Printable CopyALTAR GIRL
Adina Grand Treasury Adelaide
Until 11 Mar 2017

Review by Jamie Wright

Welcome to a house party where a handful of students from St Catherine's Catholic school have come to cut loose for a night. But there's far more going on here than teenage shenanigans – namely rivalry, sexual jealousy and revenge.

Directed by Alanah Guiry from a script by Hannah Samuel and drawing heavily from "Othello", "Altar Girl" replaces the Moorish outsider in Shakespeare's story with a lesbian – Ollie – a school captain rather than a military commander. But it's still her relationship that sits at the heart of the story; there's still a Desdemona (Dess), who has an ex-boyfriend Michael (equivalent to Cassio in the original) and (unbeknownst to her) a bitter, Iago-like enemy in Lara.

The plot, then, is a familiar one – through manipulation of her 'friends', Amelia seeks to ruin Ollie & Dess's relationship.

It's an adaptation that, at times, has a lot going for it – it feels a lot like "Cruel Intentions", though given that that film is now nearly twenty years old, it may be as unknown to people the age of the characters in the play as "Les Liaisons Dangereuses", on which the film is based. Perhaps tv series "Gossip Girl" would be a more appropriate contemporary parallel.

Performances were good throughout, with the standout being Jeni Bezuidenhout as Lara. The young cast do particularly well when factoring in the proximity of the audience to the action, and – without giving too much away – the level of intimacy several of the characters engaged in. However, past a certain point it all gets a bit messy and hard to follow. The staging – across two rooms in the Treasury underground – sometimes makes knowing exactly what's going on in the other room difficult to see and hear.

Lara’s asides to the audience help clarify things, but they need to be more obvious – using lighting and/or sound, perhaps – since without them it’s hard for those she isn’t directly addressing to know she’s doing so.

While this production doesn’t quite achieve what it sets out to, there’s some clever and talented theatre producers/performers at work here; future efforts may prove more compelling.

Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5)