Ask Audrey Ask Audrey
Archived

Claudel

Audrey review: Well made, well performed and handsomely produced but Claudel lacks the dramatic suppleness of a living work of art.

Text size
Text size
Show: Claudel
Add to favourites

Claudel

Date: 1 May 2021

Written and directed by Wendy Beckett, Claudel depicts the formative artistic years of the gifted sculptor Camille Claudel, a woman whose creative ambitions were stymied by her disapproving family, an art establishment that actively worked against the creation and promotion of women’s art, and, in various ways, by her lover, Auguste Rodin.

Rodin was destined to be feted as the greatest sculptor of the era. Claudel’s life an artist ended in mental illness and obscurity. Confined to an institution for the last 30 years of her life, she died in 1943. Her body consigned to a common grave.

Beckett (who also directs) introduces us to a youthful, feisty Camille alongside two classmates in a Parisian studio. They await Rodin, an artist at the height of his fame and a philanderer of note.

He’s dismissive of their work at first and entirely condescending. But Camille (played here by the very engaging Imogen Sage) will not be cowed and Rodin (Christopher Stollery) can’t help but be impressed by her skill and passion. They strike up a working relationship, then a romantic one.

It is an explosively creative partnership. Over 10 years, they inspire each other to new heights. But with that comes jealousy. Camille becomes incensed by Rodin’s refusal to break with his wife. Rodin becomes wary of a burgeoning talent that might eclipse his own.

Moreover, Claudel’s choices leave her isolated and vulnerable. Her mother all but disowns her.

Beckett’s writing balances character drama and the dispensing of background information quite well but the language feels stilted overall. There is onstage talk of the life force within stone, but Claudel feels curiously inert. It’s a well made play, well performed and handsomely produced on the Playhouse stage. But it lacks the dramatic suppleness of a living work of art.

Choreographer Meryl Tankard and dancers Dorothea Csutkai, Cloé Fournier and Kip Gamblin create a series of tableaux vivant during the 90-minute production. Some recreate sculptures. Others give physical shape to contrasting artistic energies or incidents in the central relationship – the most powerful being a representation of the abortion procedure Claudel underwent in London.

Matt Cox’s lighting of the chalky bodies (working to a design by François Leneveu, who lit the show’s premiere season in Paris in 2018) is very effective. The digital projections (designed by Régis Lansac) are underwhelming however. Large projectors suspended overhead deliver more in the way of distracting noise than captivating images.

Sage’s lively portrayal of the title character and Stollery’s gruff Rodin are enjoyable to watch. Tara Morice (Claudel’s devoutly Catholic mother) and Mitchell Bourke (her diplomat brother Paul) contribute some good moments, as do Henrietta Amevor and Melissa Kahraman as Claudel’s art student friends.

Content
The Removalists
Add to favourites
TheatreNew Theatre, King St, Newtown 20 Apr - 22 May 2021

The Removalists

Audrey review: Sharply paced and ideally cast, New Theatre's production of David Williamson's groundbreaker hits you squarely where it hurts.

seven methods of killing kylie jenner
Add to favourites
ArchivedEternity Playhouse, Darlinghurst, Sydney 17 Apr - 9 May 2021

seven methods of killing kylie jenner

Audrey review: A bold and brave work of theatre highlights how little we as a society acknowledge and appreciate Black womxn for all they have done.

Home, I’m Darling
Add to favourites
ArchivedDrama Theatre, Sydney Opera House 6 Apr - 15 May 2021

Home, I’m Darling

Audrey review: British writer Laura Wade's warm satirical story of a couple's retreat into the past gets the polished production it deserves.

See More

More to see

View All
A Room of One’s Own
Add to favourites
TheatreBelvoir, Surry Hills, Sydney 6 - 23 May 2021

A Room of One’s Own

Anita Hegh returns in this adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s classic description of the need for new spaces and a complete redefinition of who owns our storymaking.

Cry-Baby
Add to favourites
MusicalDrama Theatre, Sydney Opera House 22 Jul - 15 Aug 2021

Cry-Baby

It's 1954. Everyone likes Ike, nobody likes communism and Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker is the coolest boy in Baltimore.

Grand Horizons
Add to favourites
TheatreRoslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay, Sydney 7 Jun - 3 Jul 2021

Grand Horizons

A humorous and moving look at romance and intergenerational divides in the era of self-expression, alternative family models and... sexting.

Honour
Add to favourites
TheatreEnsemble Theatre, Kirribilli, Sydney 23 Apr - 5 Jun 2021

Honour

Joanna Murray-Smith's play cracks open the complexities of a modern relationship, laying bare our capacity to love, hurt and deceive those around us. 

Top