Image for Theatre: References To Salvador Dali Make Me Hot

Theatre: References To Salvador Dali Make Me Hot

Written by Nic Connaughton on September 30, 2009


Directed by Anthony Skuse
Set Design by Rita Carmody
Music by Juan Carlos Rios
Starring: Olivia Stambouliah, Stephen Multari, Lani John Tupu, Taryn Brine, Arka Das with iOTA

Opening only days after Cate Blanchett and Sydney Theatre Company announce another ‘big name’ but staid season of revivals and adaptations of old favourites, this is the most bone rattling, sassy and fist pumping Australian production of the year. Set against the backdrop of the Mojave desert, Puerto Rican Oscar nominated screenwriter José Rivera’s (The Motorcycle Diaries) play is a confident mish mash of style and substance, that uses Dali’s surrealism as a starting point to mix music, dance, drama, comedy and horny copulating wild cats with a careless abandon.

Gabriella (Olivia Stambouliah) is having bad dreams. Life as an army wife in the hot desert is taking its toll. She only has one more night to wait before her beloved Benito (Stephen Multari) returns from a tour of duty in the Persian Gulf but the war is changing him and she’s not sure he’s the same man she married, a man who would stop and admire the mood. She is having conversations with her cat, sleeping outside at night and is beginning to think the cacti are closing in on the house. Meanwhile she has to fend of the attention off the attention of both the Moon (played with appropriate gravitas by Lani John Tupu) and her fourteen-year-old neighbor (Arka Das). Gabriella is spiraling out of control and maybe it’s not just the desert heat.

This production directed by Anthony Skuse is a treat. The stage design, a giant rasied surrealist sandbox, utilises the small stables theatre space in a strikingly alien way and the entire cast deliver otherworldly performances. The supporting cast are superb with both Tupu and Das providing some of the plays comedic highlights. Taryn Byrne and iOTA scorch the stage as Gabriella’s horny domestic house cat and a wild coyote respectively, and bookend the real human drama with an oddly fitting metaphor for human sexuality and the division between the need to be wild and the security of domesticity.

Even with such a wild cast of supporting characters, the two leads shine, grounding the surrealist flourishes in a heart wrenching pathos and humanity. Gabriella is a startling creation, with every emotion etching itself onto Olivia Stambouliah’s remarkably expressive face. In the tough role of Benito, Stephen Multari holds firm like a rock, his world-weary soldiers indifference gradually eroding under Gabriella’s relentless questioning. The play locks onto all targets; sex, love, warfare, social mobility, and it hits the mark constantly. This is transformative theatre and takes its audience beyond the four walls of the theatre space and into a void between reality and illusion that we are so rarely allowed to grace. It’s a world where animals talk and the moon quotes Shakespeare. Dali would be proud.

You will love this if: you want more than theatre, you want magic.
You will hate this if: like your art, you want your theatre to be safe.

References To Salvador Dali Make Me Hot is running at Griffin Theatre Company, Stables Theatre, Nimrod St, Kings Cross until October 17.

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