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And She Would Stand Like This

  • Theatre
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  1. Miki Daely, Peter Wood, Kikki Temple, Guillaume Gentil in And She Would Stand Like This
    Photograph: Angel LeggasMiki Daely, Peter Wood, Kikki Temple, Guillaume Gentil in And She Would Stand Like This
  2. Guillaume Gentil in And She Would Stand Like This
    Photograph: Angel LeggasGuillaume Gentil in And She Would Stand Like This
  3. Surain Dhillo and , Andrea Mendez in And She Would Stand Like This
    Photograph: Angel LeggasSurain Dhillo and , Andrea Mendez in And She Would Stand Like This
  4. Kikki Temple in And She Would Stand Like This
    Photograph: Angel LeggasKikki Temple in And She Would Stand Like This
  5. Peter Wood in And She Would Stand Like This
    Photograph: Angel LeggasPeter Wood in And She Would Stand Like This
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Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Greek tragedy meets ballroom culture in this Midsumma show from Antipodes Theatre

It’s a good idea, adapting Euripides’ play The Trojan Women through the lens of the NYC ball culture that famously featured in the cult documentary Paris is Burning. Setting it at a time when the horror of the AIDS crisis was just beginning to dawn on the communities who were about to be decimated by it, US playwright Harrison David Rivers draws a compelling line from the innocent blood shed at Troy to the “tainted” blood of young gay men in Regan-era America, facing their own tsunami of death. And if the result isn’t entirely successful, the window into a distinct subculture is fascinating.

And She Would Stand Like This opens on Hecuba (Kikki Temple) in hospital, waiting for news she just knows is bad. Whether that news concerns herself, her daughter Andromache (Andrea Mendez), or Andromache’s young son Astyanax, is not immediately certain. Rivers allows this unfocused dread to accumulate and gather at the foot of his heroine, subtly shifting the audience’s perceptions of this larger-than-life character: while Hecuba begins as a vainglorious narcissist, her suffering (and more importantly her grief) transform her into a kind of totem of grim resistance and of pride.

Hecuba isn’t only a mother to Andromache; as the head of her “house” she is the mother figure in the lives of her entire queer family. These are represented on stage by three “daughters”, played by Miki Daely, Peter Wood and Guillaume Gentil, who also function as a Greek chorus, repeating phrases, commenting on the action, and intoning in unison.

Rivers allows them each a monologue, disparate peeks into their individual lives that reveal their humanity, their fractured family relationships and their burnished dignity in the face of the tragic. All three performers bring poignancy and depth to these insights, and Wood is particularly strong in a speech about mothers, fathers and the legacy of sexual violence. But far more could have been done with them; dramatically – even aesthetically, the daughters feel underdressed – the chorus doesn’t feel fully integrated into the play’s design.

Temple’s portrayal of Hecuba is also problematic. She does weariness and distraction brilliantly, and there is a wonderful sense of her strength and the power of her endurance. But she is far too young for the role (the script mentions her being in her 50s), and never quite manages to carry the weight of the play’s concerns. There isn’t enough of a sense of grandeur about her, or decay. These are central to River’s conception of Hecuba, and Temple’s almost muted performance means the play never quite finds its feet.

Margot Tanjutco’s direction is patchy at best. The play is tonally ambiguous, partly ritualistic and partly socio-political, so it needs a very firm hand and bold directorial gestures, none of which Tanjutco confidently delivers. Karine Larché’s set is evocative of the runways typical in ball culture, but it is also physically awkward, bunching the actors together in the centre. Ikshvak Sobti's lighting design is excellent, moving effortlessly from antiseptic hospital to luxurious ballroom.

If only we got more of a sense of that ballroom, And She Would Stand Like This might have been a more rounded entertainment.There is a tiny amount of ball culture, those fabulous poses and dramatic moves, at the very opening, but Tanjutco seems content to keep that world offstage. It means we get no contextualisation, and very little raw sensuality. The balls, and the “house” configurations, are key to this subculture, but they remain frustratingly out of sight.

And She Would Stand Like This is probably best thought of as a series of sparking ideas rather than a fully realised play: it provides only a sketchy look into ball culture, and has a sometimes awkward relationship with Euripides. But it does provide a valuable, and ultimately moving, insight into the precariousness of queer bodies, especially queer people of colour. Vogueing was around long before Madonna rode it into the mainstream, and characters like Hecuba were at its centre, impervious and enshrined.

Written by
Tim Byrne

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Price:
$30-$40
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