Switzerland is a cold to the touch production that explores the inner world of the larger than life recluse author Patricia Highsmith – who created notable novels that include Strangers on a Train (1950), The Price of Salt (1952), The Talented Mr Ripley (1956), and The Glass Cell (1964).
The play is a two hander with Jenny Davis in the lead as Highsmith and Giuseppe Rotondella playing the likable envoy, Edward Ridgeway, sent by her New York publisher to convince her to write a final instalment of the Ripley series.
This is all about life imitating art imitating life – seduction, possession, ambition and the power of these dark forces when mixed with isolation and imagination.
Black Swan is the fifth Australian state theatre to present this play in the past few years and has presented a brooding, slick and emotional production, skillfully directed by Lawrie Cullen-Tait.
Highsmith is famous for her murder plots and pessimistic view of life – her self-exile to Switzerland seems a perfect place for her as she said it is “a land of mountains that block the sun”. Davis brings this cold character an exhausted edge through pauses and superb dialogue, opening up an eccentric isolated woman whose sardonic humour provides some relief for the audience caught in a her murder obsessed world.
The bleak writers retreat is changed irrevocably by her visitor from New York. Rotondella plays the role with bright clarity and control that sees his character evolve and expand in a shrinking world – great physical performance and an assured hand in this stellar performance.
It’s strength too lies in the design. A granite bunker-like room tilting on a sharp slope holds the drama in a tight grip, giving the feel walls are moving in or alternatively one can imagine one might be pushed, slip or simply fall off the stage in the emotional push and pull of tense dialogue. Coupled with outstanding lighting design, composition and sound scape, the overall production design is coldly superb.
With twists and turns, this is a play for people who might enjoy a hybrid of Shakespeare and Hitchcock and provides an interesting and thought provoking addition to the 2017 Black Swan program.
presented by Black Swan State Theatre Company
CAST: Jenny Davis & Giuseppe Rotondella
DIRECTED BY Lawrie Cullen -Tait,
SET & COSTUME DESIGNER: Bruce McKinven, LIGHTING DESIGNER: Lucy Birkinshaw COMPOSER/SOUND DESIGNER: Ash Gibson Greig
Photo credit: Philip Gostelow
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