The Armidale Playhouse - April/May 2002
The action takes place in four locations over 24 hours: Barbara's dressing room, her flat, an outdoor cafe, a cathedral and the dressing room again.
Since I saw the first production of Europe almost 15 years ago I've thought that it was a beautifully constructed little play. Michael Gow manages to raise a range of important issues about love, fantasy, cultural assumptions and misapprehensions etc while working on a small canvas. There is also the fact that I had almost a mirror image of Douglas' experience when I was living in Italy in 1985: a European girl meeting a visiting Australian at an arts festival, ignoring the horror of her art dealer father who felt that Australians had no culture (I was a composer for heaven's sake!), and then writing increasingly lurid (and ill spelled) proposals of marriage after I returned to Australia. Probably fortunately for both of us she never arrived on my doorstep, and eventually married a biochemist.
Like much of Gow's work Europe is also very much about the theatre and full of references and resonances. When the play starts Barbara has been performing what is clearly Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, and the character of Hedda can be seen as a parallel to her own life. Similarly, the avant-garde production that she took to Australia continues to have resonances through the play, as does Racine's Phèdre, of which we hear the ending (in French) in Act 4. It can be quite fun trying to spot the many other theatrical references.
The final attraction for me is the beautiful balance of possibilities that Gow manages to achieve. As Barbara says all old plays "either end with a wedding, or a funeral" and Europe almost certainly does, but which is probably up to the audience.
Barbara: Phillipa Trelford
Director: Benjamin Thorn
Gordon Cope, Donna Wainohu, Kristin Adair, Bette Guy, Dot Pollard, Sandi Smolders, Nadia Ozanne, Chris Gossip
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