The Invisibility of Mrs Geralds by Mary Ellen Turbet.Rehearsed reading for the Festival of Contemporary Arts, directed by Carol Woodrow. Currong Contemporary Arts Theatre, October 14, 1996. Professional.
When I saw the incomplete, mainly naturalistic script early in the year (in the Australian National Playwrights' Centre Writers' Course), I expected Mrs Geralds' situation to be tragic. Maddie's belief in her invisibility was a recognition of the truth about how she was ignored - being a woman and "old" - while it led others to think she had "lost her marbles". I could see no escape from the inevitability of a nursing home.
WildWood Theatre, The Company and Jigsaw have combined to present three of the scripts-in-progress from the ANPC Writers' Course, the actors donating their time and skills. This reading showed the importance of professional developmental work. Jennie Vaskess produced a Maddie full of humanity, with complete ensemble support from Anne Yuille, Michael White, Naone Carrel and Sarah Chalmers, in a script with new sections being rehearsed up to half an hour before performance.
It turns out that Madeleine Geralds can escape. The play now has an original free flowing form: a startlingly humorous study of how it is only through our fantasies that we can come to terms with our reality. Meeting a man of no consequence in his own eyes until he takes on the spirit of Elvis, Mrs Geralds realises she can be the invisible Maddie, growing old as others expect her to, or choose to be a visible Madeleine who leaves the play to holiday in Bali on her own terms. This is no tragedy after all, and indeed becomes a metaphor for me of the role of drama - the theatrical illusion through which we reflect on life.
Carla, Mrs Geralds' entirely business oriented daughter, ignores imagination at the expense of herself becoming invisible, just as her bank manager ignores her requests for boutique expansion loans. Carla may now be the tragic figure, unless Turbet can find her an escape. If she can't, the play will retain a certain coolness when human warmth seems to me to be its centre. Maybe we'll see Mrs Geralds at next year's Playwrights' Conference - I hope so.© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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