Blog post: The Story of Mary MacLane by Herself

Mary MacLane Rehearsals. Photo by Pia Johnson

The longing to be in constant contact with others and have one’s ideas considered has become a subject of timely discussion with the advent of contemporary modes of discussion like blogs, irresistable tweets and facefcku (a more colourful alternative coined by my friend Sapidah)  It has become quite a paradox for kids nowadays as they sometimes confuse this status anxiety with an urge to have something important to say, and thereby saying nothing significant at all. Now they are being compared to monkeys sitting in front of the computer attempting to inadvertently compose the complete works of Shakespeare.

Mary MacLane is quite possibly the originator of the publication of sincere thoughts. Arguably providing steam to the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein, this turn-of-the-century diarist (the type that keeps a diary, not the type that discriminates againt them) seems to suffer a similar form of anxitey. The forms of her expression, though, are now highly respected, as they recount robust publications of her famously feminist and bisexual confessions in books and newspapers, along with a starring role in the 1918 movie Men Who Have Made Love to Me.

These themes come through nicely in the Ride On Theatre production of The Story of Mary MacLane by Herself, which, supported by a trio of folk musicians, is amusingly palettable enough. As the curtains are raised, Mary MacLane is poised, legs spread (one leg placed provocatively on low red velvet chair), at the centre of a raked tiled stage edged with scaled up architraves sans walls and partially lit by traditional Victorian clamshell lights.

The show proceeds with Mary’s rebellious thoughts engaging in a dialogue with the solicitous Tim Rogers, sometimes in song. Self proclaimed genius, attention seeking and villain loving, with lines sharp and witty, her character becomes immediately relatable and likeable. Midway through, the performance does flounder, confused with what it wants to portray and wavers like unfocused posts of an amateur blogger. Tim Roger’s musical performance was, as always is, a welcome set of punctuations to Bojana Novakovic‘s rants.  However, this role is not his best and he could have been more convincing with better dexterity while sporting a bushier mo’.

The flavour of this show is reminiscent of Malthouse/Vic Opera’s 2009 production of Woyzeck, where Rogers provides a lyrical commentary while Novakovic plays Marie, scaling a conceptually similar distorted raked stage. The mood of both is playful but dark, and though Peter Corrigan (acclaimed scenographer and architect assisted by Anna Cordingley) executed the Woyzeck set and costumes with much more profundity and tongue firmly planted in cheek, Cordingley creates a very befitting, (though sometimes too noticably functional) set that provides an interactive playpen for the skittish Mary and her posse of musicians. Mary’s costume is handsomely executed, and the blue/turquoise dress teamed up with brown top hat in the last scene presents an exquisite image, lit discerningly by Hartley T A Kemp.

The Story of Mary MacLane by Herself is playing in a short season at the Malthouse Theatre until the 11th December.


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