Daily BulletinDaily Bulletin

News

  • Written by Sarah Balkin, Lecturer, English and Theatre Studies, University of Melbourne

Review: My Dearworthy Darling, Malthouse

My Dearworthy Darling is a collaboration between playwright, fantasy novelist, poet, and theatre critic Alison Croggon and feminist theatre company The Rabble (Kate Davis and Emma Valente).

In her criticism, Croggon champions good writing for the stage, rejecting the idea that the literary and the theatrical are opposing concepts. In their dramaturgy, The Rabble reject the male-dominated tradition of play scripts, instead pursuing experimental, design-led re-imaginings of iconic stories from the Western canon.

Their philosophies met and sometimes clashed in My Dearworthy Darling, which was inspired by the autobiography of an illiterate woman, the medieval mystic Margery Kempe. It attempted to help us hear women’s voices by making them strange, asking us to listen across time and idiom.

The story happens across two times and places, contemporary Australia and medieval England. In Australia there are three nameless characters, a woman (Jennifer Vuletic), her insurance agent husband (Ben Grant), and her sister (Natalie Gamsu). The woman is possibly having a breakdown but definitely being gaslit by her husband and sister, who tell her at every opportunity that there is something wrong with her mind, memory, or behaviour.

Read more: Explainer: what does 'gaslighting' mean?

The woman has visions that connect her to a medieval mystic, also played by Vuletic, whose physicality and resonant voice are compelling. A chorus in monastic robes (played by Monash University performance students) supports and listens to her.

Contemporary and medieval women's voices collide in My Dearworthy Darling Jennifer Vuletic in My Dearworthy Darling. David Paterson

Croggan’s script and Valente’s sound design encourage us to listen, too. The three main actors were miked in a way that drew attention to the amplification of their voices, rendering them slightly alien in their audibility.

The sounds of contemporary Australia were the drone of a vacuum cleaner, the hum of an electric toothbrush, the crunch of ice cubes in a plastic cup, and the ringing of mobile phones. The sounds of medieval England were more human and less prosaic —speaking, chanting, and singing.

But one time also seemed to bleed through to the other: a vacuum switches itself on with mundane supernaturalism; a mobile phone rings in medieval England. At one point the woman places a drinking glass on the ground and then her ear to the glass, as though trying to hear the other time.

Croggan’s program note suggests the three Australian characters are “pressured and broken by the dehumanisations of modern capitalism” and “don’t know how to communicate and so hurt each other.”

These themes were perceptible in the play, but I found the husband and sister so unpleasant there seemed no reason for the woman to attempt communication with these characters, or to remain in their prosaic world. They repeatedly tried to convince the woman that she was crazy by lying to and about her, including a scene in which the husband unconvincingly tells an emergency operator that his unconscious wife has a knife and is trying to kill him. I preferred the appliances to these characters, though Grant and Gamsu are skilled actors.

In Australia, the woman repeatedly says that she doesn’t have the words to express what she is experiencing. Nor are the husband and sister inclined to listen. In medieval England, on the other hand, the woman joins the chorus in speaking words from The Book of Margery Kempe. In this way she finds a voice and the chorus become her onstage auditors and supporting singers.

The Book of Margery Kempe is often called the earliest autobiography in English. Kempe could not write and so dictated her visions and feelings to male scribes who wrote them down in the third person. Although Kempe was more than once accused of being a heretic during her lifetime, she is now celebrated as a woman who claimed a public voice to express her emotional, sexual, and religious experience.

Contemporary and medieval women's voices collide in My Dearworthy Darling Text from Kempe’s book appears throughout My Dearworthy Darling as electronic surtitles and spoken or sung dialogue. The actors’ facility with the Middle English was impressive and beautiful. Because the Middle English overlaps with but is different from our own idiom, the audience must listen carefully, or relinquish conventional ideas about meaning and communication in favour of the sounds and aesthetics of Kempe’s words. That these words are a third-person, dictated, 14th-century memoir should caution us against simplistic morals about restoring and listening to women’s voices — a problem The Rabble also grappled with in their 2017 show about another illiterate medieval heroine, Joan. My Dearworthy Darling’s use of electronic surtitles, time travel, and Middle English show how the mediations that stand between us and Kempe’s voice are also what allow us to hear it. Going back in time, shifting place and idiom, the woman finds she has both words and listeners. Are the words her own? Croggan’s citations of Kempe and the play’s shift to chanting and choral song suggest this is the wrong question. If we want to give women words and hear their voices, the play implies, we must also disrupt and complicate the conventions of authorship and public speech that write them out of history. We must see how mediation, estrangement, and ventriloquism facilitate as well as thwart expression. My Dearworthy Darling is at The Malthouse until August 18.

Authors: Sarah Balkin, Lecturer, English and Theatre Studies, University of Melbourne

Read more http://theconversation.com/contemporary-and-medieval-womens-voices-collide-in-my-dearworthy-darling-120590

Why degree cost increases will hit women hardest

arrow_forward

Curious Kids: how did the first person evolve?

arrow_forward

New Home Checklist – First-time Moving Into a House

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Prime Minister National Cabinet Statement

The National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, the Victoria outbreak, easing restrictions, helping Australians prepare to go back to work in a COVID-safe environment an...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Reinventing The Outside Of Your Office

Efficient work is a priority in most offices. You need a comfortable interior that is functional too. The exterior also affects morale. Big companies have an amazing exterior like university ca...

News Company - avatar News Company

Kaspersky and Ferrari partnership: tailoring cybersecurity for an iconic brand

Kaspersky is commemorating the 10 year anniversary of its strategic partnership with iconic, global brand - Ferrari. The cybersecurity company is a sponsor of the brand’s Formula One racing team...

News Company - avatar News Company

Instant Steel Solutions Review

Are you keen on having the right guidance, knowledge and information about the right kind of steel purchases for your industries? If yes, then you are in the right place. There is no doubt that ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion