Sunday, December 28, 2014


Before we went to Darwin we went to Switzerland. Which was a bit easier because it wasn't cowbell land but the new play by Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith (who in that link gives her insights into the writing passion and in a few sentences unravels some of the complexities of the play's subject matter - Patricia Highsmith) co-commisioned by the Sydney Theatre Company and Geffen Theatre Los Angeles.

Continuing on their brilliant marketing campaign, after I became a new subscriber there came an email from Sydney Theatre Company welcoming me, thanking me, and rewarding me with two tickets to their new production: Switzerland. 'Must be crap, they're giving them away' I said to K. Well no. Wrong again. It opened to great reviews on every level - script, actors, set, production - with talk of Broadway and the like down the track.

Patricia Highsmith - the aggressively eccentric homosexual who would take hundreds of snails in her bag to a party to ensure she would have decent company, who spent her last years firing off racist letters to whomever would or wouldn't publish them, who morphed love and death and was said to be unloving and unlovable but certainly mortal, and who is probably most recognised for her Mr Ripley novels.

If I'd seen the name I hadn't remembered it and I'd certainly not read her, respected in Europe as a fine and psychologically probing writer while held at some distance in her native USA as a (mere) crime novelist. So much the better perhaps, for this fictional account dealing with her last years secluded in her own prison in Switzerland was probably all the more unpredictable, and thrilling, and chilling.

I thought the set brilliant, as disturbing as Michael Scott-Mitchell intended, angular, claustrophobic, uncomfortably comfortable. (For those less familiar, he did the astounding fire from water Olympic Flame set for Sydney 2000)

The wonderful veteran Sarah Peirse transforms herself into this creature, brilliantly directed by Sarah Goodes with Murray-Smith's dialogue playing off against a rivetting (for me at least) performance of the intruder by the outrageously talented and charismatic Eamon Farren. He made my hair stand on end with just one entrance.

                                                   (Production photos Brett Boardman)

As soon as we were back in the country we watched The Talented Mr Ripley again, just sitting in the stack of DVDs it happened to be. I didn't enjoy it much the first time despite an array of A-listers (Damon, Law, Paltrow, Blanchett, Seymour Hoffman, Minghella) and liked it even less the second now that I had some insights into what Highsmith was on about. It was for me simply overdrawn, something that can't be said about this brilliant new play.

I think I said brilliant three times already.


Susan Scheid said...

I hope I have a chance to see this play. A very peculiar, very talented person, no doubt about it.

wanderer said...

Sue, it plays at Geffen next March April 2015 with a different director (and cast no doubt). It's possibly Broadway (with someone like Streep) material somewhere down the track.

You left out very unpleasant from the list of verys.

David said...

More details about the party snails would be welcome - how bizarre. Have you read Edith's Room, very dark and disturbing?

I actually love Minghella's Ripley as an exercise in style. Wenders' The American Friend is wonderful too, and of course Plein Soleil offers the opportunity to gave on Delon at length...

wanderer said...

David I haven't read anything of hers (Edith's Diary?). Nor is she likely to push her way to the top of the to-read stack just yet. We tend to 'do' a film on Saturday nights at home, so Plein Soleil I'll seek, and the Wenders next.

Snails? She bred them, took them places with her (with lettuce), wrote about them (published in a collection of short stories - Eleven) and was attracted to their sexual ambiguity, androgony. There's more here. And I've added the portrait to the main post!

David said...

Lord, yes, what a mess I made of that: Edith's Diary, of course. And 'gaze'. ie slaver over, re Delon. A beautiful man in both that and The Leopard.

I asked re the snails, now I feel it's more info than I want to know...