Review: Destroy, She Said – Belvoir St Theatre (NSW)

Directed by Claudia Osborne, based on the novel by Marguerite Duras

Review by Charlotte Smee

Destroy, She Said is a carefully crafted fever dream. Elisabeth (Grace Smibert) sleeps in an array of inhuman positions on an orange lounge chair, whilst guests at the same hotel watch, and watch and watch. What follows is a captivating look at the strangeness of knowing other people, their grief, and their desires.

FERVOUR. takes Marguerite Duras’s novel and 1969 film of the same name and turns it into an experience that feels like you’re living in a French art film with missing frames. Elisabeth has come to an isolated hotel to convalesce after the loss of her baby. She is watched by the whispering Max Thor (Andreas Lohmeyer) and the wide-eyed, ever strange Stein (Gabriel Alvarado). Max’s wife Alissa (Adriane Daff) later comes to play cards, croquet, Operation, and with Elisa’s heart. Just when you thought you couldn’t bear another person, Elisabeth’s husband Bernard (Tommy Misa) brings a glimpse of sanity that quickly disappears.

Destroy, She Said is both of this world and outside of it…If this is the future of theatre, the future is excitingly, brightly strange.

Smibert as Elisabeth is mesmerising, warping her body into the most outrageous positions and staring directly away from anyone who speaks to her. Daff as the inescapable Alissa brings a probing catalyst to Elisabeth’s avoidance, mirroring and countering with her piercing gaze. Alvarado and Lohmeyer play off each other’s strangeness, repeating similar phrases and movements to create an other-worldly feel that is hilarious and uncomfortable.

Claudia Osborne’s direction uses every square of the space, like forcing us to look down on Stein laying across the ground as he attempts to communicate with Elisabeth when she finally wakes. The strange card game that builds into crazed laughter ringing into the darkness is a shining moment that makes full use of every detail.

Grace Deacon and Kelsey Lee’s set, costume and lighting and Angus Mills’s sound design are almost characters in themselves. One small section of “forest” grows into a mess of grassy knolls that eventually overtake most of the stage. Scenes are intercut with flashes of red light and loud, droning sound that give glimpses of the character’s insanity and the suggestion of what goes on in the ever-looming “forest”.

Alissa slowly transforms into Elisa with the help of a plasticky unreal wig and pants that feel like they aren’t hers. Each scene change seamlessly transforms, either changing the set up of the central platform, moving a lounge chair to somewhere we didn’t think it was, or bringing a picnic blanket and a game of cards. The mess of everything that happens stays on the stage as a visual reminder of where we’ve been – but it always seems just out of reach.

Destroy, She Said is both of this world and outside of it. This experience of hearing, feeling, and seeing through a warped reflection is both welcoming and uncomfortable. It is the culmination of painstaking detail and effort, bringing you a weirdness that celebrates the theatrical by using every element it can. If this is the future of theatre, the future is excitingly, brightly strange.

Reviewer rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Photo credits: Phil Erbacher

FERVOUR. brings Destroy, She Said to Belvoir’s Downstairs Theatre as part of their 25A program. 25A gives emerging and independent artists 100% of the box office and the theatre for free if they can make a show for less than $1500 and produce and market it themselves.

FERVOUR. is an independent theatre company dedicated to making theatre that “does not mimic reality” and gives “all scenographic elements equal weight”.

Destroy, She Said is part of our March cheap thrills, playing until 19 March 2022. Tickets for $25 here.

Creatives

ORIGINAL AUTHOR Marguerite Duras

DIRECTOR Claudia Osborne

STEIN Gabriel Alvarado

ALISSA Adriane Daff

MAX THOR Andreas Lohmeyer

BERNARD Tommy Misa

ELISABETH ALIONE Grace Smibert

PRODUCER Imogen Gardam

COSTUME AND SET DESIGNER Grace Deacon

COSTUME, SET AND LIGHTING DESIGNER Kelsey Lee

SOUND DESIGNER Angus Mills

DRAMATURGS Adriane Daff, Thomas De Angelis

MOVEMENT CONSULTANT Danielle Michich

AUDIO TECHNICIAN Jade Carter

PRODUCTION MANAGER AND LIGHTING REALISER Saint Clair

STAGE MANAGER Caitlain Cowan

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