FRAILTY

LA MAMA March 8-12, 2017

Written and directed by Sue Ingleton

Fittingly, the play FRAILTY premiered at La Mama in Carlton on International Women’s Day, Wednesday March 8th. The day where women’s achievements are extolled and female exploitation is lamented.

Using the device of exploring the women in “Hamlet”, legendary playwright/director, Sue Ingleton clearly demonstrates that, in some ways, the plight of many women remains unchanged since 1605 when Shakespeare wrote the play. Although much has changed for the better, we still have domestic violence, incest, sexual abuse, lack of respect, youth suicide and, in many fields, male domination and manipulation – just as Ophelia and Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude experienced way back then.

This topic could have been a heavy – going polemic. But it was absolutely riveting – at times hilarious , outrageous and at other times, gut-wrenching. This was due to the fact that we were watching the creative output of three mature-aged women – writer /director, Sue Ingleton and actors, Bev Geldard and Bridget Haylock. These are women who have lived life fully and honed their respective writing,directing, comedic and acting skills over many years.

For me, it was an absolute delight to watch the actors’ consummate performances . Sue’s amazing writing skills, blending the comedic with the dramatic, take us on a journey where angels may fear to tread. But in the intimacy of La Mama’s small theatre, I could see the audience’s faces. Totally engaged.

Probably didn’t matter if you weren’t conversant with Shakespearean language or the story of Hamlet. Hopefully there was enough discussion around the quotes for the points to be understood.

The play opens with Barb (Bev Geldard uptight, with spiky, short, red hair, frenetically vacuuming in preparation for a guest. She is feisty, somewhat wild-looking, sexually obsessed, Itd have to be good sex to beat chocolate is one of her many wickedly -delivered one-liners on the topic. A gin and tonic devotee. Has probably been knocking around in the same cargo pants and shirt for days. Maybe even slept in them.

Knock on the door. Enter bespectacled Anne (Bridget Haylock). Very prim and proper. She is conservatively dressed in a neat skirt and blouse, stockings and sensible shoes. She speaks in a measured monotone, carries her own gluten free snacks and liquorice tea bags. Sits stone-faced through Barb’s preoccupation with things sexual. No response to the cheeky aside from Barb to the audience: “She probably has gluten free sex.

This unlikely duo have been thrown together because they’ve been attending the same class – studying Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”.  They’ve decided to work on their written assignment together at Barb’s house.

They begin to ponder on the meaning of Hamlet’s speech to his mother,Gertrude. She had married Hamlet’s uncle only a month after her husband ( Hamlet’s father ) had died.

Hamlet tells Gertrude scornfully “Frailty, thy Name is Woman” . Frailty is her weak character. Not only is he putting his mother down, but all of Womankind. These days, we perceive “frail” as a physical condition, often pertaining to elderly people, both women and men. But in Hamlet’s world, women were the frail ones, by nature weak and easily exploited. No consideration of the part played by men in women’s maltreatment nor or of his own culpability in the unscrupulous seduction of Ophelia.

Thus begins an unravelling of the text interwoven with revelations of intimate life stories of Bev and Ann – apparently very disparate women. Although, they initially appear stilted – chalk and cheese – in their relating, there are changes in each of them as they begin to reveal some of their inner secrets to each other.

There’s a lot happening in this play. It’s an intricate construction which has been incubating in Sue Ingleton for 20 years.

 I loved the last line ( I won’t give it away. You’ll just have to go hear for yourself!) It was a powerfully poignant and brilliant touch bringing together all the strands of what had been going on between these two women.

At the end, Sue was so delighted with the two actors’ performances, she presented each with her very own Golden Ingle Oscars!

Last performance at La Mama is on March 12. If you can’t make it by then, I strongly urge you to take a trip to Castlemaine where it’s part of the Castlemaine Festival, March 18-20 . Begins 6.30 pm. Performance lasts about an hour. So it’s not a late night.

Performed by Bev Geldard and Bridget Haylock

A Pricking Thumbs production

Fri-Sat 7:30pm | Sun 4:00pm Approximately 60 minutes La Mama Theatre | 205 Faraday St, Carlton $25 Full | $15 Concession Available via www.lamama.com.au or 9347 6142

CASTLEMAINE March 18-20

West End Hall, View St.

www.trybooking.com/253341

FRAILTY

Review and photos by Magda de la Pesca