Circle Mirror Transformation
Starring Kate Cole, Bridigid Gallacher, Ben Grant, Rodger Oakley, Deidre Rubenstein
Directed by Aidan Fennessy
Written by Annie Baker
17 August - 17 September 2011, MTC Theatre, Lawler Studio, Southbank
Circle Mirror Transformation marks the Australian premier of one of Annie Baker's newest plays. It is also one of two plays that have been showcased in Melbourne in 2011, along with The Aliens, which was performed at Red Stitch in August. It depicts the naturalistic, hilarious and subtly awkward journey of five people who take part in a community creative drama class in Shirley, Vermont.
The play captures five individuals at a crossroads: high school student Lauren (Gallacher); Schultz (Grant), a forty-year-old divorced carpenter; Theresa (Cole), a thirty-year-old actress looking for a way to find herself; Marty (Rubenstein), the organiser of the workshop; and her husband James (Oakley).
The narrative unfolds through acting exercises and basic conversation. As is bound to happen in these kinds of workshops, we learn all about the five characters, their vulnerabilities, fears, dishonesties and histories. We watch relationships develop and collapse.
Theresa falls into Schultz's arms, then back out, then manages to catch the eye of James, who later confesses that "he might be in love with Theresa" to the workshop group. After the sixth week the workshop comes to an end, and in the last drama activity we watch as each character heads off into their different lives.
I was fortunate to land a week work experience with Melbourne Theatre Company in August 2011. The highlight of the week was observing the third week of rehearsals for Circle Mirror Transformation.
I must say that actors are the most hilarious people you will ever meet, and getting the opportunity to spend the week with five amazing actors and director Aidan Fennessy was a great learning experience. The progress over one week was huge and so I was excited to see the finished product in September 2011.
The fact that I had already seen two productions directed by Aidan (A Commercial Farce [check out Amber's review of A Commercial Farce here - ed.] and Ruby Moon) also added to the expectations I had for the play.
Circle Mirror Transformation was a delightfully awkward production. I saw this because so much was said by the silence and body language of the cast, leaving open many awkward situations. There is not much dialogue throughout the performance, but the acting made up for it with its naturalistic humour.
It could be said it is the simplicity of the play is what makes it so charming, but I believe it is the combination of the fine cast, Annie Baker's twisted yet simple humour, combined with Fennessy's genius for directing.
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