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Diva, Deconstructed

✮✮✮✮ 1/2

Benedict Andrews' Gloria

Griffin Theatre Company | Sydney

directed by Lee Lewis

Gloria is a mother and a wife, but to everyone around her and to herself, she is first and foremost, a star of the stage. Having spent her life playing many legendary tragic heroines, Gloria knows more about the fictional women of Western theatre than she does the actor who portrays them. Benedict Andrews' script is stylised and abstract, an imaginative creation that parallels Gloria’s struggle for coherence. The leading lady’s existence is one of disorientation and tumult, and Andrews' writing relishes in that chaos for a work striking in its originality and remarkable boldness.

Equally audacious is director (and Griffin Theatre Company's own Artistic Director) Lee Lewis’ resolve to reach the truth in the enigmatic world of Gloria, where obfuscation and secrets are given their due, while a foundation of instinctive authenticity is established with absolute imperviousness. Every artistic and mysterious flourish, no matter how flamboyant (including Steve Toulmin’s extraordinary music), is anchored in startling emotional precision and intensity, conveyed through a captivating combination of deep understanding and steely determination.

The actors provide an unforgettable experience. They are visceral and immediate, persistently surprising and colourful, with a baroque sensibility that elevates the theatrical form to a rare level of infectious excitement. Marta Dusseldorp is devastating as Gloria. In a state of constant distress and confusion, Dusseldorp’s embodiment of Gloria is tenacious, powerful and very, very dark.

The play is intentionally coy about Gloria’s problems, therefore even though emotions are almost always at a fever pitch, its moments of melodrama are few. The audience is then free to find an interpretation of her narrative, so we rely on our own faculties to impose upon Gloria, a reading of her story that will only ever be partially accurate. The actor wishes to step onto the stage with nothing of herself, and everything of the person she represents. An emptiness resides in her, and because the soul is constantly morphing for another, it forgets itself.

photo | ©Brett Boardman

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