By Lyn Zelen
A Flower for Moses is thought-provoking theatre acknowledging the truth of our allusive history and the “senior moments” in all of us.
The magnificent cast of Melbourne Writers’ Theatre keeps you guessing in Clare Mendes literary whodunit at Gasworks Arts Park.
Masterly trio Writer and Producer Clare Mendes, Director Cathy Hunt and Designer D. B. Valentine celebrate the value of our aging population with the perceptive, riveting and suspenseful direction of Cathy Hunt examining present-day dilemmas and incorporating dynamic flashbacks.
The immaculate Melbourne Writers’ Theatre production team and Gasworks Arts Park crew create a provocative peep-through-the-keyhole view of three entwined individuals searching for truth and their healing revelations.
Award winning actor Uschi Felix gives an unforgettable, realistic portrayal of Germaine Weaver; a classy former journalist for the Melbourne Herald in the 1950s, who designed her life as easily as throwing her scarf over her shoulder.
Now at 82, she resides in the Nile aged-care facility and experiences early onset dementia. Her spartan, yet pleasant room, boasts a single bed, chair and desk piled with writing pads, cryptic crossword puzzles and newspapers. She appears determined to solve life’s lies and believes clues are all around us in plain sight. We also see age doesn’t matter when Germaine has a “careful jig” to Bill Hailey’s Rock Around the Clock.
A single, middle-aged Desire (Clare Larman), regularly visits her aunt at the Nile. On her good days, Germaine recognises her niece and they reminisce about Desire’s childhood and the countless books she received from Germaine’s jaunts around the globe. This casts Germaine back to her youth stating “You never travel when you’re married”.
On other days Germaine “floats in and out of reality” and sporadically believes Desire is her deceased sister Elsie. Her doting niece indulges her aunt’s incessant talking in cryptic-crossword clues to decipher her life story puzzles.
Thomas Rhodes (Daniel Deards) is a caring nurse at the Nile facility and always on hand to support Germaine’s fascination with a life-like, baby doll. Germaine is prone to forgetting who he is and often calls him Frank. Germaine and Thomas share a mutual admiration, friendship, jokes and secrets—her dementia doesn’t hinder their daily discussions of modern-day events she finds in the newspaper.
Germaine’s dementia “absent moments” present opportune unintentional confessions from Desire and Thomas.
A despondent Desire visits the Nile to find Germaine believes she is her deceased sister Elsie again. Germaine’s “absent ear” can’t help Desire when she asks her about her parents’ arguments and her mother’s constant criticism of her father. The scene ends and the audience is left hanging wondering if Desire’s parents took their puzzling behaviour to their graves.
In a similar instance, Germaine is ranting about the lies people hide and Thomas reveals his ongoing resentment towards his younger brother. This scene ends and again the audience tries to decipher what happened to his brother Tim?
Melbourne Writers’ Theatre intuitive set, lighting and sound accentuate the timely twists and turns in the trilogy. Blackout scenes on the fluorescent set emphasise Germaine’s deeply hidden trauma in her psyche. Thomas is spot lit in auric golden light looking up remembering his brother’s 400 metre race at the Olympics as Sports Commentator (Josiah Lulham) calls the race, and Germaine’s room transforms into Desire’s E-Harmony date that quickly turns sour.
Will Germaine’s cryptic-crossword clues and “floating” in and out of reality help them all discover their truths?
Is desperate deceit the direct result of many a careless act of male violence like Moses floating down the Egyptian Nile?
Unlike the banality often associated with aging and aged-care facilities, this serious story includes “real-life” examples of highlights, endearing dialogue and lightning-fast wisecracks.
A Flower for Moses is a must-see disclosure rescuing the truth of the past to heal our future.
Images: Clare Mendes