Mary and the Murderer is a pleasant way to spend an hour at UQ’s St Lucia Campus. Four actors perform a short play, set against the iconic sandstone walls of University. Aside from it not being in the Wild West (they probably didn’t have too much Helidon sandstone to call on for building materials in the American Wild West), the Show is exactly as advertised. A gun-toting vigilante captures a travelling musician who has been accused of murder. As news breaks that the Marshall will not be arriving with the promised bounty, the local townsfolk intervene, and the audience is called up for ‘jury service,’ with the opportunity to decide on how the play ends.
Congratulations to Lonnie Gilroy and Senaai Chapple for co-writing and producing the play (co-produced with Joanna Lyon), and to Gilroy for also acting as Director. The play is well-cast, and provides an opportunity for each of the four actors to enjoy interesting cameos, duos, and even audience interaction. I loved the costumes (the heart-shaped blood markings at the centre of ‘Colin’s’ shirt were a nice touch), the use of personal microphones meant that everyone could hear all the words, the show was well-lit, and the accents were suitably Ye Olde Wilde Weste. The audience interaction was enjoyable (including the cast members’ in-character questioning, pleading their case, and general involvement).
I may have said this before, but it bears repeating: those who can, direct…and those who don’t, review. I’d probably have called this Mary The Murderer? And where the show touches on many contemporary preoccupations—from domestic violence and child abuse, through to #MeToo—occasionally the language is a little too contemporary. But these are minor issues. In a future development, I’d also love to see a clearer staging of place, and a less linear blocking of the action —perhaps having the audience sitting around a saloon bar, and being drawn into the action as onlookers when Mary chases her prey into the space (bringing the ‘bar’ from the back of the room to perhaps stage right/ or on the side of the audience space)? And a longer version of the action might also include a first act that sets the scene of the relationship with the unfortunate Betty-Lou and our ‘hero’, Colin (Nicolas Angelosanto)—and gives more of a backstory to the interesting Mr Gallagher (Chris Slater) and his relationship with Mary (Stephanie Dwyer).
Congratulations also to Angelosanto (definitely hero material), to Dwyer (an interesting presentation of a complicated character, conjuring Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling), and to Slater (a suitable counterpoint to the vigilante Mary). And thanks to Tammy (Rosie Anderson) for keeping in-character throughout—from bar-tending to declaring the results of the vote. It’s a pity that the performances fell at a time when many assignments appeared to be due, so there weren’t too many students able to take time out to see this work of this Gilroy Chapple Lyon Production Team.
Verdict: Only one more show. Your final chance to decide on the outcome.
Audience tip: 50-60 mins. Suitable for all ages. The performance is outside, so take a blanket and wrap up warm. Mary and the Murderer had a total of six performances during the 2019 Anywhere Festival (7:15pm. 15, 16, 17, 22, 23 and 24 May, 2019). Information at https://anywhere.is/listings/Mary/ and the Show is also part of the UQ Theatre Festival ($15). Paid parking available on-site. If you don’t know the campus very well, aim for the Great Court, take the Forgan Smith Tower exit, and turn right at the bottom of the steps. Walk toward the Library, and the ‘Duhig Gardens’ are on your right (close to the Library Book Return chute and fountain).
The reviewer attended the Thursday 23 May 2019 performance (7:15pm), at Duhig Gardens, The University of Queensland St Lucia Campus, Brisbane.
Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.