|Photo by Ross Waldron|
INNER VOICES is one of Louis Nowra's early plays (1977). It is a 'speculation' around the determination of the Guards in organising the succession to the Russian throne. In 1764, Ivan, (Ivan VI), a rival to Catherine the Great, has been locked as a child in a prison cell, and is, in this play, propelled to a position of Rule through the ambitions of some greedy power brokers, Mirovich and Leo, who become, ultimately, superseded, Pygmalion-like, by their protege.
This production by DON'T LOOK AWAY, a production company dedicated to the reviving and re-invigorating lost Australian plays, is especially good looking. The Design elements: Set Design, by Anna Gardiner; Costume Design by Martelle Hunt; Lighting Design by Sian James-Holland is first rate. Too, all the performances in this company, are disciplined and thoroughly committed to a mission to give this play for an audience in 2016. There is a sense that Phil Rouse, the Director, has given a real 'burl' to re-invigorate this play.
Damien Strouthros, as Ivan, gives a virtuosic performance of transformation from 'idiot' to tyrant. Anthony Gooley manages a grotesque sketch of political opportunism and physical disability, as the rapacious and fattening Mirovich, with theatrical wit (and costume). The theatrical intelligence and wicked instinct as comic, in a role that is almost mute of the servant, Petya, from Annie Byron is amazingly wonderful. Emily Goddard playing a duo, the women, Princess Ali and Baby Face is fresh and accurate in her explorations, whilst Nicholas Papademetriou, Francesca Savige and Julian Garner play at their tasks with a professional bravura that sweeps the work forward with an energy that hardly allows the audience to wonder, who or what is happening, or the logics of it all.
In truth, the production, the acting and the sleight of hand of the Director is so compelling that one nearly can overlook the under-developed content of the play itself. This is clearly an early work of a new writer for the theatre. The interest, essentially, in this revival of INNER VOICES, is to perceive the seedlings of the principal thematics and character of the works to come: VISIONS (1979), BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1980), THE PRECIOUS WOMAN (1981), even COSI (1992). The work as presented here, has the glimmerings of the grotesque fairy story and the suffering and confusion of the human, the vulnerable (the child), and that need to escape privation: to seek the solace of distance - physical or psychic - a fantasy for the Cheated - all core pre-occupations of Mr Nowra's early work. INNER VOICES, is an apprentice work and can not bear too much scrutiny in its constructs.
Down at the Old Fiztroy Theatre, INNER VOICES, has the glamour of gorgeous wrappings of production and the thrill of a stylish and energetic commitment to acting prowess. It has been, indeed, truly re-invigorated, even if its revival, by DON'T LOOK AWAY, with this full force of professional skill, is, really, an extraordinary extravagance, of time and effort, relative to its novice dramaturgical qualities.
(After watching INNER VOICES, one feels an urge to review the Werner Herzog film: THE ENIGMA OF KASPAR HAUSER (1974) or The Francois Traffaut, L'ENFANT SAUVAGE (1969). And, of course, the ultimate fantasy was the story of Mowgli in THE JUNGLE BOOK, by Rudyard Kipling. For me, these stories touch on some childhood dreamscapes - tapping into some powerful mythic ether. The Alexandre Dumas, THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO and THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK have similar pleasant memory thrills.)