A Tender Thing.
William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and written and directed by Ali Clinch and
Heidi Silberman. Rebus Theatre. Ralph Wilson Theatre. Gorman House. Ainslie and
Gorman Arts Centres. December 6 – 8 2019. Bookings: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/a-tender-thing-by-rebus-theatre-tickets-83273042913#tickets.
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
Theatre has many mansions and all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. Rebus Theatre is a mansion where the soul thrives and the spirit soars for those who journey through a different ability as Simone Georgia Bartram terms what others might regard as her disability. Directors Ali Clinch and Heidi Silberman have turned to Shakespeare for their inspiration to examine the question of whether love is “A Tender Thing” Two Gods open the debate.Grant McLindon, in Hippie gear, portrays the god who believes that love is tender, true and worthwhile. Joel Swadling, appearing as a Chekovian attired God argues the contrary with cynical pomposity. But is a Flower Power bunch of flowers any match for the more cutting danger of the sword to setlle the conflict of the Gods?
To examine the notion of romantic love, Rebus’s actors present a series of vignettes through their eyes. It is an illuminating and heart-warming expression of universal love, hope and desire. Each vignette references the Bard’s depiction of love as the actors investigate Shakespeare’s definition of love in Romeo and Juliet as “a tender thing”. “If Tinder Be The App of Love, Swipe On” introduces Paralympian, Louise Ellery in a Q and A. Funny and self-effacing, Louise parries and thrusts with sharply honed wit and lively humour. She is a sit down comedienne with the unstoppable talent to turn smiles to uproarious laughter. Simone Georgia Brown teaches us that ”mobility limits cannot hold love out” as she dreams of her beautiful Orlando (Joel Swadling) and discovers the flight of the imagination as the expression of love’s power. Peter Corsino and Lucy Raffaele discuss their future wedding in a café, as the ignorant voices of clichéd prejudice comment on the couple. “Forbear to judge for we be sinners all” appears projected behind. It is Raffaele’s delightful, natural joy and spontaneous humour that dispels all narrow-mindedness. In a pas de deux between dancer Catherine Senior and director, Ali Clinch, the romanticized world of Disney love is contrasted with the passion and despair of classical ballet and Shakespeare’s tragic tale of his star-crosed lovers. “Two houses (Disney and Shakespeare) both alike in Dignity” remind us of Love’s fragile duplicity. And so the company pose their final question, “Is Love a Tender Thing?” Together on stage, the actors espouse the nature of the love that they have presented in this charming and sincere debate. “Love is a dream.” says one. “A miracle” adds another. “Love is beautiful” says a third. “Love is a rat in a cage” jibes Ellery. “Love is blind” McLindon says from behind his dark glasses. And together they conclude in unison. “Love is a tender thing”
Directors and writers Clinch and Silberman lend a gentle and loving touch to the work. It is simple in its honest exploration of the perplexing and uplifting notion of Love’s magic and its mystery. A Tender Thing is not to be judged by the generally accepted standards of professional theatre. Rebus Theatre shows us that “love is not love that alteration finds” in the lives of the cast who create theatre informed by their different circumstance and yet as constant in their need to love and be loved in return. For under an hour I sat with a warm smile, charmed by honesty, moved by different personal experience and stirred to laughter by spontaneous and unaffected wit and humour. Love is tender. Love is true. And love is the feeling you will have from seeing a Rebus Theatre show.