We persevere only in the knowledge that our virtuous garden is being tended, cared for and cultivated.

Clockfire Theatre’s newly devised work, The National Conservatorium for Wise Women is an immersive theatrical experience unmatched by any I have had.

Under the direction of Emily Ayoub, an array of artists have collaborated to create a surreal experience that is in equal parts harsh and soft with a potent message of the patriarch being left outside of a world of wise women whilst he sits lonely atop his throne.

Upon entering the familiar space of the Old 505, I am surrounded  by the beautiful femininity of flowers  in jars on every obvious surface and the floral illustrations of  Sydney based  artist, Sunita Lewis.

The exhibition complements the show exquisitely and does well to make us consider the softness of woman before introducing us to her unyielding stubbornness in the form of la Femme du Jardin (Catherine Parle) who at regular intervals, delivers letters of provocation to the Patriarch.

We meet the the Patriarch sitting on his throne behind his closed gate, sheltered from the war that rages outside. Amanda McNamara’s design is beautifully considered with the sharp angles and straight lines of a sparsely furnished ‘kingdom’ representing the patriarch’s ordered yet quite empty existence. Tony Weir gives an arresting performance that – bewildered though I was at times – held my focus entirely with an astute physicality and comedic timing. Combined  with Parle’s mastered sharpness of movement, the comedic energy and personality of Alicia Gonzalez as the young messenger boy and the various theatrical incarnations of performer Laura Turner, the show has surrealist, dreamlike qualities that draw the audience in; giving us permission to be confused yet captivated.

It is obvious that Ayoub has considered every sensorial detail; from the rich poetry of the French dialogue (subtitled in English for those of us less accustomed), the symbolism of the bitter lemon tree that both Patriarch and boy consume before us, to the staccato sounds of a typewriter punctuating the action by Sam Newing-Stern. Every element is deliberate and Ben Pierpoint’s sound design is a testament to this, contributing another integral layer to the world and body of work.

The Natural Conservatorium for Wise Women is a poetic experience and a kind of storytelling that I have not encountered before. Whilst at times it felt slow moving and disorienting, the work is so thoughtfully crafted that each moment was one of engagement.

Playing until October 21, 2017 at 505 Theatre, Eliza Street Newtown

Madelaine Osborn – Theatre Now & On The Town