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Eisteddfod by Lally Katz at Metro Arts

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by Gemma Regan (subscribe)
Dr Gemma Regan I'm a writer, arts reviewer, a scientist, a UFO researcher and a Radio host for 4ZZZ 102.1FM with my show The Witching Hour exploring the paranormal, conspiracy and the esoteric.
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Eisteddfod cleverly manipulates your subconscious judgement, boundaries and dreams
Eisteddfod, Metro Arts, Brisbane, Gemma Regan, Review
Photo by Matthew Doueal

Eisteddfod cleverly manipulates your subconscious judgement, boundaries and dreams to fit each individual's paradigm on the vagaries of actuality and delusion.

Lally Katz is an award-winning Australian writer, producing her first play in 2003 with international critical acclaim gaining a Green Room Award for Best New Independent Work. Her operatic Opera Australia's adaptation of The Rabbits won four Helpmann Awards and the Writers Guild Award in 2016 for Best Music Theatre. Her plays have been staged across the World from Delhi to Dublin! Lally also works with screen productions including the TV series Wonderland, and Stories I Want to Tell You, her one-woman show, adapted for ABC TV in 2015, in which she also starred and produced.

Despite her accolades, I was initially uncertain as to what Lally wanted to achieve from this play. If it was shock value and confusion, she certainly hit the mark. Although it is a short 60-minute production involving only an orphaned agoraphobic brother and sister, the story at first appeared complex and confusing.

Orphaned as teenagers, the siblings hide themselves away from the cruel outside world to recreate their own microcosm of misery and anxiety. Abalone (Matthew James French) is a hyper-sexualised and confused young man whose only two goals are to monopolise his sister Gerture's existence (Madison Kennedy-Tucker), and to win the local Eisteddfod. In contrast, Gerture dreams of a possibly imaginary ex-boyfriend, and disappears to teach children at a school for months on end, or so it appears.

Eisteddfod starts with a brief audio introduction, and ends with a summation, both by the writer Lally Katz. She introduces the play as a fairy story, which may indicate it was all in the imagination of the poor abandoned children. Constant flashbacks re-enacted by the pair reflect a troubled childhood of abuse and mistrust, with a doting mother and a reluctant abusive father. There is a fleeting mention of sexual of abuse, which would seem the cause of the siblings relating and acting out perverse sexual experiences from past and present.

Overriding each scene is Abalone's desperate need to be valued, and his vehicle to recognition is through winning the Eisteddfod (originally a Welsh-based competition of music and poetry). However, after the event finally occurs, it is not obvious that the Eisteddfod even exists. Meanwhile, Gerture disappears to where she is working as a schoolteacher, all be it a drunken one. Abalone then discovers Gerture's world of pedagogy is only as real as his…

Both characters were interpreted remarkably well by the actors, as they led the audience down a crooked and forked path of hope, imagination, tension and guilt. Other characters enter the scenes through the re-enactment of the siblings, but it is left to the audience to determine whether it is the obverse fantasy of two cloistered minds, or a truthful commentary of their agoraphobic lives. The common theme throughout the play is the devotion of the siblings to each other, of which incest may also have played some part.

Heidi Manche, the Director describes the tale as 'a critical observation of tomorrow's world,' citing the digital age as an allegory of the story, caused by modern technology and the isolation of people. After seeing Eisteddfod, I am still unsure as to what the message, (if indeed any) that the writer, Lally wanted to convey. The narrative was elusive and probably deliberately confusing, as the siblings hover on a delusional line between fantasy and dreams, and the harsh reality of anxiety and desire.

Eisteddfod cleverly manipulates your subconscious judgement, boundaries and dreams to fit each individual's paradigm on the vagaries of actuality and delusion.
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Why? Eisteddfod cleverly manipulates your subconscious judgement, boundaries and dreams
When: 7pm
Phone: 07 3002 7100
Where: Sue Benner Theatre, Metro Arts, 109 Edward Street, Brisbane
Cost: General Admission $28, Concession $20
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