Merrigong Theatre Company, Wollongong, April 23
FOR a little piece – two-hander, 75 minutes, minimal set, few props – The Bull, the Moon and the Coronet of Stars gets a lot done. Like those traveller’s towels that mop up the lord knows how many times their weight in water, Van Badham’s new play has a lean look and a thirsty embrace. A love letter to language, mythology and love itself, it’s clever, sexy, funny and uplifting.
A warning, though, to those who don’t know their Theseus from their Thesaurus: boning up beforehand on some Greek legend could pay dividends.
The Bull, the Moon takes messy, ordinary stuff – lust, infidelity, oops – and elevates it to the realm of the gods. That’s a long way to travel, you may think, but Badham makes delightful sense of it. Broken hearts are as plentiful as office workers at happy hour, but to someone suffering the torments of thwarted passion the pain isn’t one bit common; it is all-consuming and epic. It thus pleases Badham to conflate the fleeting affair between Marion, an artist-in-residence at a museum, and staff member Michael, a writer of press releases, with that of Ariadne and Theseus, maze, string, Minotaur and all.
The story unfolds almost entirely in the telling rather than the showing but things get pretty steamy, I can tell you, as Badham revels in sumptuous imagery and its erotic and comic possibilities.
When Marion (Silvia Colloca) is abandoned – no, the writer didn’t leave a note, the bastard – she becomes dry and angry, hacks her hair off, throws away the blue dress that showed off her ripe figure and takes a job leading art classes for old chooks at a resort. Enter sommelier and pants-man Mark (Matt Zeremes, who also plays Michael).
Things get really frisky as the wine flows, the unseen gaggle of elderly ladies turns into a glorious band of bacchantes and the spirit of Dionysus, super hottie of the ancient world, rules.
Under Lee Lewis’s direction Colloca and Zeremes, both of them adorable, deftly manage a text that gives neither a moment of rest and slides without warning from dialogue to interior comment and from reality to free-flowing imagination. Badham trips herself up at one point by going for the extra degree of difficulty that over-lapping lines presents, but it’s a small quibble. When the Coronet of Stars finally enters the picture I defy any romantic not to be thrilled.
Griffin Theatre Company, Sydney, May2-June 8. Hothouse Theatre, Albury-Wodonga, June 13-22.
This review first appeared in The Australian on April 25.