An elderly woman sit patiently, but also impatiently, on a chair. She is waiting. For what, we do not know. Eventually a young woman arrives and begins to tend to her. As she does, they recall and share stories that bind them together. Written by acclaimed French writer Marguerite Duras, Savannah Bay explores memory and identity and how these connect us with others.
There's a strong bond between the two actors, Brenda Palmer and Annie Thorold. They allow their characters to exude a reciprocal compassion and sincerity. When The Young Woman is undressing and dressing Madeleine, there is plenty to take from that moment as to the dynamics of the relationship of these women and where they are at in their lives. There are instances throughout the show that capture this so intelligently and sensitively.
However, a lack of drama and clarity in the dialogue and narrative offers very little for the audience to grab and dissect. While the intention with Savannah Bay was to create uncertainty and ambiguity, it does so to the detriment of being a wholly engaging production. There is a lot of talking about other people and so an emotional attachment to these words is not possible.
Similarly, a score or soundscape of some variety to aid with the storytelling and recollections would provide the tools for us to visualise these in our minds and draw us into the performance. The set design by director Laurence Strangio (within the set design of Bronwyn Pringle for The Disappearing Trilogy) and lighting by Claire Springett have moments of effectiveness but overall the theatrical elements and the text are too vague and subtle to leave a lasting impression.
It's surprising - and disappointing - at exactly how much emotion is lacking in this contemplation of love, life and death. Like the memories of Madeleine and The Young Woman, confusion arises with regards to what we are meant to make of this. Bolder decisions need to be made in all areas to give Savannah Bay meaning and purpose for both its characters and its audience.
Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St. Carlton.
Season: until 27 October | Fri 9:00pm. Thur & Sat - Sun 6:30pm
Tickets: $30 Full | $20 Conc
Bookings: La Mama Theatre
Image Credit: Laurence Strangio
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