A Peculiar River
by Emma Willis

Cast & Crew
Dani Lavorenti, Diab Metry, Kurtis Wakefield, Lewis Scamozzi, Lisa Stewart, Rohin Thompson, Tahlia Merlino, Tivy Siripanich and Zara Paternoster

Roz Riley - Director.
Lindsay Walton - Sound,
Rachel Ewins - Lighting.
Hecate - Design

8th March to 23rd March 2019

A battle between mercy and justice set in a city of unlimited appetites.
A fractured fairytale of the Duke, the deputy and the damsels in distress. When the Duke tries to clean up his realm, he finds that reality bites

Review in TheatreTravels.org by Abbie Gallagher.
Manly’s Star on the Sea Theatre is a hidden gem, not easy to find. It’s been a decade since I last set foot in here to watch Ruby Moon. It’s remarkably, and welcomingly unchanged since then. Factory Space Theatre company has assembled an ambitious project in A Peculiar River. A young, vibrant cast takes the stage in this adaptation (skillfully done by Emma Willis) of Measure for Measure. As the show opens, the ineffective Duke, overwhelmed by the crime levels in Vienna, (Rohin Thompson) leaves his post disguised as a friar. In his place is the deeply corrupt yet deceptively morally upright Angelo, who intends to deal with the crime wave harshly and to the fullest extent of the law.
Elsewhere, Claudio (Lewis Scamozzi) is sentenced to death for impregnating a young woman during a consensual encounter. Claudio’s sister Isabel - a novice nun - is summoned to plead for mercy to Angelo, only to find she’s dealing with a ruthless, misogynistic male who wants sexual gratification in exchange for her brother’s life.
The set design is striking, the costumes are great and there is some very clever use of lighting and music during scene transitions. Standout performances come from Tahlia Merlino in the traditionally male role of Provost, Dani Lavorneti who displays excellent comic timing as Pompey and the criminally underused Lewis Scamozzi who delights the audience with a roguish charm, but also captures the desperation of a man fighting for his life. These three were the highlight of the show for me and worth the price of admission alone!
There’s a lot to admire in this production, but sadly there are aspects missing refinement and read more like a rehearsal. Kurtis Wakefield has the physical presence for Angelo, but not the charisma or menace to back it up. Subsequently, the critical scenes between him and Isabel, while well-directed, didn’t have a truly compelling sense of danger or tension. One of these scenes is replayed in full with the genders and roles reversed. A truly ingenious idea, though probably dragged a little too long and could have been cut down. Still, I applaud this decision, especially in the Me Too era, and doubtless many people will recognise the scenario in their own lives.
A Peculiar River needs more work as an adaptation, but not having ever seen Measure for Measure, this is a great start and certainly worth going to see. You will get your money’s worth, and a very interesting interpretation of a classic.
Though truth be told, there was one glaring plot hole Shakespeare seemed to have missed. While the disguised Duke is plotting a way to remedy the dilemma Isabel faces, I found myself thinking Why doesn’t he just go back to his post and overturn Claudio’s sentence?
Facebook review by KA A
Just been to see A Peculiar River. Some very good acting in difficult roles- Angelo and Isabel are esp. good. Pompey is hilarious- injecting humour into the play plus she can sing and dance. Interesting take on some timeless issues.
Review by Wendy Lewis, TheatreBlog Sunday 17th March. General admission.
Vienna is a centre of debauchery, unsavoury characters skulk around and a novice nun is propositioned by a power-hungry fiend…all in a day’s work. Whether you find it comic or tragic, you’re in for a fun evening with this lively take on Measure for Measure!
The physicality of disorder, corruption and lust are everywhere to be seen with rubbish strewn on the floor, raw food crunched with gay abandon, and lavish silk finery that oozes opulence adorning the town’s favourite ‘strumpet’.
The action is full of parallels, gender reversals, couplings and de-couplings (not quite of the ‘conscious uncoupling’ Gwyneth P. kind)…all in search of that elusive thing called justice. Can wrongs be righted by someone else paying the price? Can virtue truly triumph over evil? This last question is particularly compelling in our own world where institutionalised evil lurks in the highest (and most ‘pious’) places.
Ambiguity rules. For a start, the world is held together by the good yet weak Duke (Rohin Thompson), a master of deception himself. He haunts the streets disguised as a friar and conceives a cunning plan which may or may not backfire. His perceptive jailer (Tahlia Merlino) is his loyal and trusted accomplice; his sidekick Escalus (Tivy Siripanich) is rather more ambiguous in her loyalties.
Meanwhile, Angelo (Kurtis Wakefield) is left in charge, a cad through and through who ponders most excellently his emotional state and carnal desire. He simmers, never fully erupting, and is most unimpressed when forced to reunite with his once betrothed Marianna (Zara Paternoster) who amuses with her controlled hysteria. Claudio (Lewis Scamozzi) elicits sympathy as a frenzied yet wily soul awaiting execution. His virtuous sister (Lisa Stewart) is about to become a nun but her brother’s fate throws her sheltered life into disorder (!) when she must make a terrible decision.
Finally, encircling the world on stage and linking rich with poor, deceptive with virtuous, drunk with sober, are Lucio (Diab Metry) and Pompey (Dani Lavorneti), the low life in town, thoroughly enjoying proceedings as they stagger, crawl and wax lyrical – whether anyone wants their opinions or not!
Finally, be very wary of ever telling anyone: “What's mine is yours, and what is yours is mine”!
A Peculiar River   photographed by John Reeves