Performed Saturday 30 January 2021
Location: Southbank Theatre, Sumner Theatre
- Heidi Arena (@heidi.arena)
- Paul English (IMDB)
- Nadine Garner (@nadinegarneroffical)
- Tamala Shelton (@tamalalalala)
Directed by: Louris van de Geer (Aurora)
What happens when we make too many of the decisions that are expected of us?
I have not read the iconic novel on which this production is based. And while I’ve likely adopted a perspective shared by few in the room—let us just say that, as always, I was one of a handful of millennials et al, and one of even less audience-members of colour—, I’m convinced Elizabeth Jolly’s soul rests comfortably on the rafters, exuding the kind of pride Hester exhibits over Katherine in the early-to-middle stages of the production. Which is also to say, who really cares if you’ve read the book or not, let alone the movie because you don’t need to read the Lord of the Rings to love the movies, and I doubt anyone’s really read Roderick Thorpe’s Nothing Lasts Forever—we all just watch Die Hard instead.
Louris van de Geer’s The Well is a lot of fun. It’s a beautifully delivered montage through the intersecting lives of two women, Hester and Katherine: each falling into the roles of newfound mother and perennial foster-daughter. It all begins rather unassumingly, perfectly set up in recurring motifs, Aussie country ticklings, and small-town peculiarities. In much the same way: our protagonists are expected to be of a certain disposition: to make of their circumstances what is considered “best practice”—to do the right thing of a piece of land (or mother) inherited. There is a point caught within the calm before the literal storm that triggers a subversion of expectations thrusting the women into van de Geer’s deliverance of an “excavation of a female psychological landscape,” and it is wonderful to watch.
Performances are outstanding. Tamala Shelton brings a haunting vibrance—her eyes suspiciously omitted from the cast list. Nadine Garner delivers a mesmerising agony, making it easy to forget we are watching the Nadine Garner. Paul English is—well (no pun intended)—his usual flawless self. And Heidi Arena? Well, I am always a little brighter on the inside every time Heidi performs on stage, stealing the spotlight with her enviable comedic timing—a real joy.
What’s left, therefore, is the experience on stage. It is to speak highly of van de Geer’s adaptation to say there is much to love about MTC’s The Well. Van de Geer ‘s attempts to recreate a kind of Rorschach experience with this staged reading are well-received, for there is much to discuss post-show, much to surmise, so much to question. To that I say: I look forward to more and did I say that I just love the theatre? Gosh I love the theatre and it’s so good to be back. Thank you to everyone involved in The Well.