A FORMIDABLE line-up of performers and other creative artists signals the premiere season of the new theatre venue, ACT Hub, in Kingston.
A recent production of “The Boys” was performed there, but that was a fill-in as director Amy Kowalczuk brought her production in for a very short season. And because of covid, the original opening show, Andrew Bovell’s “When The Rain Stops Falling” was cancelled.
But now it’s the real deal, as one of the four participating companies in ACT Hub, Chaika (Seagull) Theatre takes the stage with “Three Tall Women” by Edward Albee.
Directed by Sophie Benassi, who’s been making theatrical waves around town since she returned from doing her masters at NIDA, it features the talents of Lainie Hart, Karen Vickery and Natasha Vickery, three of the strongest actors in the ACT.
Albee, best known for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”, has always been a playwright who teetered on the age of the Theatre of the Absurd. “Three Tall Women” won him the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, his third such.
Karen Vickery and director Benassi tell me in a three-way phone conversation that the play looks naturalistic at first, but by act two it’s a different matter.
In the opening act, Vickery is seen as a rich widow, quite obviously a version of Albee’s own mother, who had adopted him. Albee once admitted the play “was a kind of exorcism. And I didn’t end up any more fond of the woman after I finished it than when I started.”
Living in posh splendour in a state close to New York, she is tended to by her carer and her lawyer.
But by act two, as Vickery tells me, the three tall women, who are never named, have morphed into facets of the one dominant woman.
The play has only once been produced in Canberra, by Papermoon Productions under the direction of Cate Clelland, but has gained a little extra clout in its frank portrayal of ageing that, as the company says, covers “about everything from incontinence to infidelity”.
The characters, A, a 92-year-old autocratic woman, B a 52-year-old hired carer and C, a 26-year-old lawyer representing A’s law firm, are performed respectively by Karen Vickery, Lainie Hart, a former winner of the Helen Tsongas award for acting, and Natasha Vickery. Blue Hyslop appears in a non-speaking role as A’s disaffected son, obviously Albee.
Benassi tells me she’s has decided to sit the play with the audience seated on one side and the actors on the other, using the old community hall stage as an inner room, but she believe it will still be an intimate experience.
The setting looks back to the Anglophile background in which Albee was raised until he fled the coop as a teenager – think acreage, horses, and a certain kind of furniture.
Karen Vickery plans to make a meal of the portrayal of A, witty, condescending, but often playful and joyous as she looks back on her life and asking the big questions,
But it’s the second half of the play as Benassi and Vickery say, that is likely to get the audience thinking hard, for A has had a stroke and is now represented by a mannequin upstage in bed, leaving B, and C to appear as versions of A at ages 26 and 52.
Among the most poignant moments are when the son comes in to sit at A’s bed, says nothing and leaves.
The play ends with A, B, and C debating about the happiest moment in their life, but whether that means it’s a happy ending, well you’ll just have to be there to see what happens, as they says in showbiz.
Edward Albee’s “Three Tall Women”, ACT Hub, 14 Spinifex Street, Kingston, May 11-21, book here
Who can be trusted?
In a world of spin and confusion, there’s never been a more important time to support independent journalism in Canberra.
If you trust our work online and want to enforce the power of independent voices, I invite you to make a small contribution.
Every dollar of support is invested back into our journalism to help keep citynews.com.au strong and free.
Ian Meikle, editor