A genuinely moving performance from start to finish, Rita Kalnejais’ Babyteeth is the confronting tale of a family struggling with the illness of their fourteen-year-old daughter. Directed by Chris Drummond, Babyteeth is a powerful play that tackles some of the biggest issues of our time.
Danielle Catanzariti plays Milla, a terminally ill teenage girl who happens to fall in love with the 25-year-old drug user, Moses (Matt Crook). Her father, Henry (Chris Pitman), and mother, Anna (Claire Jones), support her as best they can, while their lives spin out of control. Supporting characters such as the comically inept and rather pregnant Toby (Alyssa Mason) and eccentric music teacher Gidon (Paul Blackwell) are also drawn into Milla’s fight for life.
The casting was spot on. Each character seemed as real and down-to-Earth as any person you would find on the street, and each actor matched his or her role perfectly. Crook played the part of the sleazy but good-hearted boyfriend wonderfully, almost making you forget it was actually an act. Catanzariti also pulled off her role with aplomb, playing a character much younger than herself with apparent ease. To be so convincing is truly a great skill, and something you don’t see too often.
I must also mention the cleverly designed set and lighting. Wendy Todd (designer) and Geoff Cobham (lighting designer), have done a marvellous job at turning the Space Theatre into a living, breathing world. Combining minimal set pieces and intricate moving walls, the space acted as many different locations at once, through which the actors were able to move seamlessly. The lighting plays on the set to become a train, then waves and then leaves rustling in trees. The stage was a serene environment that housed much drama and pain. The action drifts through this space until finally reaching a climax that left the audience completely stunned.
There was some element of eeriness to the play that I found hard to put my finger on – perhaps it was the lighting, or the flat yet strangely emotive acting style of the father, or maybe the idea of a girl falling in love with a man 11 years her senior while disembodied voices call to her. Although the slightly uncanny aspects of the play were confronting, they certainly added to the power of the performance. Babyteeth was also quite funny for such a serious play. The heavy drama was offset with many witty, and sometimes downright comical lines. Kalnejais has struck a good balance here, which is something that will keep Babyteeth popular for some time to come.
Babyteeth is guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye, a shock to your hearts and a laugh to your throat. It is a play that evokes too much to write about here, and something that just has to be experienced.
Reviewed by James Rudd
Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 16 August – 7 September
Duration: 2 hours 20 minutes including interval
Bookings: Book through BASS
Photo Credit: Danielle Catanzariti and Matt Crook in Babyteeth. Photo by Shane Reid.