25/09/2009 at 3:16 pm 4 comments


Griffin Independent, September 2009.

There’s something about Latin-American literature that combines fantasy, poetry and humanity in a way that leaps across the chasm of disbelief – this parable of passion and the sensuality of loneliness is no exception. Jose Rivera’s light-hearted, poetic script is suited to the intimate Stables Theatre, dealing as it does with matters of tenderness and lust, the personal and political intertwining of our everyday choices. Natural and expressionistic, the cast are in tune with the world of the play, they demonstrate the nuances between styles of performance that include mask, song, and dream within a poised narrative framework.

Peter Brook in The Empty Space describes how a first performance of a show marks the moment of release for actors, as the relationship opens from the internal rehearsal space into bloom. Prior to this the communication has been director – script – actor; at the first preview it becomes actor – script – audience and this is where the work is at its most precarious. The actors suddenly bear all responsibility:

“A creative actor will be most ready to discard the hardened shells of his work at the last rehearsal because here, with the first night approaching , a brilliant searchlight is cast on his creation, and he sees its pitiful inadequacy. The creative actor also longs to cling to all he’s found, he too wants at all costs to avoid the trauma of appearing in front of an audience naked and unprepared. But still this is exactly what he must do. He must destroy and abandon his results even if what he picks up seems almost the same… this is the only way that a part, instead of being built, can be born.” (p129, Penguin)

I refer to this passage as it captures the sensation of discovery these characters were undertaking. Brook also talks about how an audience will bring new light to the work– it’s a mercurial shift in tone that cannot be anticipated, and as such the first preview is fraught with an energy and unpredictability that in itself is quite intoxicating. But combined with the musicality and wonder that’s imbued within the script, I can only hope that the actors are willing to take such personal risk every night, to destroy their work and begin again to bring the colour and passion I witnessed as the characters were born anew.

Previews are invariably flawed, things can go awry with staging (like a piece of clothing flung onto a stage-light, oops!) – but you’d hardly notice as the play is so caught between magic and reality. It seemed perfectly normal when the stage manager discreetly removed the offending article mid-scene, the actors never missed a beat, mishap forgotten right away. The cast here are firing at the right tone and tempo to capture imagination and whimsy, provoking thought and fantasy alike. I expect this will only improve as the run continues. It’s quite sensual – I’d recommend this for a first date (or failing that someone you care about deeply), followed by long, lingering conversation in a quiet, softly lit bar.

References to Salvador Dali Make me Hot plays at The Stables until October 17.

Entry filed under: Inside Theatre REVIEWS, Sydney THEATRE. Tags: , , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Yael S.  |  27/09/2009 at 2:15 am

    This review is written brilliantly and so is the production. I attended one of the previews and I think the show is really exciting for Sydney audiences. I hope it tours. I reckon the Malthouse would eat this up and so would Melbourne audiences, especially with the success of the Dali exhibition down there.

    • 2. anvildrops  |  28/09/2009 at 10:25 pm

      Thanks Yael, I’m hoping to get a chance to see it again before the run finishes!

  • […] (or perhaps not) so let me elaborate. In a post last year I wrote in response to a preview for References To Salvador Dali Make Me Hot at the Stables, I quoted a passage from Peter Brook’s The Empty Space; where he talks about […]

  • […] and the courage of letting go. We have referred to this phenomena before in response to another intimate two-hander bearing a mix of magic, mythological and contemporary motifs. It is especially fraught in […]


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