Monday, October 5, 2015

SOUL OF FIRE



Written by Suzanne F. Wohl
Directed by Alexander Hauer
The Street Theatre to 4 October 2015

Review by Len Power 2 October 2015

Bertha von Suttner was an Austrian pacifist and figurehead of a world-wide peace movement.  She relentlessly fought nationalist fanaticism, aggressive militarism and anti-Semitism.  As a writer and lecturer, she inspired her friend and benefactor Alfred Nobel to create a Peace Prize and she was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for her most famous novel "Lay Down your Arms".

In a gripping performance, Austrian actress, Maxi Blaha, portrays episodes from Bertha von Suttner’s life and work.  Costumed by Moana Stemberger in a turn of the century period gown over a pair of modern day trousers and stylishly modern shoes, Maxi Blaha creates an impressive figure, giving a modern day relevance to the story of this woman who achieved so much for the peace movement.

All aspects of this complex woman are portrayed extremely well.  We see the frustration of an intelligent, educated woman trying to find her place in a world of men, flirting with a singing career initially and turning more successfully to writing.  She’s not perfect.  Some of her airs and graces are unattractive and there are hints of depression.

The accompanying mood music on electric guitar played by Georg Buxhofer adds a pleasing and haunting dimension to the show.  The simple set gives the impression of a period drawing room with tall windows using only some simple curtaining and expert lighting.

This is an opportunity to see a major Austrian actress in performance.  The depth of characterization presented here is quite extraordinary.

Originally published in Canberra City News digital edition 3 October 2015.  Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast in the ‘Artcetera’ program on Artsound FM 92.7 on Saturdays from 9am.

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