ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER.
Turning one of Spanish primo director, Pedro Almodovar‘s most successful movies into a theatrical play, seemed like an good idea. But with the MTC production of “All About My Mother“, I am sorry to report that it is actually not such a good idea. A very disappointing night at the theatre.
Story revolves around Manuela (Alison Whyte), a nurse and single mother living in Madrid with her son Esteban (Blake Davis). On a fateful night to the theatre (A Streetcar Named Desire), her son is killed after being hit by a car. Off she trots to Barcelona to seek out the son’s father, also called Esteban, but now called Lola. Along the way she meets up with a transvestite prostitute (Paul Capsis), pregnant nun (Katie Fitchett), and famous diva actress (Wendy Hughes. All helping her to overcome the grief of losing her beloved child. Throw in junkies and some ribald language and you get pure Almodovar!
Almodovar’s film is full of melodrama, humour, hysteria, has a propulsive energy and is visually arresting.
The play is laboured, staged in an amateurish fashion (bring on the sliding panels, and slow mo walking), and is visually disappointing (furnished like a 70’s waiting room), are we in Spain? I won’t talk about the hideous costumes. The acting is all over the place, along with the accents (mostly Aussie, with a few Spanish pronounciations thrown in). The humour really only appears in the second half, which I must admit was far superior to the first. The adaptation by Samuel Adamson (first performed at London’s Old Vic) incorporates monologues by the pesky dead son(why does he need to explain All About Eve?), his ghostly appearances are an add on, and oh so annoyingly distracting. Also he gives further monologues to the amusing transvestite Algrado (these work due to Paul Capsis performance, but only just). It has most of the structure of the film intact, and with it’s staging tries to make it filmic in scope. But what is the point of a direct copy? Isn’t it better just to watch the film again. I guess with all the built in melodrama, the touches of Tennessee Williams, and references to All About Eve, make it all so theatrical, perhaps that is where the idea of the adaptation came from?
There are some pleasures to be had. Paul Capsis lights up the second half, Wendy Hughes is always great to watch. The music is good (it is direct from the film). Unfortunately the pleasures do not outweigh the pain. I recommend to watch the film.
ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER
Presented by Melbourne Theatre Company
Director – Simon Phillips
Set Designer – Stephen Curtis
Costume Designer – Esther Marie Hayes
Now Playing at John Sumner Theatre till September 26