent production with a sure hand and he is blessed with a terrific cast and crew.Gow’s script is thought provoking , witty and lyrical . At an arts festival here in Australia, young Douglas (Andrew Henry) sees the captivating European actress Barbara (Pippa Grandison) perform in a piece of avant-garde theatre — the weird kind of thing involving animals , assaulting the audience and nudity. He falls tumultuously head over heels with Barbara – her sophistication, power as an actress, exoticism and the far away culture she represents. Barbara , in turn, falls for his good looks and charm, and for a week they have a blinding red-hot passionate affair. The play opens when love sick Douglas spends everything he has on a trip to Europe to rekindle their relationship several years later . Yet unsurprisingly, when he suddenly arrives unannounced , Barbara is most unenthusiastic. Douglas is persistent - he gets carried away with his own thoughts and await s and follows Barbara’s every move. Tall, gangly Andrew Henry as Douglas , curly haired and bearded is tremendous. He glows with fierce, trembling passion and thinks that his life would be perfect if he wins Barbara back over. He repeatedly says that he would leave, but misses every train. There is a wonderful entrance toward s the end where Douglas enters with vine leaves in his hair - are we meant to pick up on allusions to Hedda Gabbler – presumably a part Barbara has played ? As Barbara , Grandison is stunning .A leading actress we see her offstage in her dressing room getting changed and also in street clothes. She is luminous and enchanting , and plays up the exotic ‘otherness’ of Barbara. She is fiery and sophisticated , hiding behind a hard mask. The lighting is at times most unflattering but she still somehow manages to look ravishing . Her hidden comic talents are revealed when she portrays all the different sorts of ways she has ‘died’ on stage (stabbed, shot, strangled, poisoned etc . and even an operatic death by consumption ) ) Espinoza’s set and costume designs are also most impressive, with glamorous costumes for Barbara both on and off stage ,almost stereotypical ‘ backpacker’ gear for Douglas and a chameleon like set that fluidly and most effectively shift between backstage at a theatre, Barbara’s small apartment , a Catholic church and a typically European cafĂ© all on the tiny cramped Reginald stage . The opening scenes contain taut moments of awkward, observant drama and the final scene is gripping.This play also examines our links with European history half a world away and how we seek to keep our own voice yet are dominated by a fixation with Europe and our insecurities . Recommended. Running time - 65 mins( Approx) no interval Europe by Michael Gow runs at the Reginald Theatre the Seymour Centre 10-27 September Director James Beach Designer Andrea Espinosa Li ghting Benjamin Brockman Barbara Pippa Grandison Douglas Andrew Henry