Friday, 7 July 2017

REVIEW: Tiresia at Etcetera Theatre

Whoever is familiar with Ian Dixon Potter's plays, will recognise some connection between his previous work Boy Stroke Girl and his most recent Tiresia. In both cases there is a similar cliff-hanger plot where the truth unfolds slowly, without ever entirely revealing itself. Investigating the controversial opposition between how people relate with the external world with regards to their appearance and the adherence to social labels, Dixon never offers a conclusion that proves to be universally valid. Instead, he presents the matter from a variety of angles and allows the audience to form their own opinion whilst they witness elaborate but clearly exposed dialogues.

Tiresia opens with the young woman in the title role (Natasha Killam) hobbling towards a small table centre stage and soon joined by an older man named Harold (Albert Clack). They have known each other for quite a long time, but something in their friendship has recently changed. Harold is visibly astonished when he first sees Tiresia and she talks through the phases of a long rehabilitation, without ever mentioning what caused her injury. She's the protegee of a famous painter called Arthur, who has suddenly left the country without even saying goodbye to his closest friends and family. Tiresia and Arthur are closely related and snippets of their connection trickle from the various conversations throughout the play, like pieces of a jigsaw laid on a table one after the other.

The title bears a reference to Greek mythology and to the blind prophet Tiresias, who was transformed into a woman as a punishment. 

At one point, the discussion veers sharply towards science and the studies on how memory could be chemically stored in the body. Despite being a very interesting and pertinent subject matter, this subplot is not adequately explored and could potentially distract the audience from other urgent and more familiar questions that come back in Dixon Potter's work. Can we still love someone if their aspect suddenly changes? Does appearance and the social conventions attached to it affect the perception of someone and the relationship we have with them? Are cultural labels so strong to influence our feelings?

Tiresia is a clever piece that uses a complex plot to draw attention on long-standing ethical and philosophical issues that recur in modern society. In the bare set of the Etcetera Theatre, the playwright's lines take centre stage, convincingly delivered by a cast of actors that demonstrate dedication to the script and complete each other's characters with a harmonious and strong presence on stage.

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★★★
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