By Margi Brown Ash
The starting point for Margi Brown Ash's tour de force of writing and performance is the sad story of Eve Langley, a little- known and largely forgotten novelist and poet who worked from the 1930s until her lonely death in a shack outside Katoomba, New South Wales, in 1974.
This is no mere biographical drama, though. Ash combines some of Langley's writing with those of her self-appointed literary Siamese twins, Flaubert, Dickinson, Keats, Shakespeare and, especially, her beloved Oscar Wilde, in a poetic, combustible interior monologue of reminiscence, longing and heartache. Her own writing fits seamlessly into that high company. It's thrilling, gorgeously imaginative and physically potent.
She gives a performance to match. She makes you feel Eve's bitter disappointments and personal anguish but, above all, she captures the rapture of Eve's communion with her muses, the beautiful minds she worships and emulates in her writing and inside her head. Ash crams so much into the hour-plus play and yet it seemed to go by in a flash.
Ash is ably supported by the larger-than-life Phil Miolin's readings from Wilde's The Selfish Giant and Roland Adeney, whose violin anchors Travis Ash's tense, shuddering sound design (played, I'm happy to report for once, appropriately loudly). Tessa Darcey's set of a broken-down hut and a star-filled firmament works perfectly, as does Chris Donnelly's tough-minded lighting design. Leah Mercer, who devised the piece with Ash and Daniel Evans, directs with easy skill and a deep understanding of her actor and the text.
The play's genesis dates back a couple of decades and there is something of an earlier, more direct and visceral time in Australian theatre about it. I imagined it being performed at John Milson’s Southport Street Hole in the Wall Theatre and it would have fitted that great era like a glove. I hope he gets to see it — and I hope you do, too.I recall, years ago, jumping to my feet to applaud Peter Carroll and Ron Blair's The Christian Brother. I did it again, for many of the same reasons, for Margi Brown Ash and Eve.
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