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Alison’s House

Photo by Katy Green Loughrey

The Depot Theatre presents, ALISON’S HOUSE, by Susan Glaspell, at the Depot Theatre, Addison Rd. Marrickville. 4 – 21 April.

ALISON’S HOUSE is an American play that won the Pulitzer Prize for the author, Susan Glaspell, in 1931. It is a play inspired by the life and work of Emily Dickinson, although, because of the denial by the Dickinson Estate to permit the use either of Dickinson’s name or poetry, an invented poet, Allison Stanhope, is created. The Depot Theatre Company, led by Julie Baz, in presenting ALISON’S HOUSE, were ‘motivated by a desire to bring iconic, but neglected plays written by women into contemporary consciousness…’

ALISON’S HOUSE’s dramaturgy – plot construct and character drawings – belongs to the conventions of its time but has interesting, complex, female roles, and debate, including the provocative contemporary controversy concerning the right to preserve the private life of an individual as opposed to the possible public revelations that may reveal that they were less conventional than our moral code supposed. And, whether there is justification to destroy the found information/art to sustain the status quo or to reveal the found output no matter the personal revelations and the reconsidering of their moral stature.

Like Rebecca, in Daphne du Maurier’s novel, REBECCA, Alison, now dead for 18 years, haunts the house and lives of all the Stanhope family and is of an influential concern. Alison because of her fame is still ‘alive’. All the characters belong to the living stream of the normal human (animal) family, and has within its history all of the travails and complications of all those human needs. Adhering to the conventions of the society at the cost of personal happiness is the major dilemma of this play. Each of the characters reveal more about themselves than is conventional.

This play, requires, especially today, acting of a very accomplished kind to be able to reveal and sustain interest in the people, and plotting of the ethical concerns of the playwriting. In this production at The Depot Theatre that varies from good to not so good. There is some interest evoked by Matthew Bartlett (Mr Hodges), Eliot Falzon (Richard Knowles), Nyssa Hamilton (Elsa), Brendan Lorenzo (Eben) and Tasha O’Brien (Ann).

The Design, by David Jeffrey, has an attention to detail in the Costuming and the stylistic choices of the Set Design, within the confines of its budget, lit by Mehran Mortezaei, with an evocative Sound Design by Thomas E. Moore, deftly utilised by Director Julie Baz.

This production serves for those interested in neglected writing for the theatre and is a useful experience despite some of its limitations in performance.

N.B. The recent Terence Davies film, A QUIET PASSION (2017) with Cynthia Nixon as Emily Dickinson is a do not miss thing to do.