Children of the Sun
It started so well. The clever revolving set moving at a pace and the rousing, sophisticated music seemed to promise a drama that might be best viewed from the edge of your seat. The fast pace continued. Characters and complications were introduced at speed and because we live in a 30 second sound bite world, we got what Maxim Gorky wanted us to know just as quickly as the message was delivered.
And then something happened, or rather didn’t.
About half way through the first act it became clear that nothing that mattered was going to happen. The pitch remained the same, the two dimensional characters simply sharpened the edges of their two dimensional form. The brilliant but mad characters, brother and sister, Protasov and Liza (Toby Truslove and Jacqueline McKenzie) got madder. The sentimental lover – Boris (Chris Ryan)– got positively soppy. The poncy artist Vageen (Hamish Michael) and the desperate Melaniya (Helen Thompson) became poncier and more desperate. The central figure of hope Yelena (Justine Clarke) a human doormat caught in a strange relationship; momentarily toughened up and opened the door to a ruckus outside that was bewildering to most of the characters.
Perhaps it is possible to find contemporary relevancies, or timelessness to the work, such as uprising against complacency, or the have-nots having had enough of the haves. Arguments can be made in defense of the play’s airing. Are they compelling arguments?
At the end of the play, one of the country’s finest exponents of the theatrical/drama business who was not involved with this production, leaned in and quietly said – “it’s a melodrama.”
Mmmmaybe there is a place in a company’s repertoire to throw in an old, irrelevant, classic melodrama. But maybe there is not. Hot on the heels of a production of Macbeth, that got the town talking, comes Children of the Sun, a production with so much – superb cast, top director, brilliant set and wonderful music –yet the work itself demands and elicits precisely nothing from its audience. It’s not fairy floss, rather chop and three veg. Great practitioners need great material. Audiences go to see drama, to be absorbed and have their thinking challenged; cats have to get amongst the pigeons.
No doubt Gorky succeeded in unsettling his audience a century ago – the pigeons of 2014 need stronger, perhaps more ferocious cats to set their audiences aflutter.
My travel mate reckons house painting would be a dull job in Bologna. The buildings are all painted in the same muted shades of peach, apricot, banana and a paté brown.
From the roof top bar of Hotel Touring we see millions of rounded, faded terracotta tiles on the rooves of the houses that interpret the undulations of the land and are interrupted every so often by grand churches, important civic buildings and pencil pines. Spectacular is an overused word and does not explain the sensory delight of the palette of Bologna.
We have to leave but I MUST visit the Morandi permanent exhibition at the new MAMbo museum. It is Tuesday and yesterday on our first attempt to see the show we were advised that the MAMbo is not open on Mondays. Our train to Florence departs at 11.50 so we are at the museum door by 9.30 for the apparent 10am opening. The guy at the desk says without apology “we are not open till noon.” My back is UP! I start to moan and whinge – we are from Australia, we must catch the train, we will never again return to Bologna and never see Morandi’s work. A school group is being shown through – I beg to join them? No you can not be unaccompanied.
Suddenly from nowhere there is a breakthrough Senior No’s co worker approaches and feels my pain. She is sorry the guide books gave the indication that the gallery opens at 10 – it used to – but the state of the Italian economy has reduced the opening hours. Oh! I wail and repeat that I will probably never return to Bologna. (Pretty sure my travel mate thinks I’m overdoing it.) My protestations have found a friendly ear and a kind soul. “I will take you through,” she says and while I don’t cry, I would like to kiss her!
Morandi’s work was groundbreaking. There is a freshness in the paint work that makes one think it could have been painted this very morning. His simple compositions of bowls, bottles and vases have an ethereal quality, they are spare, sensual and evoke a great sense of calm.
Morandi (1890-1964) lived and died in Bologna and did not venture far from his city. Known primarily for his still lifes, his work inspired artists and writers in his time and ever since.
Later on the train it strikes me his palette was that of his city – muted tones of peach, apricot, banana, muddy paté brown and faded terracotta.
That’s odd, I think as I wipe sand off the dining table that doubles as a desk for one of my HSC children.
We are now five days off the first HSC exam and I feel the need to reply to the terrific piece in Monday’s SMH written by Lily – the ATAR “is just a number” – Peshardt who on reflection (she is now at Uni) sagely advises that the HSC “exams that were once the epicenter of my universe are condensed to nothing more than a sentence in my resume.”