‘The Desecration of Your Mum’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by November 3, 2018

‘The Desecration of Your Mum’ is a short story written in 1830 by Mary Shelley, the wife of the Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley. In 1797, when Mary was born, her parents William and Mary had only been married for five months. Before Mary was even a month old, her mother – Mary Wollstonecraft – died of complications, and so Mary Shelley never knew her. The author still held her in the highest esteem, in fact Mary learnt to write her surname by tracing the letters on her mother’s gravestone. Could it be that the playwright wrote this short story because of – in her mind – feeling guilty, about being the possible cause of her mother’s untimely death?

Mary’s short stories are known for being rather ‘plodding and stodgy’. However, Shelley’s story has now been modified and freshly devised by the 3rd year students studying Advanced Studies in Theatre and Performance at Murdoch, into this immersive piece (so yes, there are no seats!). They have done a wonderful job in mounting this creepy, post-Halloween, adult production.

After the popularity of Murdoch’s amazing production of Mary Shelley’s masterpiece ‘Frankenstein’ 2 years ago, join them now in celebrating the play’s 200th anniversary, with their interpretation of one of her rarely seen stories.

The Nexus Theatre, building 351, is near car park 3 in Murdoch University, South Street, Murdoch. There are only three of these one-hour ADULT performances, with the last being at 7.00 pm on Saturday 3rd November. There is no nudity but many of the disturbing themes are explicit and for adults only.

The set: was everywhere! Starting on stage with Victor Frankenstein’s operating table. The audience are led through the tunnel to the dressing rooms. Each area had bunting and coloured crêpe paper decorations. Behind the central stage curtains was another performing area. We even ended up in the car park.

The stage manager was Zenna Newman-Santos, who must have spent hours clearing up the detritus and cleaning floors after the show.

 

         Victor Frankenstein (Justin Mosel-Crossley) cackles as he brings his monster to life. The monster (Rhys Evans) seems to be already quite alert, and correcting Victor’s every move. Victor tells us how much he would like another child – perhaps a girl? But a religious fanatic (Dhurba Karki) warns Victor of potential doom.

         A stunning guide (Cody Lin) leads us along a dark passage, past the cage containing a man (Thomas Wendt) who, reminiscent of Dennis Hopper in the film ‘Blue Velvet’, is sucking on a gas mask. We arrive in the celebration party area, where a cheer leader (Kamara Churchill) shakes her pom poms and welcomes us.

In the stage wings, a beautiful young woman (Catarina Chesworth) is applying make-up, but do not be deceived, she is evil and about to die. On stage a young teenager (Sara McIntosh) is checking her pregnancy test before breaking down. In another area is a birthing chamber, with several pregnant mothers (including Margaret Camporeale) are trying hard to deliver. A mother (Claire Mosel-Crossley – appropriately a birthday girl) explains how to look after a newly born baby (Lily). A sick girl (Amy Alice Smith) explains how not all children are born healthy and tells us her personal story. Xarna Rappold wheels her pushchair past the dying witch.

        Numerous action-filled surprises pop up throughout this post-dramatic play, delivered in its post-modern style.

 

Third year students should be pushing their boundaries, stretching their acting skills to the uncomfortable limit and having to enact their worst nightmares. If not at Uni with friends, when will they get a chance to fail or pass with dignity? Thanks to a wonderful director, Joe, this is their big chance.

Director Joe Lui, with production support from Dr Alexa Taylor, who are both Murdoch ex-theatre students have excelled. A hundred years ago in Nexus, a smart youngster dressed in a dinner suit, without music, played an amazing accompaniment on a grand piano. He was Joe Lui. Two years later, in the style of the film ‘Cabaret’, Joe then shook the course lecturers when he gave us a wartime German Night Club – complete with cabaret seating and waitresses – before presenting an accurate night of sleaze and kinky entertainment. The lecturers could not believe that a someone only 20 years old could produce such quality and atmosphere. Since then Joe has won the respect of the WA Theatre bodies as he pushed the limits with every production that he has been linked to.

I ask the actors in this show to remember Joe’s message and advice. GO for it with every presentation that you create in the future. Years later you will not remember your failures, but you will reluctantly remember your fear of trying.

This show had a very fast pace, excitement and examined every aspect of a mother and child relationship.

This collection of tableaux finished with a one-finger salute, and an utterance that would have brought a smile to Mary’s famous feminist, desecrated mother – Mary Wollstonecraft.