Friday 4 May 2018

Carmilla: A Ghost Story for Theatre review

Carmilla- A Ghost Story for the Theatre is a show that lives up to its name. Written by Adam Yee after the 1872 novella by Sheridan Le Fanu, the story follows a father and his daughter whose lives are interrupted by the arrival of a beautiful stranger, Carmilla. There is an air of mystery surrounding Carmilla as to who – and what – she is, and how her existence threatens everything that this family holds near. 

However, Carmilla is not just a theatre performance but also a musical one with Tom Pugh conducting a live chamber orchestra (Elizabeth Barcan, Pri Victor, Lyndon Chester, Rosanne Hunt, Edit Golder and Yee) to create the score as events unfold. Also composed by Yee, there is a gothic and unnerving atmosphere in the music and in that regard, there is much to engage with.

Its fusion with the spoken word is where the difficulties of bringing these two forms together become apparent. There are instances where it feels like two different shows are being staged with the transitions between spoken word and music awkwardly executed and regularly interrupting the flow of the production to the point where the music distracts you from the text and the text distracts you from the music. 

Karen Wakeham’s direction lacks the energy and the excitement needed in a tale such as this, particularly in the opening moments with the cast (Georgia Brooks, Teresa Duddy, Joshua Porter, John Chesire and Danielle Carey) standing still and staring out to the audience as they speak their lines. Admittedly, sharing the relatively small stage with the orchestra may have played a part in the limited movement and action but it is another example of how these two mediums struggled to work together. As a result, the performances lack the intensity required, particularly in the relationship between Carmila and Laura (Duddy and Brooks).  

Carmilla remains an ambitious work that merges chamber music and theatre. While its innovation and risk-taking should be congratulated, its execution is not wholly successful with this production. A more organic way of bringing the two forms together would allow for the suspense and the horror of this story to truly come to life. 

Venue: La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton 
Season: until 13 May | Wed 6:30pm, Thu, Sat 7.30pm, Sun 2.00pm and 6:30pm
Tickets: $30 Full | $20 Conc
Bookings: La Mama Theatre

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