a poet, not a political

07/05/2017 at 10:47 am 2 comments

This is one of those plays that will reach out and grab you by the throat with it’s poetry, dominating all who come near it. You must submit, do not attempt to tame this creature, it’s a seething, heaving, snarling poetic leviathan with a diamond soul.


Julia Christensen as the mercurial Sally Banner.  image Bob Seary

The play is unique in the Australian landscape.  Contradictory, irreverent and with just a hint of lewd – it is rarely performed and as such audiences should not take chances to see it lightly. The New Theatre production is solid, the cast committed, and the play does the rest.  Much will be said around contemporary parallels with modern feminism, repression, war, socialism and cultural cringe.  I could rabbit on about the quality of performances, the primal simplicity of the set, the musical direction and chorus work. It’s all there for the picking and better writers than me (if they attend) will cover that comprehensively to be sure. Better still, go and see the thing, figure it out for yourself.


‘friggin in the riggin’ image Bob Seary

Instead I want to ask a question.  It’s a question I’ve asked before: some years back at a playwriting event in Rozelle.  It was the end of the day and a few working industry types were up on a panel discussing their favourite plays. One of those writers was Kate Mulvaney, who championed The Chapel Perilous with characteristic verve, as an important, powerful work (etc), a play she wished was done more often and, in a wink to the two gentlemen on the panel (who at the time held positions of influence in Sydney theatres, let’s call them EF and SS) suggested she hoped a major company would put it on soon.

Later the audience were invited to ask their questions.  My hand shot up:  “Why don’t people do Chapel?  Is it too hard?

My question was directed to Ms Mulvaney, but I was looking at the men on her left and right, whose faces sort of dropped like ice-cream cones on a summer’s day.  Of course they had read it, of course they had considered directing it, it would be impossible for them to reach their positions without knowing the work. The play lures all comers. But if you’re not worthy it will spit you out. Ms Mulvaney, in a cheeky stage whisper prompted the idea “because [Sally Banner] might be a lesbian” …  one wonders if there are enough pearls in the standard STC audience for clutching, and should we break out the emergency rations.

I can’t say for sure why Chapel hasn’t been done at any of our major theatres for the past twenty years (or more?).  You’d have to ask the men in charge.

Fortunately state-sponsored corporate theatre is not the only game in town though, and we have the jewel on show for a few weeks at least.  Get to it.

THE CHAPEL PERILOUS by Dorothy Hewett, directed by Carissa Licciardello, featuring Courtney Bell, Alison Chambers, Julia Christensen, Meg Clarke, Jasper Garner-Gore, Brett Heath, Madelaine Osborn, Tom Matthews and James Wright, presented by the New Theatre April 25 – May 27th, 2017.  

Entry filed under: Sydney THEATRE.


2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tracy Sorensen (@Squawkingalah)  |  07/05/2017 at 11:00 am

    Thank you, 5th Wall, for alerting me to this production and for reviewing it. And I understand that you’re doing this out of love, not money, so extra props.

  • 2. anvildrops  |  07/05/2017 at 11:06 am

    you’re welcome!


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VICTOR SANCZ vassanc [AT] gmail.com

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