Q44 Theatre is a repertory collective, especially known for taking Broadway and West End productions, and reconfiguring them to their more intimate performance space. Thanks to them, international shows with more specialised target appeal, are now being seen and enjoyed by local Melbourne audiences.
To date, the company’s eclectic list of critically – acclaimed productions includes:
- Dolores (by Edward Allen Baker);
- Orphans (by Lyle Kessler);
- Spike Heels (by Theresa Rebeck);
- Kafka’s Monkey (by Franz Kafka and adapted by Colin Teevan);
- Fool for Love (by Sam Shepard);
- Savage in Limbo (by John Patrick Shanley);
- Sister Cities (by Colette Freedman);
- Sex with Strangers (by Laura Eason);
- Shining City (by Conor McPherson);
- Hurlyburly (by David Rabe); and,
- NK: A Kazantzakian Montage (by Howard F. Dossor).
With the recent shift to a brand – new venue at the Abbotsford Convent, it should be noted that Q44’s unique theatricality remains fully intact. Meaning, their latest piece may also be experienced up close and personal.
Written by Martyna Majok, Ironbound is a saga of desperation, hope and survival. Escaping war – ravaged Poland, two young lovers try to make a new start for themselves in Bill Clinton’s America. Bringing focus to the working underclass, this is Norma Rae, The Grapes of Wrath, or A Streetcar Named Desire, reimagined for modern audiences.
Prior to her play’s world premiere at the Round House Theatre in 2015, Majok gave a brief insight into its writing.
“I felt like the stories of poor women were misrepresented, or just not present. I wanted to see my own story on stage…my mother’s story.”
With a running time of one hundred minutes, the non – linear narrative is divided into five distinct scenes and time frames. These being:
- Winter / 2014
- Summer / 1992
- Winter / 2014
- Fall / 2006
- Winter / 2014
Allowed the luxury of latitude, Majok gives each character room to breathe. Flawed yet complex, as viewers, we eventually get to know and understand what makes them tick.
On stage for the show’s entire duration, Gabriella Rose – Carter is the powerful centre piece in Majok’s gripping drama. As Darja, she presents a feisty master manipulator, equally hungry for true love as well as financial security. You can’t take your eyes off her.
Existing in present day, Tommy (played by Alex Tsitsopolous), is constantly at odds with Darja’s outbursts. She is almost too much for him to handle. Tsitopolous gves this blue – collar jock explosive passion. The give and take of their relationship, helps viewers why the couple stay together, yet threaten to split apart.
As her fellow escapee and partner from twelve years prior, Anthony Scundi (as Maks), yearns for a better existence. With aspirations of becoming a musician, he is determined to live the American dream. Together, they are a study in startling contrasts. Scundi’s youthful charm plays well against Rose – Carter’s jaded realism.
A fourth character, Vic (played by Will Atkinson), is an accidental arc angel. His gentle presence reminded this reviewer of Keanu Reeves from Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho. As communicated by Atkinson, Vic has his own cross to bear. Coming from money doesn’t necessarily buy freedom, either.
The genius in the writing, direction, and acting is, none of these characters are particularly likeable. But they are gutsy and real, and that is why we feel for them.
Suzanne Heywood directs with a spare and uncompromising touch. In her expert charge, the protagonists bloom to agonising life.
Helping to inform the two main characters, it should be noted that several costume choices have a certain irony, too. In scene one, Darja is dressed in a Disneyland hoodie. Tommy wears a New Jersey Devils sports jacket.
Ironbound is staged on single static set, a bus stop in New Jersey’s industrial wasteland. John Collopy’s lighting, combined with Justin Gardam’s sound, give the experience an edge not unlike Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot or Ariel Dorfman’s Purgatorio. Meaning, life here teeters in an eternal limbo.
Q44 Theatre knocks it out of the park again with their latest show. Ironbound plays until June 3. Catch it while you can.