Theatre Review - The Confessions

Eryn Jean Norvill in The Confessions [Christophe Raynaud De Lage]

ALEXANDER Zeldin’s latest play, The Confessions, was inspired by conversations with his mother and her peers. We travel from 1950s Australia to contemporary England as we follow one woman’s struggle for autonomy against the restrictions of the times she lives through.

After Alice (Eryn Jean Norvill) fails the first year of university, her mother (Pamela Rabe) pressures her into marrying Graham (Joe Bannister), who works in naval security.

Determined to educate herself, Alice takes evening classes. When her marriage breaks down, she begins an affair with her poetry tutor (Jerry Killick). We are given fragments from her life – her reconnection with high school friends, her time as an art historian and ambitions to write – that make a fascinating whole.

After a devastating sexual assault (which in Zeldin’s bold production takes place in silence behind closed doors), Alice moves to London, where she finally finds a man she can love on her terms and have children with. Jacob (Brian Lipson) is some years older than Alice but is warm and caring and, more importantly, allows her to be herself.

Older Alice (Amelda Brown) introduces us to the play and sometimes accompanies her younger incarnation, serving as narrator and witness. In one crucial scene she takes over from her younger self.

The supporting cast play multiple roles. Throughout, the set is visibly dismantled and reconstructed by stagehands each time Alice has to start afresh and rebuild her life. The action often takes place in kitchens, highlighting the domestic realm and role expected of her.

Originally supposed to be in the smaller Dorfman theatre, this intimate, sometimes profound, portrait of an ordinary woman’s life, occasionally feels dwarfed by the Lyttleton’s stage. Nevertheless, Alice’s quiet stand against misogyny and journey towards motherhood linger with you.

Until November 4

Originally published by Westminster Extra