fringe: altar girl

adelaide fringe: altar girl
Teenage girls are horrible spiteful creatures... not individually perhaps, but get them in a group, or get on the wrong side of one and, as the man himself once said, hell hath no fury.

Altar Girl is Shakespeare's Othello "as told by teenage girls out for revenge".

And the tunnels under the Adina Apartment Hotel are the perfect setting. The space seems quite odd for a theatre piece, being long and narrow with the audience sitting along the length. But with some clever staging by director Alanah Guiry and the use of mirrors at either end, the audience is able to see pretty much everything that happens.

I will admit that I'm only passingly familiar with the original version, but as the story here is different enough to the original that it really didn't hamper my enjoyment in the least. The language is modern, with the occasional Shakespearean phrase thrown in. And setting the play in what feels like the latter half of a party means that everybody is primed for drama when it begins.

The cast is small, and about half of the characters are gender flipped, so Othello becomes Ollie, Iago becomes Lara and Roderigo becomes Rory, while Cassio and Desdemona remain Michael and Dess respectively. Which for the second time this Fringe means that the main character and their love interest in a Shakespeare inspired piece have been turned into a lesbian couple.

Substituting sexuality gives an interesting twist on the racial subplot of the original.. in fact sexuality and power are the key themes here, as Lara tells us and the other characters more than once "everything is about sex, except sex, which is about power".

Although Ollie is played by Shamita Sivabalan, the only non-white member of the cast, so they don't abandon race completely.

All the performances are exceptionally good but while I'm fully aware that Iago (or in this case Lara) is the villain of the piece, Jeni Bezuidenhout is just so incredibly magnetic in the role that I couldn't help but be drawn into her world of intrigue and revenge.

I knew Lara was bad, but I didn't care... I wanted her to succeed, even though none of the other characters have done anything to deserve her wrath. Even the moments when the focus was on other characters I was often drawn back to her. It also helped because she's the only character who addresses the audience directly once the play gets going.

Lucy Orr has the difficult job of making Rory both awkward, pathetic and sympathetic, which she manages admirably... and it's easy to see how she falls under Lara's spell so completely.

The show only runs until the end of this week, so I highly recommend going to see it if you can.

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