by Lisa Romeo
Reviewed on Sun, 04/05/2014 - 05:36am
Lisa Romeo Total Reviews: 21
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Theatre Review by Lisa Romeo

What: Belleville
Where: Red Stitch
When: 30th April to 31st May
Written by: Amy Herzog
Director: Denny Lawrence
Assistant Director: Alice Darling
Performers: Paul Ashcroft, Christina O‚??Neill, Tariro Mavondo, Renaud Momtbrun
Set Designer: Jacob Battista
Lighting Designer: Clare Springett
Sound Designer: Chris Wenn

The Australian Premiere of Belleville is absolutely first-rate. The coming together of American playwright Amy Herzog and Director Denny Lawrence has resulted in a top quality ‚??must see‚?? production, now showing at Red Stitch, a quaint theatre in the heart of Melbourne‚??s inner suburb of St Kilda.

Belleville is about an American couple abroad, relocating to make a new life in the Old World of Paris, the city of love and light. For so many of us this city, filled with rich history, art and bohemian lifestyles, conjures up a life of romance and love, resplendent with the fulfillment of dreams coming true.

The stage is beautifully set up as a pretty apartment, yet very small and confined. The lace curtains and large panel windows give us the flavour of Paris, very likely it is a room in a central, city location. Then the French music begins, creating an ambiance so sweet and fresh.

A young couple taking a dramatic step to live away from friends and family is no easy task. Abby (played by Christina O‚??Neill) and Zack (played by Paul Ashcroft) are faced with this challenge, and it is Abby that appears to sacrifice her career and her family to support Zack in his ambition and opportunity for work in a foreign country. On the surface this sounds like an exciting endeavour but sometimes, with the hope of a better life, reality sneaks in.

Alioune (played by Renaud Momtbrun) is the young, friendly landlord who faces the difficulty of constantly having to ask Zack to pay the overdue rent. His wife Amina (played by Tariro Mavondo), is shy and frustrated, trying to mother a new born baby while coping with the struggle of having to make ends meet.

As the plot continues Belleville moves into a deep and dark place. Here the show takes the ordinary, familiar married couple and begins to drag forth the fears and sordid secrets of what is really a troubled and menacing relationship. Dependent on one another, Abby and Zack are forced to discover who it is that they are actually sharing their life with; shards of each other begin to simmer to the surface, much of what may never have been revealed or suspected.

Boundaries and limits of trust and truth are bent but are they broken? Will chaos and deception reach a precipice or will harmony be restored?

Belleville is at times an intelligent comedy, with romance and intimacy; it is also a tragic and a spine chilling thriller. Emphasis and praise must be given to the superb acting throughout this play, and in particular to Christina O‚??Neill, who is an absolute shining star.

Belleville will have you laughing and then suddenly have you on the edge of your seat. It is intense and insightful and injects the audience with a mixture of emotions, provoking thoughts and questions about your own relationships and how well you know the person you are closest to.

5 stars

Playwright Amy Herzog was the finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play 4000Miles.

Photo by Jodie Hutchinson - Paul Ashcroft and Christina O‚??Neill

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