Review / White’s writing ‘beautifully’ brought to life

theatre / “The Aspirations of Daise Morrow”, directed by Chris Drummond. At The Playhouse, until May 5. Reviewed by JOHN LOMBARD.

James Smith and Lucy Lehman in ‘The Aspirations of Daise Morrow’. Photo by David James McCarthy

“THE Aspirations of Daise Morrow” is the prisoner of writer, Patrick White’s memorable language, unwilling to cast off his poetry to embrace the story and character beneath.

Directed by Chris Drummond “The Aspirations of Daise Morrow”, which a word for word adaption from White’s short story “Down at the Dump”, is beautifully recited and embodied with vivid characterisation bringing to life characters that only existed in imagination.

But rather than the acting and words energising each other, the effect is laboured, instead, the audience sees something, and is told what they’re seeing.

With the production staged in the round and with the actors moving in and around the audience, what was gained in having the performers close was lost in clarity.

Music by Adelaide’s Zephyr Quartet was beautiful but strikingly restrained. It built up slowly and delicately in a way that reflected White’s storytelling, but was only truly powerful when made the focus.

For those unfamiliar with the story, White’s dense language and the many characters required commitment to unpack, especially with the additional barriers from the staging.

However, once the mysteries about Daise Morrow were established, the story took on interest and the vignettes began to reveal their larger purpose.

With excellent acting, beautiful music, and brilliant writing, the elements of a great show are all here, but this is an exquisite recitation rather than a unique work of theatre.

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