The Warrior and the Princess
By Shirley Van Sanden
By Nathaniel Moncrieff
The Blue Room
Shirley Van Sanden has taken the story of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese diplomat who saved thousands of Jews in World War II Lithuania, and fashioned an inventively told and moving tale of universal human sympathy and courage.
The Warrior and the Princess is not a documentary, and Van Sanden has changed the names of the characters, but her tale of the steadfast Kiyoshi (Brian Liau) and the Jewish girl Anna (Rhoda Lopez), whose life he saves, matches the frame, if not the filling, of historical fact.
That history is long and complex and, in the hour or so at her disposal, a bit too much of Van Sanden's dialogue serves exposition rather than the development of character and relationships. But she holds our interest in her story and makes us care about her people, and that's a fine achievement.
Credit should go to Liau and Lopez, who inhabit their characters with energy and feeling, and to the strong supporting cast of Ian Toyne, Monica Main (who also directs the multi-disciplined production with skill) and Van Sanden herself.
Marty Liang's keyboard accompaniment, with snatches of themes from Beethoven to Take Me Out to the Ball Game, is cleverly conceived and complementary throughout.
In Tinkertown, also at the Blue Room, there's a harrowing momentum in Nathaniel Moncrieff's writing that gives his actors plenty to work from. Tinkertown is a notable advance on his earlier Sleepyhead, though he still has a way to go to realise his potential to write genuinely creepy drama that naturally populates its landscape.
Moncrieff's influences are the chronicles of the American undertow, from Sam Shepherd to Hank Williams, and this story, of a man on the run with his daughter, often captures their spirit. He and co-director Sam Farringdon are greatly aided by the two central performances, Phil Miolin as the dangerous drifter Chester and Tessa Carmody, who is riveting as a slip of a girl who has inherited more of her father's danger than he realises, and maybe much more besides. Hannah Day as a shotgun shack tart and Jeremy Levi as the unlucky victim of Chester's rage complete the cast. The talented Felicity Groom performs her moody, often wordless, songs.
But the characters talk too much, and, consequently, often don't say nearly enough. Moncrieff would do well to heed the example of many of his heroes, count the words in his script and re-write it with half as many of them.Tinkertown ends on October 13. The Warrior and the Princess ends on October 20.
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