– Brunswick Mechanics Institute, 24 th March – 2 nd April 2016
Boutique Theatre presented a double feature including two original Australian plays – Madame Bast
written by Matthew Sini and Don’t Tell the Women, written by Samantha Cunningham, produced as
part of their Writers Programme.
The night opened with Madame Bast, Angelique Malcolm playing the title role – a kooky spirit
medium who loves ancient Egypt. She began her storytelling by talking to the audience,
complemented beautifully by shadow puppetry, which the director and crew skilfully weaved into
the story. Later enter three young uni students who share a close relationship, played by Seon
Williams, Charlotte Fox and Mathew Young who portray a typical university environment very
convincingly. When the trio, including the skeptic Jaz (Williams) go to Madame Bast for a ‘session’
with the spirits, there are discoveries and confrontations, leading to a transformation for each of the
characters. There are some very beautiful moments delivered by all the characters, both in dialogue
and monologue. The story flows smoothly without any confusion and leads us to an end when one is
left questioning what to believe when it comes to psychics, mediums, magicians and the like. For me,
the writing favoured a particular side, however it is left to the viewer to come to their own
conclusion. My curiosity was also aroused by some of the Egyptian myths mentioned (eg. 42
negative confessions), and lead me to Google them in the interval. A show that spurs some action is
a success in my book!
Don’t Tell the Women was the second play, set in a pub with three men, a pool table and a female
bartender. Jess Stenglein, skilfully represents different female roles in the lives of the men – Jason
Schwab plays the young man who has just been dumped, Sam Lavery the gay man who wants a child
and Mischa Grunenberg, the man who misses his wife pre-kids. The night is full of discussion about
the women in their lives, their relationships, what they are, what they could have been, their hopes,
advice, argument, and internal confrontations. There are plenty of funny moments brought out by
what men really think as well as some serious reflective moments. Lighting is used to distinguish
between what the characters think and the reality of what they say. Perhaps the constant jumps
between past, present and thought is sometimes too much, and perhaps there was scope to have
included one more female actor. That however doesn’t limit the story or the performances, and the
message is clearly delivered.
Apart from being two original Australian works, the two pieces were bound together by a common
light feature on the set and more importantly, engaging performances throughout.
Details about the Boutique Theatre, the shows and the Writers Program can be found here.