Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Thursday, 8 June 2017
Undercoat: A Parafoxical Tale, June 7, 2017 ***
Written by Cynthia Troup Presented
La Mama At
La Mama Theatre, until June 18, 2017 Reviewer:
Kate Herbert Stars:
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Thurs June 8, 2017 & later in print. KH
L to R-Maude Davey, Caroline Lee
There is something peculiar, unsettling and oddly engaging about Undercoat: A Parafoxical Tale by local
writer, Cynthia Troup.
Although the title of this play is inspired by Nicolai Gogol’s story, The
Overcoat, the content is more directly influenced by Portugese writer Teolinda
Gesão’sstory, The Red Fox Fur
Coat, in which a humble bank clerk buys a fur coat and gradually transforms
into a fox.
Troup structures her poetic script as seven scenes, all of which are
about foxes, their history, attitudes to humans, human responses to foxes and
miscellaneous snippets and facts about things foxy.
The performance begins
outdoors in the cold, dark back lane behind La Mama with the audience standing surrounded
by rubbish bins and the faintly rotting aroma of old restaurant food – a
perfect environment for the urban fox.
Out in the chill air, a
sassy, foxy character AKA Ruber tha ruder Chicken Fox (Emma Annand) introduces the show with a rhythmic, poetic,
rhyming rap prologue about ‘anthropogenic climate change’ that humans are
causing on this planet.
In the relative warmth of
the intimate La Mama interior, a woman (Caroline Lee) is trapped inside jumbled
car parts as though she has had a car accident. She is like road kill as she
peers out her damaged car window at the inquisitive foxes and, as she struggles
to get free, she perversely recalls a fox caught in a trap.
There is no linear
narrative but we are aware, as Lee struggles in her trap, that we are heading
toward either her release, her death, her being eaten by foxes or her
metamorphosis into a foxy creature of the night.
The direction by Bagryana
Popov with Alice Darling is playfully physical, but the greatest strengths of this one-hour production are the performances of Maude
Davey and Lee, two stalwarts of Melbourne independent theatre.
of the two has an individual, idiosyncratic style, exceptional interpretative
skills and versatile and lyrical vocal quality.
Davey is wry, cool, elegant and slightly sinister as Fox Vobiscum, prowling
the stage or silently slipping unnoticed into dim corners, and her magnetic presence
draws the eye whenever she is on stage.
Lee is a wild, ensnared human who shrieks and writhes in her anguish,
pain and despair and her intense delivery of the monologue, The Obligatory
Dream, is filled with potent imagery.
Annand is a light-footed,
cheeky fox while Jean Goodwin is watchful and sturdy as the third fox, Ranger,
and both capture the spirit of foxiness, but neither has the charismatic
quality of Davey’s fox.
Emily Collett’s inventive
costumes hint at reddish, animal fur and her evocative design uses draped, tree-like
tubes of sheer fabric lit from within (Lighting, Georgia Rann) and surrounded
by scattered, leaf-like detritus.
Undercoat is a quirky
investigation of the fox in our urban world and its final, mischievous rap
routine with four foxes leaves the audience smiling.