theatre review: the magic hour
Welcome to the Magic Hour- a time of stories and dreams, where the imagination runs wild and the lengthening shadows are never too far away…
Written by Vanessa Bates and performed by Ursula Yovich under the direction of Chris Bendall, The Magic Hour is a fantastic one-woman series of monologues that is rude, crude and hilarious, and tragically close to home. Drawing on the subject matter of Brother Grimm fairy tales, Bates focuses on the oft-forgotten female characters- Little Red Riding Hood’s Grandma, Jack (and the Beanstalk’s) mother, the ‘witch’ in Rapunzel- to reimagine the tales in a whole new way, reminding us that stories have many different facets. Gleefully vulgar, the production has fantastic moments of cheekiness and intense moments of tragedy.
Generally when fairy tales are reimagined they become a bit contrived- uncreative parodies of themselves- but Bates’ talent as a storyteller has created the stories anew, whilst keeping that quality of timelessness that makes many fairy tales so special. Watching the drama unfold, I couldn’t stop myself thinking ‘this could happen to anyone, anywhere.’ The script is beautifully written, it’s poetic, funny, moving, and tragic- all rolled into one chunk of the blackest humour. There is also a wonderful lyrical quality- it was as if I could almost see the words as they rolled off Yovich’s tongue.
Ursula Yovich absolutely shone in this production, brilliantly capturing a range of characters: shedding one and assuming another with the skill one can expect from such an acclaimed actor. Admittedly, I had never seen her in action before and it was thrilling. Yovich has as much a capacity to provoke laughter as she does at evoking tragedy –I was kept in a constant state of emotional suspense, sliding from laughter to unease without quite knowing how it happened. Even though the stories are somewhat familiar- no-one knows what will happen next.
A lot of hard work and talent has gone into the technical side of the production and it pays off. The set and costume design (Alicia Clements) and the lighting and original score (Joe Lui) adds to the atmosphere of each monologue, drawing the audience into the world Bates has created, and evoking that special time in the evening when the shadows begin to lengthen and anything could happen.
Inspired by the women Bates met whilst working at Big hART, The Magic Hour encouraged me to deconstruct and reflect on my own social values and the way I perceive people. It breaks down social prejudices and serves them back to you. Most importantly, it makes you think about those marginalized voices that we as a society don’t hear, or choose not to listen to. Perhaps we should, for, as one of the characters says at the end of the play- “we may not all live happily ever after, but we all live”.
The Magic Hour is highly recommended. I saw the production at The Street Theatre in Canberra, however it is currently touring Victoria with theatre company Performing Lines, before heading to the NT for the Darwin Festival.