Pear Shaped - Theatre Works (VIC)
Presented by Theatre Works & Rogue Projects
Reviewed by Annika Loci
Theatre Works, St Kilda
5-15th April, 2023
Information and Tickets: https://www.theatreworks.org.au/2023/pear-shaped
Recommended for audiences over the age of 12. References to disordered eating, mental health, body image, and some coarse language.
- How does Alice leave Wonderland, when Wonderland wants Alice to stay? -
Pear Shaped is a new work written by MirandaMiddleton and Ziggy Resnick, a semi-autobiographical play containing both real and imagined experiences about the lives of Jewish sisters Frankie (Resnick) & Kayla (Luisa Scrofani), and ultimately the influence and dynamics of a family’s culture & traditions on mental health and relationship.
We begin focused on Frankie. Her graduating design project is due and has been allocated Alice in Wonderland, a story Frankie and Kayla have shared a love of since youngsters. Initially Frankie hopes a box of childhood dress-ups & random items will spark inspiration. Instead through stress, a lack of sleep and some extra substances, the box brings up confronting rabbit-holes both sisters have found themselves falling into.
We soon figure out that this story is actually about Kayla, her development of an eating disorder and the impact this has on Frankie’s own mental health, as well as the family. It’s an interesting idea to intertwine the idea of Alice and her journey in Wonderland as always her searching for being “perfect” (too small to fit; too large to fit) alongside the development of an eating disorder and traditions and expectations of Jewish families that surround food, ultimately spiralling down to where you feel you can’t escape.
Photos by Angel Leggas
The imagined Alice (Scrofani) scenes were interwoven in an attempt to remind us of the symbolism of mental health: stuck in places, small doors, potions for body size; unhelpful tea parties, caterpillar’s discussion about change to a butterfly and so on. Although Middleton’s direction keeps the story focused initially on the combination of time and memories moving back and forth, there were occasions where stories rang too long or felt unnecessary. With the 75 minute runtime, it slowly felt that the present-day story began to drag with what felt like numerous scenes representing the same question: How does Alice/Kayla leave Wonderland and can Frankie help?
The stage starts off as a relatively simple space, two doors and several different sized picture frames, and a few props. The set was covered with a clever diamond pattern looking similar to playing cards, full of sharp angles, and squares when combined with fabulous creative projections and lighting provided great sense of Wonderland fantasy. This also helped jolt us back to real-time with the repetitive pattern being representative of wallpaper or lino floor. More differentiation in lighting could have been harnessed regularly throughout.
Though characters have plenty of exit and entry points via doors or picture frames, it seemed as more props appeared, moving around the stage, or changing between scenes clearly became more challenging for Resnick & Scrofani, especially as it began to impact the important flow between memory and present day.
Resnick and Scrofani both bring praiseworthy performances to Pear Shaped, each tackling multiple roles in fantasy and realism. Both are to be commended for the difficult jobs of switching between ages, mental states, and roles, especially for Scrofani who must have felt like this show were a marathon and a master class in character quick changes.
Even though the story felt a bit pear shaped (pun intended) in parts and bizarre in others, overall Pear Shaped is an ambitious and highly creative story, getting to the point of asking audiences to reflect on how eating disorders and family expectations can take over an individual’s life through the lens of childlike fancy in Alice in Wonderland.
Ziggy Resnick (Frankie, Caterpillar, Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, Queen of Hearts
Luisa Scrofani (Kayla, Mum, Savta, Alice, Assignment Director)
Cameron Steens (White Rabbit)
Book: Miranda Middleton & Ziggy Resnick
Director: Miranda Middleton
Producers: Robbi James, Erica Lovell, Talia Meyerowitz-Katz
Production Design: Grace Deacon
Composer & Sound Design: Oliver Beard
Lighting & Video Design: Aron Murray
Stage Manager: Gin Rosse
Tech Operator: Tim Dennis
Assistant Stage Manager: Cameron Steens
Design Assistant: Natalie Petrellis
Voice Coach: Laura Farrell
Dramaturg: Brittanie Shipway
Production Images: Angel Leggas
Hero Images: Byron Martin
Publicist: Jai Cameron