Theatre Kantanka’s theatricalisation of Brazilian writer Hilda Hilst’s experimental novella jacks its audience into the mind of a woman who has removed herself from society.
In the wake of her husband Ehud’s death, Hillé has withdrawn to a cupboard under the stairs. From there she contemplates existence (a “pig-world”), questioning all things physical, metaphysical and patriarchal.
Now and again she appears at her window to spook local children with homemade masks or to show her arse to the neighbours (“imbeciles and cretins”).
Hilst’s writing is dense, florid, non-linear and as source material for a work of theatre, unconventional. Undeterred, director-adaptor Carlos Gomes fashions this restless text into an intimate theatrical installation for one performer (Katia Molina), disembodied voices, and an intricate soundtrack relayed to the audience via headphones.
Molina occupies a headspace rather than domestic space. The audience, sitting close, surrounds it. Animated, scratchboard-style illustrations are projected on billowing fabric (by video artist Sam James).
Fausto Brusamolino’s lighting design includes lamps draped with heavy lace, suggestive of mourning.
While it’s not without streaks of humour (mostly in exchanges between Hillé and Ehud, who’s still wondering what on earth happened to their sex life), Obscene Madame D honours the obscurity of its literary source.
Though Gail Priest’s hypnotic binaural sound design and Molina’s performance – which ranges from the lurking to the electric – is compelling, some will inevitably find it hard going.
Obscure Madame D also plays at 107 Projects, Redfern, May 23-27