One Scientific Mystery Or Why Did the Aborigines Eat Captain Cook?

One Scientific res
Victoria Haralabidou as Doosia. Photo: Kate O’Sullivan.

TAP Gallery, April 10, 2013

 This felt like being a cinematographer on a set shooting close-ups for a thorny little film about cultural divides, sexual politics and compassion. Many lines were delivered so softly – as if on a film set – that they were unintelligible. This was despite the TAP Gallery’s upstairs theatre being arranged with seating on three sides of the playing area, so no one was more than four metres from the action.

Victoria Haralabidou stars in her own play as Doosia, a Russian prostitute who has been mistreated by the drunken Ben (Dallas Bigelow), and who becomes progressively more interested in Ben’s flatmate Rhys (Aaron Jeffery) as a long night wears on. Rhys supplies the moral solidity that Doosia is craving, and Jeffery’s performance is as taciturn as Haralabidou’s is volatile. Bigelow, meanwhile, could tone down the awful Ben, and Haralabidou could consider a twist that makes his character more interesting.

Haralabidou possesses impressive skills as an actress, but as a playwright she seems unclear about the story she is trying to tell. Doosia’s flirtation with Rhys could have lost 20 (of its 90) minutes and gained immeasurably in sustained intensity, which was undeniable and highly compelling on occasion, but was dissipated by this desire for cinematic naturalism (bolstered by Antoinette Barbouttis’s design).

It is curious that Iain Sinclair’s direction did not steer the play away from this naturalistic preoccupation, given his sterling work with the stylisation of Lorca’s ITAL Blood Wedding ITAL for STC. One might almost wonder if the point was to try to workshop a possible film rather than create the best possible play from the intriguing raw material.

Such a play was possible. Haralabidou held a tight, edgy little comic drama in her cupped hands, and let it leak through her fingers in extraneous dialogue. This should not have been an exercise in cinema verite, in preserving each morsel of chat in the interests of realism, but theatre: a crucible of focus and intensity.