BELVOIR’S ‘PERSONA’

Not sure that I completely understood this play but I didn’t hate it so that has to count for something. I do love a piece of theatre that polarises, and when I say love, sometimes I mean hate. But not ‘Persona’, which was a pleasant surprise, from all accounts.


Many friends had trashed it, which made it a very attractive option to buy a ticket, as sadistic as that sounds. I thought, ‘I could do with a bit of SOYP action’. And yet, there I sat, bewildered but intrigued by Belvoir’s bizarre offering directed by Adena Jacobs.

Would it have made more sense if I had seen the Ingmar Bergman film? Probably. But had I seen the film it was based on, I would think seeing it as a piece of theatre would have been redundant and as I say many a time, if it can’t stand on its own, it ain’t worth the money you paid.

So I gathered from the play that the nature of reality is distorted- who are the people we invent for and of ourselves and what drives us there? Our world is a reveal of its different parts for different times and we can easily sabotage our own dreams and desires- we don’t need anyone else to do it for us. And I found myself sitting in the audience asking who is real and who is a manifestation of our imagination- who is Elizabeth and who is Nurse Alma and who on earth is looking after who, as the curtains open and close on this glasshouse (a box, yes, a glass box) and the dialogue (virtually a monologue with other voices either as voiceovers or mechanically/staccato delivered questions) juxtaposed with images of mundane acts of stagnant life. Even as I describe it, I think, ‘how on earth did you not hate it?’ and I can’t explain it, except to say this: the two female leads were outstanding. Meredith Penman and Karen Sibbing sold me on the play’s dilemma from the start with the integrity of two terrific actresses who have committed to this nightmare-of-loneliness experience.

I didn’t need the boy at the start, I probably didn’t need the nudity (but a girl doesn’t knock back a chance for a bit of flesh on stage, just for the challenge in focus) but I’m glad I caught this play. It’s one worthy of a conversation at the drink cooler, even just to work out a consensus about the play’s intent and ideas.


I can understand why this play had people walk out and why friends are seeking out a good therapist post-viewing experience and it’s not a play I would freely recommend you see. But if you do (or did, as I write this past its season), it’ll get your synapses working. 

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