THEATRE BY PETER WILKINS
Bod by Elaine Acworth. Directed by Carol Woodrow. Wildwood. The Street Theatre. May 1-3;6-10, 1997, at 8 p.m. Matinees May 3rd and 10th at 2 p.m. Professional
The Street Theatre has launched its premiere season of contemporary Australian plays with the difficult birth of a drama of mythical grandeur, penetrating inquiry, richly textured language and epic narrative. Bod spans the life of a Tibetan village over 30 years, leading up to the Chinese invasion of 1959 and beyond. It is a tale of struggle against oppression, survival against all odds and the power of faith against adversity. It is the story of Thangme and his training to become a monk It is the moving account of a mother’s resolute will to fight for her family, her village and her way of life. It is the tragic chronicle of invasion and subjugation of an innocent people by the dark forces of tyranny. It is a metaphor for Life.
Like a new born colt, Bod totters uneasily upon its infant legs. The first act is overladen with images of myth and ritual, which, although visually striking and atmospheric, obscure the story of innocent souls, who live out their simple acts of faith and existence beneath Tibet’s lofty peaks. Woodrow’s action is excessively rumbustious as she strives to deal with Acworth’s dense mythology, Amanda McNamara’s magnificently expansive set and Nyree Smith’s evocative lighting. The production elements envelop the Street Theatre stage with professional gloss, but the talented ensemble of actors struggle throughout the first act to reveal a narrative that will breathe life into their characters and touch the audience with their story. Only Edward Wightman as the humourous and appealing Small, the Lama’s attendant, and Danielle Antaki in the dual role of Youdan, the mother, and Tag Senmo, the rock ogress, achieve the necessary stillness and depth of characterization.
In the second act, writer and director allow the characters to tell their tale, and the sweeping saga of a people’s spirit begins to move us with its humanity and truth. Wildwood and The Street Theatre have given this play breath in a new-born production that manifests the promise of Bod’s future life.
© Peter Wilkins
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