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“They don’t want you here but you are here”
We sit in darkness in the small, black-painted room at The Blue Room Theatre, waiting for the WA premiere of 'Paper Doll' to start.
A scruffy man enters from the side and walks to centre stage. He is wet through.
A woman welcomes him cautiously. There is a history between them. He apologises. Talks about her childhood. He recalls taking her to the zoo when she was about 8 years old. She was dressed in a pink tutu and sent the monkeys crazy by singing them a song from Sleeping Beauty.
The man has just got out of prison. He is a mess. Out of touch.
She tells him none of them wanted her to have him there. They said she should have left him to rot. "They don't want you here but you are here."
The man has brought her a pink dress. They argue about the appropriateness of the gift, but she eventually tries the dress on angrily. She wants him to know she hasn't forgiven him. That she hates him and feels sorry for him.
The woman is haunted by memories. A woman, her mother perhaps, is always sat in a corner of the room watching her. He remembers how she used to stand on his feet when she was little and they would dance. He persuades her to dance with him again. In the pink dress. He goes too far.
They argue again and she sits sobbing in the corner … like the ghost she is haunted by.
The cast of 'Paper Doll'
This short play, with just two characters, is a drama that invades your thoughts the day after. The writer, Katy Warner, uses few stage directions and no introductions in her work, so the script has a mystery about it. You find yourself questioning your assumptions. Was he her stepfather? Did he abuse her? Did he do time for paedophilia? Who are 'they' who are referred to? Are 'they' the woman's siblings? What happened to her mother?
The play has been staged so that no extra clues are given. There are no props apart from a couple of beers and a bowl of chips … and the pink dress, of course. You are not even given any information about the identity of the characters, they are referred to only as 'her' and 'him' in the program and are never named in the play.
Hayley Pearl plays 'her'
The bare set means that there are no distractions from the powerful dialogue and the audience is left to witness the edgy relationship unfolding before them. It was performed by Martin Ashley Jones and Hayley Pearl. Both are experienced actors and bring an intensity to the stage that is seldom seen in larger productions. The intimate setting of the theatre enhanced this experience.
Martin Ashley Jones plays 'him'
Paper Doll is part of the Fringe World Festival 2019. Created through a collaboration between writer Katy Warner and director Lucy Clements, it was one of ten one-act plays written by Australian playwrights through a program called the 'New Fitz'. This program was created by Red Line Productions at the Old Fitz Theatre in Sydney in 2017, but sadly was only funded for a year. If this is the quality of the work that came out of the 'New Fitz', it's a real shame it folded.