The Director and the Doll by Jane Bradhurst.Gallery Players directed by Cathie Clelland at the Canberra Museum and Gallery March 7,8,9 & 21,22,23, 2000 at 12.30pm and March 10, 24 at 5.30pm. A Canberra Multicultural Festival premiere.
This new one-act play is a good idea which is only partly realised - an interesting twist on the Pygmalion myth. The Director's creative abilities are applied to his actors while his Doll, waiting for him in lonely digs, critically reflects on him, a ventriloquist's doll who answers back.
The young actors Nielsen Gordon and Rebecca Clifford are clear and effective in their characterisations:in this tiny theatre - despite its technical limitations - and with excellent costumes, Cathie Clelland has produced a small success. "Enjoyable" and "gentle" were the words of one audience member.
For me, however, it is the script which held back the play, which should not be so gentle. The author explained to me before the show that the Director was "very good with actors but could not cope with real life". In her script I could see the failure to cope - and his need for the Doll to talk to - but I found it hard to believe that this Director would ever be very good with actors. Of course, we only get to see him talking to his Doll about the actors: we never know what they really think of him. He blames his frustrations on the amateur committees who employ him, but the Doll is surely right when she tells him that in fact he is not very good.
It is really only after this point that the play livens up as the Director uses the Doll to play the roles of his unworthy father and mother and reverts to his childhood, and it becomes clear that his mental instability is beyond control. The writing needs much more emotional subtlety in the early scenes, rather than exposition of the situation, to give depth and a full sense of the Director's tragedy at the end. Or a longer play could be made to show the Director in action as well as reflection: are the actors he directs another set of dolls, and do they answer back?
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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