Nell is framed, an Elizabethan portrait come to life. Ruby, an actor, responds to the disembodied voice of a man at an audition. And Lily & Alma are dressed in uniforms, locked away from the world to be kept safe.
These three overlapping narratives tackle the politics of performance and personal interaction. Nell must perform for the King. Outside of her audition, Ruby’s sex life is a negotiation with a fuck buddy who calls just because he knows she’ll answer. And Lily & Alma act for and act out on one another; wrestling their teenage hormones while the world encourages them to only be good.
These stories reflect each other; bouncing from era to era, slipping from 17th Century England to present day Melbourne and a not-too-distant future, an Atwoodian dystopia that feels not so far away. Writer Jamaica Zuanetti has built three thoroughly evocative stories of sex and states of oppression; the writing is lyrical and astute.
Jessica Tanner stands tall among the cast bringing both a softness to Nell as well as a harder edge as she struggles with the demands of performing for the King.
Though the show could benefit from some tightening, it feels a little loose in this preview, this is a beautiful production. Daniel Moulds’ set and costume design are simple but effective, especially in combination with John Collopy’s striking lighting design. Rachel Baring’s direction is fluid, helping the three stories feel like their own little worlds but also working together to build a powerful whole.
Note: the performance I saw was considered a preview by the venue and the production team. I normally wouldn’t review a preview, but there was nothing to indicate it was a preview on the Fringe Festival site.