Shadows of Angels
Jerky Cat @ Bakehouse Theatre – Studio
9:00pm, Tue 28 Feb 2012
Lured by the promise of wicked women, seductive sinners, and vicious vixens, all wrapped up in gritty noir stylings, and accented by a photo of some blood-splattered ankles, Shadows of Angels was on The Shortlist nice and early… and it proved to be an absolute winner.
There’s a bit of an odd start, with all four actors onstage as the audience entered the tight Studio; but there’s precious little interaction between their characters, as they remain motionless and mute when not active in their scenes. And, while the four scenes all interconnect to create an overarching narrative of Depression-pending Melbourne in the late 1920s, they’re all strong enough to stand on their own; through the initially squeamish black-market abortion clinic opening – Good Femme nervous and wary as she is led to The Room where Old Femme performs her work – we are thrust into this seedy netherworld, where women are constantly under attack… and (mostly) successful in their self-defence.
The tail-end of Good Femme’s story introduces Old Femme, Old leads to Man Femme (the jacket doesn’t quite hide H. Clare Callow’s hips, but she convinces in her cold male detective mannerisms), and Man’s regular brothel runs lead to Pretty Femme’s ordeal; the links between the scenes are all superbly managed, with only a moment or two of interplay between the characters during the transitions… even with short leaps in time between the scenes, it feels almost seamless.
Whilst Shadows of Angels is beginning-to-end brilliant, massive props have to go to Kara Stacey Merrin’s efforts in opening up the play: she has the most dynamic staging of the pieces, and she makes the tight confines of the Studio seem far more expansive as she roves the stage, painting evocative pictures of the clinic. Her reveal at the end of the scene is masterfully played. Erin Dewar’s tragic prostitute is also an incredibly crushing performance – from sweetness and light to broken, it may not have had me leaving the theatre in a chipper mood, but boy was I impressed.
I really, really, loved Shadow of Angels. Murky morals, strong roles, wonderful writing, and effective direction combined with four great performers to create something truly memorable.