Based on Marguerite Duras' 1967 novella, L'amante Anglaise (The English Lover) is on the surface a murder mystery story, but look a little deeper and it is an exploration of what happens to a person when the life they are leading turns out to be the life they never wanted. Originally performed at La Mama, this stage adaptation has been remounted for a second season at fortyfivedownstairs. Having missed it first time round, I was very thankful I managed to get to it now for it really is a breathtaking performance.
The story unfolds in two interviews conducted by nameless interrogators over the
brutal murder of a woman in a small town in France. The dismembered body is
discovered at a railway viaduct, missing her head. Furthermore, the novella is
based on true events, adding to the darkness and brutality to the proceedings.
The first interrogation is with Pierre (Rob Meldrum), the husband of the woman
who has confessed to the murder. What transpires is a picture of a man who cared very little for his wife, who can offer little insight as to what could have driven her to commit such a heinous crime and Meldrum's portrayal of the detached husband is well presented throughout and compelling to watch.
In the second interrogation our attention shifts to Claire, where her
interrogator insists on finding out what drove her to commit murder. Jillian
Murray does a phenomenal job in this role and it is not hard to see why she won
the 2015 Green Room Award for Best Female Performer. Beginning as a shy and timid woman it was hard to imagine her viciously killing someone, but as the interview progressed, her instability and sadness began seeping through.
The intimate direction and impressive staging by Laurence Strangio allows for the words of the characters to create the visuals for the audience, and create focus on the hands, the feet, the eyes and the face to show the characters’ state of mind, enticing the audience to be drawn further into the intrigue and horrors of the story and its protagonists.
In its powerful intersection of fiction and reality, L'amante Anglaise has you leaving the venue with an emptiness and sadness deep in your heart as to how these people have got to where they are in life. Ironically, it is not the dark details of the murder that have this effect on you, but the utterly fascinating character study of two people who yearn for a different time. Unmissable.
Venue: fortyfive downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Season: Until 3 July | Tue- Sat 7.30pm, Sun 5pm
Tickets: $38 Full | $32 Conc
Bookings: fortyfive downstairs
* Original review appeared
on Theatre Press on 29 June.