No Exit and Jewels on Black Velvet • Glam Adelaide

No Exit and Jewels on Black Velvet

Fran Edwards has done a fine job with these two productions and you can see them at Holden Street Theatres until 18th June, so be quick.


Presented by Burnside Players
Reviewed Thursday 9th June 2011

Venue: Holden Street Theatres, 34 Holden Street, Hindmarsh
Season: 8pm nightly to Sat 11th and Wed 15th to Sat 18th June
Duration: 2hrs 30min incl interval
Tickets: adult $20/conc $18/Fringe Benefits and groups 10+ $16
Bookings: Venuetix 8225 8888 or or [email protected] or call 0413 211 722 (between 6-9pm)

Both one act plays on this double bill have been directed by Fran Edwards. The first, she directed almost two decades ago and wanted to revisit, the other, she had studied at university and has always wanted to direct. She has achieved two ambitions in one go, and had a break from her usual bill of fare, directing musicals.

Jewels on Black Velvet is supposedly written by an unnamed playwright (it is actually written by Fred J. Willett) and this premise allows The Woman to step in and out of character to explain that she is, in fact, the author’s mouthpiece, telling that this is a dramatisation of a real event and, hence, the author remains anonymous because of what is to be revealed, that he is guilty of a major crime. The title is a description of the view of Adelaide at night from high in the hills, where the action takes place at a party. This first section immediately reminded me of The Event, a one actor play performed by David Calvitto as a Fringe production as part of Guy Masterson’s Centre for International Theatre. The audience is manipulated in a similar way here. We are never quite sure what is real or what is fantasy.

From this intriguing beginning The Man enters and announces that he knows that she is a writer and that he is going to relate a story to her that he wants her to write and will not let her escape his narrative. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, in which a wedding guest is held by an old sailor and forced to hear his story, is referenced several time during the piece. She soon slips away, leaving him to tell us the story that he told her. Married, with children, he tells of his seemingly chance meeting with The Girl and his brief dalliance with her. He goes on to tell how that encounter has far greater consequences that he could possibly have imagined and the guilt that he feels.

The Woman returns and completes the action, and the story, coming full circle to the realisation of her opening statement about the crime he has committed. Along the way a range of concepts are brought up and questions posed for the audience to consider, from fidelity to terrorism.

The Woman is played by Shelley Hampton, deftly slipping between her character and the author and injecting wry humour as she leads us along, making us wonder how much of she is saying is truth.

As The Man, Paul Zechner gives a solid and convincing characterisation, but too often stumbles over his dialogue. Hopefully that will have improved by the time that you see it.

Catlin Mackintosh plays The Girl, negotiating well the tricky role where, in two short scenes, she must at first appear sweetly seductive, lacking in guile and then, moments later, be cold and calculating, indifferent to The Man’s feelings and his guilt.

The title of John-Paul Sartre’s 1944 play Huis Clos is literally translated as ‘door closed’, huis being an old French word for door. It is a legal term effectively meaning behind closed doors, hence the title No Exit or, moving to Latin, we get the alternative title, In Camera, that is closer in meaning to the French title. The play reflects his existentialist philosophy and contains his best known line: “l’enfer, c’est les autre” or “Hell, is other people”.

In the original script le garçon d’étage, which translates literally as ‘the boy of floor’, what the Americans call a bellhop or we might call room service, firstly shows Joseph Garcin, a little later, Inèz (or Inès) Serrano, and, finally, Estelle Rigault, into a locked room. In the English translation he somehow became The Valet, which is not quite the same thing, but makes little difference.

In this production two of the names have been changed, becoming Vincent Cradeau and Estelle Delaunay, with only Inèz Serrano remaining unchanged. The Barbedienne bronze on the mantle-piece has become a stone Buddha and there are numerous minor differences in the script from the translation with which I am familiar, having directed a production for the 2010 Fringe.

It was interesting to compare the two scripts, so similar for the most part and the minor variations not affecting the overall effect, but highlighting slightly different aspects in different ways. Instead of ending in silence at their ultimate realisation, Estelle speaks as the lights fade, bringing us back to an earlier point, indicating that the cycle is beginning again.

Tim Benveniste looks the part as the weary Valet, answering the same questions time and again as new arrivals find their expectations do not match the surroundings in which they find themselves.

As Vincent Cradeau, Aaron MacDonald offers a thoughtful performance as a man who wants to be left alone to his thoughts and, even now, is still lying to the other two and to himself about his sins. He tells them part of his story, but holds some back, until exposed by Inèz.

The working class lesbian, with a chip on her shoulder, Inèz Serrano, is played by Kristin Telfer in a strongly no nonsense characterisation, attempting to impose her will and control the other two.

Jennifer Piper plays the self-centred and shallow socialite, Estelle Delaunay, initially insisting that she had done nothing that deserved being sent to Hell and that there must have been a mistake, eventually breaking down and admitting the terrible truth. Piper cleverly balances the changes in Estelle with the changing attitudes towards her of the other two.

In the end, we have three performances that, together, add up to three unpleasant people that we can believe will torture one another for wternity.

Fran Edwards has done a fine job with these two productions and you can see them at Holden Street Theatres until 18th June, so be quick.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

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