All the way from Brazil, Jô Bilac’s Turmoil explores a bizarre Jane Austen-esque world with a twist. Dende Collective along with a vastly international cast, (hailing from all over South America and Europe) tells the story of a young married couple in Elizabethan times. The storyline is familiar. A married couple, Matias (Ged Petkunas) and Bianca (Ciara Ellen Molloy) await the arrival of Matias’ fussy sister, Vladine (Fernanda Mandagara). Matias is keen for his sister and his spouse to become long-term friends. However, the two of them constantly bicker, compete for Matias’ affections and disagree hugely on the treatment of Vladine’s blind pet goat Nataniel (Alejandro De Mesa).
When a production features an actor portraying a blind goat, wearing John Lennon glasses and frequently dancing, it is natural to assume that the show will be bizarre… It is. Director, André Pink, uses elements of pastiche, clowning and theatre of the absurd to create a truly whacky world. The absurdist nature of the piece is certainly interesting, but lacks cohesion. There is perhaps a little too much going on at once, and the audience is often unsure of the world they have been transported to. Comedic moments could also benefit from development as some of the jokes are overused and predictable by the end. The goat in particular feels a little tiresome and potentially even awkward.
The use of music is perhaps at times a little unimaginative, but for the most part it helps set the scene effectively. Ella Belisz and Tom Bauling are talented musicians and there are moments in which the music helps create tension between the characters. The scene changes are a little lacklustre but the staging is bold and imaginative. There is a talented cast in this production and all actors handle the text well. Molloy gives a standout performance as the spoilt brat wife, with a commanding stage presence and a strong vocal quality. Petkunas is suitably frantic and Mandagará’s exuberance is certainly captivating.
The writing is intelligent, witty and typically British in its content. The pace of the text is snappy and free flowing. Perhaps some jokes are lost in translation, but there certainly isn’t enough humour in this production, considering its bizarreness. It feels as though the show would benefit from honing in on a particular theatre style, as the writing, cast and story certainly show potential.
Turmoil is playing at The Courtyard Theatre until January 21.