‘Melancholy Play’

‘Melancholy Play’ is 75-minutes of absolute hilarity. A bold, contemporary farce by the almost shy, Sarah Ruhl, shows how even in happiness, sadness can be just around the corner. Hoping to become a poet, Illinois born Sarah studied for a while at Oxford. Now, having just reached ‘middle-age’, she has already been nominated for a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize.  She is possibly most famous for her play ‘Eurydice’ – dedicated to her father who was dying of cancer – and her ‘hysterical’ and controversial play, ‘In the next room’ also known as the ‘vibrator play’.

‘Melancholy Play’ was Ruhl’s first major play; it premiered in 2002 and is now being presented for your immense pleasure by the Hayman Theatre Company, in building 102 on the Curtin University Campus in Bentley.

Performances are nightly at the early time of 7.00, and the season runs until Saturday 25th April.

The set represents a couple of apartments in Perth, where the antique furniture is interchangeable as the action moves to and from each venue. The walls are a patchwork of many, quality wallpapers and the floor a higgledy-piggledy arrangement of carpets and rugs; both of these combinations reflecting the manic confusion of the characters’ minds and the situations in the play.

Clever well-made set by Eloise Carter, Annika Jane, Alex Roussel, Gema Seenarain, Michelle Endersbee, and Ashleigh Ryan with props supplied by Dicky Ng.

Karen Cook’s lighting subtle and selective design was smoothly operated by David O’Connor. Sound effects by Jack Beeson.

       Frank (Nathan Whitebrook), a bespoke tailor, addresses the audience through a window offering a defence of melancholy. As he speaks, Tilly (Zoe Street) a glamourous bank teller, then walks up to Frank and asks why he is an almond*. Frank is infatuated with her.

      Italian psychologist, Lorenzo (Kane Parker), explains to the audience the maternal history behind his lack of emotion. He turns to attend to his patient Tilly, who seems to live on the brink of an orgasm, and has the ability to take everyone she speaks with her, to the edge. Even a mundane conversation with Tilly leaves Lorenzo very much in love.

      Julia (Savannah Wood), who sits in the corner playing her own compositions on the cello, creating music for the various lovers in the story.

      Later that day Tilly is at the hairdresser, where the owner, Frances (Olivia Dugandzic) becomes obsessed with Tilly’s hair, asking her round to her flat to meet her reticent partner, a nurse called Joan (Daisy Grant). Soon, the jealousy begins to surface. Who, if anyone will win Tilly’s heart?

*In this play, the Amygdala, named in Greek after its almond shape, is the brain’s organ of emotion. In actual fact, the two Amygdalae appear like a pair of cherries on their stems, in the centre of the under surface of the brain – the most protected area of the brain. The right ‘almond’ produces fear and sadness, whereas the left creates happiness or anxiety.

This whole play was written very dryly, and with the fantastic cast directed by award winning Leah Mercer and her talented assistant, Ariel Tresham, the humour started almost instantly. Extra dramaturg provided by Kayla MacGillivray; with an uproarious fight sequence, co-ordinated by Philip Miolin. Lorenzo’s excellent accent was coached by Luzita Fereday.

The players have flawlessly captured the subtleness of the script, giving just that tiny bit of over-the-top delivery. The result was amazing. Every nuance of expression gave even more joy to the already captivated audience. Even at the peak of the pandemonium, the cast were resolute, only showing the desired melancholy or elation.

Please don’t think ‘only a few students struggling to produce an average show’, this is real quality. Great script, very good direction, a perfectly tuned-in cast working as a team. A fast moving, laugh out loud comedy. Treat yourselves to something very different.