The play THE TOWN HALL AFFAIR merges fact and opinion utilising the 1971 documentary TOWN BLOODY HALL (TBH), by Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker, along with excerpts from Norman Mailer film MAIDSTONE. It recounts a public debate chaired (or should one says controlled) by Mailer with certain feminists of the time: Jill Johnson, Germaine Greer and Diana Trilling. The debate was a rather ramshackle event by all accounts with the audience heckling Mailer and mostly siding with the women speakers. It is compulsory viewing,
Norman Mailer (author, journalist, political activist) by this time had published THE PRISONER OF SEX. In the play he is presented by two actors – Scott Shepherd and Ari Fliakos. This is a brilliant device to contrast the public and private man. The mixing of his work in MAIDSTONE and TBH drives home the point of this work by The Wooster Group and its director Elizabeth Lecompte – we have a misogynist at large here. Pointedly Mailer does not look out of place or a museum piece nearly 50 years later. This may well be co-incidence or calculation as the play does address the agendas of present day Weinstein’s, et al.
The character of Jill Johnson (Lesbian, poet, activist) features heavily and Kate Valk’s free spirited performance is a highlight. Maura Tierney as Germaine Greer (bravely played in front of an Australian audience – and Greer herself on opening), is the polar opposite in her depiction of Greer. Virtually unknown in the US at the time, Greer was just then promoting THE FEMALE EUNUCH. Ms Tierney captured the younger steely-eyed feminist and author very well, though the script did not allow enough of that funny barbed tongue Germaine we all love. Greg Mehrten as Diana Trilling (The New York Literary and Cultural critic) held more of my attention in a tremendously stoic and noble rendering.
This theatre piece comes with fine New York credentials in its cast and creatives and the story has been known to me for decades. The Wooster Group holds a definitive place in performance art and experimental theatre. Although I was not hunting Documentary Theatre with a clear through line nor explicit Verbatim Theatre I found this work somewhat disappointing. I feared for those without prior knowledge of the original event in 1971 and that the “staged” interruptions may have been a distraction. Having said that it certainly has stayed with me as an innovative production and will send many in search of the documentary.
Mark G Nagle – Theatre Now & On The Town
7 – 13 Jan 2018
7, 9, 11, 12 & 13 JANUARY AT 8PM (SMH Q&A ON 9 JANUARY AT 9.05PM)
10 JANUARY AT 2PM & 8PM
Venue: Sydney Opera House: Drama Theatre
Theatre Company: The Wooster Group
Duration: 65 min
Based on the film Town Bloody Hall by Chris Hegedus & D.A. Pennebaker
An artful reimagining of the classic 1971 documentary Town Bloody Hall, which captured a raucous debate between author Norman Mailer and leading feminists like Jill Johnston and Germaine Greer (played by Maura Tierney). The debate may have taken place more than 45 years ago, but its themes remain relevant.
Directed by Elizabeth LeCompte, co-founder of acclaimed experimental theatre troupe The Wooster Group, the play combines live performance of real-life dialogue from the debate with video footage from documentary, both inhabiting the original film and derailing it.
“Audaciously clever and technically dazzling” The Hollywood Reporter
Make a night of it! Add a Festival Feast at Buckley’s for just $30 (+bf) to your ticket purchase. See the full menu here.
Note: This show has a complete lockout. Please arrive 15 minutes early as latecomers will not be admitted.
Directed by: Elizabeth LeCompte
With: Enver Chakartash, Ari Fliakos, Gareth Hobbs, Greg Mehrten, Erin Mullin, Scott Shepherd, Maura Tierney and Kate Valk.
Book your ticket for Tuesday 9 January at 8pm to take part in a Sydney Morning Herald Q&A With the Artists after the performance, and get a deeper insight into the work.
Photo: Zbigniew Bzymek
A RESERVE $86/$77
+ BOOKING FEE