Entitled ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and ‘Ergo’, the productions will feature in La Mama’s 2017 Explorations season, running from October 23 to December 17.
This annual season is dedicated to works in development and is a special time of the year when productions are given three nights to explore their practice and develop their theatrical pursuits.
Showing at La Mama Courthouse from November 6 to 8, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is the first of Mr Strangio’s creations to hit the stage for the season.
Inspired by Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 novel of the same name, Mr Strangio has collaborated with Swedish actor Annie Thorold to adapt the text and turn it into a compelling performance by Ms Thorold herself.
“The intention is to be true to the idea of the original text, but for it to be a piece of theatre, not just simply a recital of the story or a monologue,” Mr Strangio explained.
Regarded as an important early work of American feminist literature, illustrating attitudes in the 19th century toward women's health, both physical and mental, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is also considered a “gothically-patterned study of the fine line between madness and liberation”.
The story depicts the effect of understimulation on the narrator’s mental health and her descent into psychosis, and is based on Perkins Gilman’s own personal experience of mental illness at a time when it was misunderstood.
Having read the text at least 10 times, Ms Thorold expressed her appreciation for the author’s subtle cleverness and immaculate planning, despite having written it all in just two days.
“As a piece of writing it’s really impressive, and it’s very important from a feminist perspective,” she said.
“It’s an early work, but it gives a loud scream to how women were treated and looked at.”
Mr Strangio added that the literature has a lot to say for women of that era and the way in which they were objectified and patronised under the androcentric society of the 19th century.
“It’s an incredibly clever critique of society and they way women are shut away, shut up and mistreated,” he said.
While Ms Thorold believes that the original text is largely left open to interpretation, Mr Strangio would like to continue this sentiment in the production and create a sense of ambiguity around the story.
“Directing is not just about interpreting the text for the audience, but it’s the audience being actively interpretive and seeing the cleverness in the original work itself,” he affirmed.
Just as engaging is Mr Strangio’s second production, ‘Ergo’ which will show at the same venue from November 7 to 9.
Written by Andrew Preston, the play features Ms Thorold and other performers, including Laura Lattuada, Brenda Palmer and Adam Pierzchalski.
The work explores the life and thoughts of French philosopher, René Descartes, most famous for his dictum cogito ergo sum, commonly translated as “I think, therefore I am”.
The production grapples with the relationship between the mind and the body, the self and the world, and reality and appearance, and how Descartes’ ideas are relevant to the lives of four ordinary people in today’s world.
“It’s very much a piece that’s about trying to come to grips with a very complicated concept and unpack it to some degree in a way that people can understand it a little more, but also be curious to learn more [about it],” Mr Strangio said.
“The audience doesn’t have to agree with all of his ideas, but hopefully the play will encourage them to go out and start thinking...and therefore being!”
This is not the first time Mr Strangio and Ms Thorold have collaborated, and the two talents worked together during last year’s Explorations season.
A graduate from the Australian Institute of Music, Ms Thorold was doing her placement at La Mama when the two met.
She was initially a dramaturgical associate for Mr Strangio’s project, ‘Duras: The Lover’, and when the original performer became unavailable, Ms Thorold appeared the perfect person to step in.
It seems the stars aligned that day, and it has since led to an ongoing dialogue surrounding present and future projects.
Right now, the possibilities seem endless for this dynamo duo!
For more information or tickets, head to La Mama’s website.