Why make love when war is much more fun? From the wedding waltz to a dance of death – no-one would say these two were made to tango.
Malthouse continues their commitment to presenting the slightly off centre, rare and special with Friedrich Dürrenmatt's (heralded as the Swiss master of the macabre) brutal comedy Dance of Death. Or rather an adaptation of August Strindberg's The Dance of Death in which Dürrenmatt's condensed Part 1 of Strindberg's play and called it Play Strindberg. A proponent of Epic Theatre, Dürrenmatt's interpretation did alter the original by introducing a darker more brutal element thereby extinguishing any hope for salvation Strindberg may have been aiming for. However, Malthouse is excited to be presenting its audience with a new, updated version of the production by one of Australia’s most exciting, multi-award-winning young playwrights, Tom Holloway.
This is an unsentimental, often bleak but darkly humorous tale of wedded hell – twenty five years of it in fact. Alice and Edgar have a special gift – they know how exactly to destroy one another. And their hatred has forged a bond stronger than any romance. Belinda McClory plays Alice opposite Jacek Koman and says she is having enormous fun. "Alice is extreme and formidable and a very, very capable opponent in this most dangerous of games and she'll play until the bitter end," explains McClory. " Sex, death, revenge, fidelity, entrapment, terrible loss and unrequited love all make an appearance. But in playing the Dance Of Death, can anyone truly win?"
McClory will be recognized by some for her work on The Matrix but her journey towards becoming an actor started when she was a little girl. " It was my father who suggested acting classes – I was 12 so maybe puberty made me a little drama queen," she says. " With my parents encouragement I joined the Unley Youth Theatre in Adelaide under the artistic directorship of a fabulous theatre maker called Bridget Kitchen and she cast me in the lead of our yearly play. Louis Nowra was in the audience opening night as he was looking for a teenage girl to be in his new play with the South Australian Theatre Company. I was asked to audition for the director Jim Sharman and was cast in "Sunrise". My fellow cast members were Gillian Jones, Kerry Walker, Melita Jurasic, Alan John and Geoffrey Rush to name a few. I rehearsed with them by day, but by night they were performing in the world premiere season of Stephen Sewell's "The Blind Giant Is Dancing", directed by Neil Armfield and because I was working for the company I got tickets to see the show. It was this incredible production of this incredible play made me want to be an actor."
Most of the roles that attract McClory are challenging or difficult in some way shape or form. "I think things that scare you make you better," she attests. "I'm more comfortable with straight drama, so anything requiring a comic touch or entails singing or dancing makes me feel nervous. Also, the older I get, the weirder I am about being "looked at", so I don't really enjoy playing "sexy" roles either. To be honest, I like rehearsing rather than performing. I love roles in new work that explore form like Tom or Declan or Crimp or Caryl Churchill does and has difficult emotion asks like "Frozen"; but I can also fall in love with a "well made play" like "Proof" or "Boy Gets Girl" for example. Recently I had the pleasure to perform in "Queen Lear" opposite Robyn Nevin. I hadn't performed Shakespeare since drama school and I wanted to see if I could cut it with the professionals. I was scared at first, but the combination of meeting and working opposite Robyn whilst performing that text was such an incredible working experience for me."
McClory is married to Australian film director Jon Hewitt who she lovingly describes as her secret weapon. The duo have joined forces in various projects and will continue to do so. "One of the best things about my work is you get to meet and collaborate people with incredible minds and extraordinary ways of looking at the world," McClory states. " Meeting and working with Jon was so brilliant and so all consuming I had to marry him! And I don't want to keep our personal life out of our work – we write and make things that matter to us, that mean something to us that hopefully has a greater artistic, commercial appeal. Obviously we're professional onset with one another and I do love being directed by him (even if though he hardly speaks to me because we're on each other's wave length). Meeting Jon opened me up to a whole new way of seeing."
Alice's marriage is a far, far cry from McClory's own and in this play, which is structured as a boxing match in which no blow is too low, Malthouse audiences are promised a brilliantly brutal un-wedding night at the theatre.
Season dates: 18 April – 12 May
Opening night: 7.30pm Wednesday 24 April