Kissing the Witch at Adelaide at Little Theatre - Review
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Thu 10 Aug 2023 - Sun 20 Aug 2023
Adelaide University Theatre Guild continues its long-held practice of staging South Australian premieres in the intimate Little Theatre amid the cloister of Adelaide University, with an inexhaustible appetite for innovative and interesting theatre from around the globe. Written by Irish playwright Emma Donoghue and directed by Imogen Deller-Evans, Kissing the Witch
purports to challenge what we think we know of traditional tales of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, the nuance in the fantastical, the sensual in the magical. It contends that it will reclaim the power of the witch. After some consideration of what I saw, I concede that it does. How?
Featuring Michelle Hrvatin, Ellie-May Enright, Susan Cilento and Sam Wiseman playing multiple characters with minimal set and costume change, with live music from Helen Morriss of the Folk Foragers, Kissing the Witch careers through unpacked and revised versions of the above well-known fairy tales– Beauty and the Beast
, The Goose Girl
and The Little Mermaid
– and reinvents them in unexpected ways, adding a brand new story along the way.
Where men might once have been seen as the protagonists or heroes, here it is the women who tell their own stories of loves, lies and alliances, determined to retake the narrative, to empower the feminine elements of traditional stories. Cilento shines as a princess recast as a commoner, one who embraces her journey and its changes. Hrvatin compels as a woman in a cave who allows others to see her as a witch while never once accepting being cast as one. Enright demands respect as a seamstress no one appreciates. Wiseman is versatile in many cameos as traditional male figures – kings, princes, other men of authority - in fairy tales, especially since the traditional male authority is shorn away to reveal a vain iconoclast or insecure coward or bully.
The compact Little Theatre stage is dressed with multiple pots, pans, cups, plates and other random fairy tale paraphernalia, props liberally scattered for the actors’ instant use. The style is hard-line non-naturalistic; the actors are fully lit onstage as the audience enters the auditorium; the fairy tales are referenced by plot points and Donoghue’s skilful writing guides our understanding as the cast reinvents the passivity of the princesses and peasant girls into three-dimensional women living through setback and adversity to grow in emotion and resilience.
Hrvatin’s woman in a cave emerges as the converging narratives strive towards the unlikely but curiously satisfying climactic moment: the kissing of the witch. Hrvatin’s three-dimensional witch in history, a ‘wise woman’, living in isolation, steeped in herbal healing knowledge and through meditation and study achieves powerful self-awareness and insight, only to be confronted by Cilento’s curious ex-princess, whose personal journey to self-awareness compels her to kiss the witch. In gratitude? Love? Hrvatin’s woman in the cave never accepts the label of ‘witch’ with all its connotations of foreboding evil. But she rejoices in the power of her decision to choose this life.
Kissing the Witch
celebrates the power to be gained by women unpicking the knotty mess that traditional story-telling has made of their roles. Director Imogen Deller-Evans has a clear vision of this thought-provoking celebration of female empowerment and has inspired a fine ensemble performance.
Performances continue Friday Aug 11 at 7.30 pm, Saturday Aug 12 at 2 pm (no evening show), Sunday Aug 13 at 4 pm, Thursday Aug 17 at 6.30 pm, Friday Aug 18 at 7.30 pm, Saturday Aug 19 at 7.30 pm and Sunday Aug 20 at 4 pm.
Little Theatre is located near Gate 10 Victoria Drive, in The Cloisters at The University of Adelaide. Please allow extra time for parking especially with events at Adelaide Oval.
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