Adena Jacobs’ Persona

Last year, Adena Jacobs entered Brett Sheehy’s office, unsuspectingly, to be awarded the Harold Mitchell scholarship, which is, of course, the only way to receive such an honour, if you are Adena Jacobs.

Besides the fact that untoward metaphysical phenomena will occur at almost all of her productions, one must begin to comprehend, of course, that this director, with her feline observation and sensibility, is incredibly sophisticated in her thought process and possesses the necessary thing, which, we shall call withcraft, for lack of a better word, to wriggle into and awaken our deepest, most fraught subconscience.

Meredith Penman in Persona. Photo by Pia Johnson

Persona is the stage adaptation of the masterful film by Ingmar Bergman, which influenced much of the development of, and perhaps transitions into a sequel to her previous project, Elektra.

In a most elegant and fluid progression, a famous actress, Elizabeth, mysteriously becomes mute after her performance in Elektra.  Her nurse, Alma, played by Karen Sibbing (who also played Elektra’s conscience/nurse) chatters to her openly and eventually, the two seem to find comfort in each other. Of course, the play quickly takes on a delectable twist so that the now trivial narrative surrenders to a series of very distressing events. This psychological thriller unravels itself at a menacing and seductive pace; Roles become blurred and boundaries melt and re-form themselves, Koskyesque, in your mind.

As Elizabeth, Meredith Penman’s glamorous starlet persona gives in to her dark animus in a stunning performance through interrogating and canny eyes.  Karen Sibbing matches her performance with an acute awareness and physicality that is sincere and arresting.

The designers, Dayna Morrissey, Danny Pettingill and Russell Goldsmith, come together to deliver a production design that intensifies the play at every given moment, taking their lead from the original film to present a minimal and controlled mise-en-scène cradled by an undercurrent of a relentlessly haunting soundscape.

Persona is a delicately powerful piece of theatre that Adena Jacobs has successfully willed into being. It must be seen.

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