Date: May 26 2012
TAP Gallery, May 24
Until June 3
AS HER name suggests, Lucy Black is a beacon of light in the darkness.
Sydney writer Paul Gilchrist sets his new play in an imaginary England before the Enlightenment. Lucy is the daughter of the village physician (late of this parish) and a widow. She carries on as best she can, treating the locals with the rudiments of medical knowledge she has accumulated.
While Lucy keeps a wary eye on her headstrong young sister Judith (Zara Zoe) and her lover, the village watchman (Joshua Morton), two strangers are also observing her: Thomas (Richard Hilliar), a butcher, and Anne (Sonya Kerr), a herbalist. Both have been banished from the court of an ailing prince and are bent on a scheme to curry his favour inspired by medical discoveries coming out of Renaissance Italy.
Lucy's curiosity is piqued, but is the price she may have to pay for a glimpse into a new world of knowledge too terrible to contemplate?
Similar to David Harrower's Knives in Hens, Gilchrist employs the long lens of past centuries to make us ponder the transitions from the dark ages to modern consciousness. Harrower's focus was the shift in thinking flowing from a young woman being taught to read. Gilchrist seems to be turning over similar ideas as we watch Lucy face the strictures of patriarchy, religion and superstition.
But Harrower's play was meticulous in its creation of a world and a language for it. Gilchrist's evocation of distant places and times past is made less gripping by characters who flip-flop between contemporary and "olde" idioms, and talk of an unlikely sounding plot involving the prince's imprisoned brother (which recalls Alexandre Dumas's The Man in the Iron Mask) strains credibility further.
A starker, more adventurous production would help. Under Gilchrist as director the shoestring production is tolerably acted but the eye is drawn to the elements of its woeful design.
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