Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Queen Lara - The Box

Queen Lara - The Box

Writer: Frank Otis

by: Melissa Hyatt-Boyle, The Box

Box Hill Tafe music student, Jenita Spirtovic [pictured], delivered a solid performance starring in Queen Lara presented by Defector Art Theatre at Northcote Town Hall from the 5th til the 9th of May.

Defector Art Theatre's slogan, 'Anything But Safe' can be used to describe Frank Otis' tenth full length play, Queen Lara.

It's risky to present a play with vampires these days. It is riskier still to have a vampire address the audience in the first act to declare all the audience thinks they know about vampires is false. If you write an [sic] 'your [sic] about to be blown away' remark into your play, you had best deliver. Promise of a new twist on vampires in Queen Lara, however, was disappointing.

It may have been the ratted 80s looking hair and costumes that let the production down. It may have been the vampire world scenes differentiated only by the actors hissing and moaning their lines as they writhed around on the stage. Had it not been for that initial boast of something new, however, it may not have been so disappointing.

Thankfully the initial disappointment didn't linger. The overall production of Queen Lara proved to be worth the risk. The concept of vampires helping humans to evolve is interesting. Otis in his character Queen Lara (Spirtovic) explores the shades of grey surrounding what is wrong or right. The sacrifice of a few for the common good. Even if a leader has good intentions how far can he/she bend the rules? Otis says his inspiration came not from the rebirth of the vampire films but from the 1951 sci fi 'The Day the Earth Stood Still'.

As both writer and an actor in the play, Otis has some brilliant moments. In the final act Janet (Flame Alicia Divine) forces John (Frank Otis) to strip against his will using mind control. Janet stage right facing audience - back to John, mimics taking one article of clothing off at a time. As she does John, centre stage, removes the corresponding item. The scene was done very well with actors, lighting (Douglas Scott Montgomery) and stage direction (Paul Otis and L'hibou Hornung) all coming together beautifully. Had the synchronisation been perfect the scene would have been flawless.

All of the club scenes were impressive. It's incredible how well a simplistic approach to stage design can be so effective. The club atmosphere was captured without the set taking over. Flashing lights and original music (Paul Otis) came from back stage along with use of a smoke machine. With this approach actors were given freedom of movement and were able to be heard clearly.

Frank Otis says there are two things that make Defector Art Theatre unique. One, which is worth Box Hill Tafe students taking note of, is opportunity. Otis says, '(they) love giving people a chance to show off their craft. It doesn't matter if you are an actor, writer or director.' They don't care about your experience, just your talent.

The other is their 'Anything but safe' slogan, their love of challenging an audience. This is ultimately what paid off in Queen Lara and makes Frank Otis and the theatre company worth keeping track of.

The Box

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