‘Eve’ was written by Margi Brown Ash, and co-devised with Leah Mercer (coordinator of Performance Studies course at Curtin) and Daniel Evans for ‘the nest ensemble’.
Margi originally studied English literature before going to New York to study acting under Stella Adler and mime with Stefan Niadziawkowski. Twenty years ago, Margi moved to Brisbane and tried most aspects of the theatre. She now has her own creative arts studio in Brisbane and has yet still found the time to achieve a Masters in Counselling and to lecture in acting.
Straight from its massive Brisbane success, the disturbing but magnificent ‘Eve’ comes to The Blue Room Theatre, 53 James Street, Northbridge until Saturday 10th November. The hour-long show commences at 7.00 pm.
The two yellow paper walls of the shack allow us to see the silhouette of a dishevelled woman (Margi Brown Ash) frantically scribbling away inside. The wall is torn and a head pops out. She looks across her yard, with an old bath sitting in the middle, then up at the stars and the wonderful world around her.
In rich deep and almost sexy tones, the old woman purrs for the storyteller (Phil Miolin), very much in the style of Oscar Wilde, to read her the tale of the giant. As he does, a violinist (Roland Adeney) joins in punctuating every sentence and phrase. The old woman, Eve, asks ‘If I were alive today, would you consider me mad?’
Almost as though she has been resurrected, Eve goes on to relate passages from her life – and death - darting back and forward in a most illogical way; it is a long time since this woman has been anywhere near logical. She keeps fleeting back to the major influences of her life – Wilde, Emily Dickinson and Flaubert.
For an hour, with a cleverly devised script the woman flits back and forth, she climbs walls, and digs holes. Most of Eve’s better writing having been created in a mental institution. In discussion about Eve, the name Virginia Woolf is bound to enter the conversation. The direction is intelligent; it captures the depths of the writer’s schizophrenic brain, as the action moves at a crippling pace.
The direction (Leah Mercer) was inspired, filling the stage with movement, music, strange sounds and visual excitement.
Some may consider that the next section is a ‘Spoiler’, perhaps, but I think that most of the audience will appreciate the help, to get a fuller understanding of the play and hence more enjoyment. This does not infer a fault with the script; the dialogue was wonderful and showed a complete understanding of how a mad woman would speak. However, necessarily, her mind did not explain her thoughts, but simply oscillated around a multitude of subjects.
Born in Forbes, NSW in 1908, Eve (christened ‘Ethel’) was the daughter of a carpenter. Her father died when she was only seven. Finding herself in poverty, her mother, Myra returned to Victoria to manage her brother’s pub.
In the 1920s, after a spell with her sister, of being an agricultural labourer, Eve wrote her first novel ‘The Pea-Pickers’ based on her experiences mixed with fantasy; It won the Prior Memorial Prize for literature. In 1932, her family emigrated to New Zealand and Eve built a reputation for her poetry articles in magazines. Five years later, after losing an illegitimate child, she married she married Hilary Clark, a 22-year old art student – telling the Registrar that she was 28, 4 years younger than she really was. They had a daughter, Bisi and two sons Langley and Karl Marx. Eve’s writings in her 20s were an insight into her strange life. Most were semiautobiographical, though she used men’s names for her characters.
It was about this time Eve was admitted to Auckland Mental Hospital. After 7 years, she was discharged to her sister's care; her divorce followed 3 years later.
Her ten earlier books were never published, permission not being granted by Eve’s daughter, Bisi. At one point Eve submitted 4000 typed pages on rose-coloured paper – they were rejected. After working as a book repairer in Auckland library, in 1954 fed up with being a comical woman, she changed her name by deed poll to that of her hero, Oscar Wilde. Sadly, she was more famous for her eccentricities than her poetry. In middle life, Eve wore men’s clothes and a white Indian cap (this ‘White Topee’ was the name of her second published book). Living in a hut as a recluse bag lady with her dolls and cats in the Blue Mountains, she was often seen carried a hunting knife.
She died in early June 1974, but her gnawed body was not found until the end of that month.
Did I enjoy this play? It was harrowing, even gruelling, but admirable. Margi could easily be the best actress of the year. The script, that must have taken years to research, assemble and write, it could win the award for best writing. The set design (Tessa Darcey and Backwoods Original) was amazing. The sound (Travis Ash) and lighting (Chris Donnelly) astonishing.
Did I enjoy it? Not really, but I am very glad that I saw it.
A play rehearsal is interrupted by the arrival of a divided family who have been abandoned by their creator and are seeking an author, ‘any author’, to give them a ‘definitive artistic form’ so their stories may be staged. While the first performance of Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author to a Rome audience in May 1921 was almost booed off the stage it has gone on to have many successful seasons and is still a major part of the theatrical repertoire. The play, in part, is Pirandello’s attack on the Italian theatre of the time, with its actor-managers and star-systems, its stock characterisations, and its standard repertoire of romantic melodramas. However, it is a play on many levels. It raises questions about the nature of reality, of what constitutes identity, and how we can gauge what is truth. On another level it is a hysterical romantic melodrama about a warring family who live out their emotions on the skin. And, it is also a deeply tragic revenge narrative – a tale of betrayal, adultery, suicide and death. Students enrolled in theatre studies at UWA present this very physical, at times comedic, and often provocatively philosophical play, virtually uncut and unlike many productions we choose not to attempt to modernise it into the contemporary world of electronic media.