Monday, 3 November 2014

Calpurnia Descending

(Sydney Theatre Company)

'Calpurnia Descending' is by Sisters Grimm, the working name of collaborators Ash Flanders and Declan Greene, whose work involves gender switching and devoted spoofs of classic 1940/50s Hollywood movies.

In 'Calpurnia Descending', a young aspiring and ambitious out of town actress meets a former star who it is generally believed died ten years earlier and the two find themselves battling for the limelight in a new Broadway production.

The play has echoes of the movie classics 'All About Eve' and 'Sunset Boulevard'.

The opening scenes are traditional stage fare then midway through the performance a screen covers the stage, concealing the performers from view and the action continues, movie like, on the screen with different camera angles, close ups etc. The black and white images are reminiscent of 1940s film noir. Later still, the screen action takes a new turn with all manner of computer wizardry and a 1960s hallucinogenic style.

Ash Flanders and Sandy Gore switch genders impressively whilst Paul Capsis, an old hand at the switch, is more overwrought by comparison.

There is quite a bit of funny stuff in this but also a few flat spots and unfortunately also some juvenile antics. I believe this is at least the second production of the play and no doubt it has undergone a lot of tweaking but it still seems to me to be packed willy nilly with all manner of ideas that could benefit from pruning and refining.

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