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Words by Rémy Chadwick

Kerith Manderson-Galvin really hates the tendency to read meaning into language. “Why can’t a word just be a word?,” she laments.

Kerith is a playwright.

She acknowledges the contradiction here; it’s perhaps fitting that theatre is her chosen medium, given that it exists because of interpretation. In theatre, a creative team interprets words on the page (or in the mind), translating them into the language of the stage. An audience in turn deciphers this. A playwright’s job is to ensure that the spectator experience is as rich as what was originally envisioned, even though the two worlds may differ completely.

The disjunction between word and meaning fascinates Kerith, and it lies at the heart of her new work, don’t bring lulu. When asked about an important line from the play, Kerith starts talking about the ubiquitous expression “I love you”, which carries so much unspoken baggage. In many instances it is conditional, outlining certain boundaries and declaring specific actions. But it can also be read in ways it was not intended; it can mean different things for different people, even when in the same situation.

The play is an enigma because of Kerith’s contrarieties. On the one hand, she holds doubts about theatre’s ability to change the world—she is happy for it to “just exist”. On the other hand, she affirms theatre’s obligation to be politically and socially aware.

don’t bring lulu is thus a result of her obsession with femininity, relationships and violence. She would, however, prefer that the audience constructed their own sense of the piece—while finding it as funny, sexy, sad, and scary as she does.

A large amount of Kerith’s personality seems to have found its way into her characters and she is quick to justify this. “I am the only point of reference I have,” she says. Exploring herself in her own work gives her the opportunity to understand and say new things; writing somebody else’s perspective might not.

However, Kerith admits not fully trusting her own experiences of the world. “I don’t actually know if anything [in don’t bring lulu] is true, least of all my own memories,” she says. In one sense, this is empowering for an artist. For Kerith, it gives her permission to use her memories as she wishes, which is perhaps why she finds playwriting therapeutic.

Kerith is confident the show will look good and boast strong production values, and is clear about her visual inspiration. ,“I take from popular culture because I can see the stuff I’m interested in exists all around me,” she says.

Kerith offers special thanks to Union House Theatre director Tom Gutteridge, who she says has been very supportive of her work. Ironically, she specifically lauds his ability to find elements in the text that she didn’t know were there—in other words, his ability to interpret the play.

don’t bring lulu is appearing 22-24, 28-31 May 2014, 7:30pm
Union Theatre, ground floor, Union House,  University of Melbourne
Tickets available www.trybooking.com/EQXO

Words by Remy Chadwick

It’s ironic that a musical about poor French people has become the staple of London’s tourist-gorged West End.

Tres Miserables is aware of this and exploits the show mostly to its own advantage. Riffing off the 2012 film, the Seemingly Evil Productions team make jokes about baguettes, women, and priests,  but they also throw in some highly satisfying jabs at Socialist Alternative. The sillier moments in Les Mis are predictably exposed, which make for safe, enjoyable entertainment.

This production can seem juvenile and ‘studenty’ at times, but there is enough wit to surprise. Sam Garlepp occasionally suffers ‘On His Own’, but his end-of-scene quips display good comic timing. Although Alice Tovey’s vocals are strong, her self-deprecation is most interesting to watch. Lachie McKenzie steals the show, his stage presence and narration providing an intoxicating backdrop for the others to play with. The power dynamics between these actors sustained my interest and I hope they will continue to explore their onstage relationships.

Costuming was simple and appropriate (I enjoyed the tights). Keyboardist Ned Dixon kept comic pace. Scene transitions were an issue, as the constant lighting and costume changes interrupted the fluidity of the show. This tended to reduce Tres Mis to a number of short gags, holding together because of the source material rather than because of creative consistency. Nonetheless, both actors and audience found genuine pleasure on opening night, and I walked out of The Swanston Hotel humming.

Tres Miserables is on at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival at The Swanston Hotel from 27 March to 5 April.