I learnt a few years ago that the apparent inspiration for Miss Havisham from Great Expectations was an Australian woman buried at Sydney's Camperdown Cemetery. I'd never really given it more thought than that, but it is said that in the 1850s, Emily Eliza Donnithorne was jilted on the morning of her wedding and subsequently became a recluse. Thirty years later she died, still wearing her wedding dress.
In its latest production Day After Terrible Day, The Danger Ensemble make use of Donnithorne's story to explore the sorrow, grief and mourning that comes from falling in love and being unable to let go when the love ends. Director Mitchell Steven Wright builds a world that is macabre and disturbing from the very beginning when we are greeted by two real estate agents hoping to sell us a property. They are dressed in pink outfits with hair and make-up to the nines, but something about them doesn't look quite right. Once we enter, it is not long before we encounter one of the previous owners.
The ensemble (and co-devisors), Chris Beckey, Eidann Glover, Deborah Leiser-Moore and Polly Sará, is hypnotic to watch as the various versions of Donnithorne. They each present unique characterisation in their individual portrayals while ensuring the group dynamics come out on top. Wright's direction allows for confident yet vulnerable performances from everyone, resulting in an intense dose of authenticity.
With an impressive sound design by Wright and Ben Hughes' expressive lighting design, Day After Terrible Day leans into a highly suffocating atmosphere that leaves you feeling, much like our protagonist, trapped and oppressed in this house of heartbreak. The lighting particularly gives way for some play with shadows and the dark as the actors move quietly around the room, sometimes disappearing through one door and reappearing behind another.
Day After Terrible Day beautifully brings to light the ugliness of love. How does one keep on living when the one they love does not love them back? How can we escape our own turmoil? How do we release ourselves from our memories of what once was and dreams of what could have been? We may not get answers, but we are offered plenty to think about in this stunningly haunting experience.
Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland St, St. Kilda
Season: Until 12 November | 7:30pm
Duration: 70 minutes
Tickets: 20 at $20 Tickets otherwise $42.50 Full | $34.50 Concession | $27.50 Students
Bookings: Theatre Works
Image credit: Morgan Roberts