THEATRE: The Lady of the House of Love

SANDRO COLARELLI stars in THE LADY OF THE HOUSE OF LOVE, a one-man show adapted by DAN EVANS from Angela Carter’s short story of the same name. Under DAVID FENTON‘s direction, The Lady is a slick, dark restaging of a show that was a Brisbane Festival Under the Radar hit back in 2008. On the day-of-opening-night (26 July), I spoke with the very eloquent Colarelli — a mainstay of Brisbane stage and cabaret — to find out more.

In its early days, [cabaret] always had an element of danger and surprise.

ZF: The Lady of the House of Love arises from cabaret’s “darkest roots”. Tell me, where do those roots lie, for you?
SC: Cabaret in its early years in Europe, was underground, edgy, provocative and subversive, using art and performance in a way that was both entertaining, free and experimental. Almost anything could be said and done and the audience entered the space knowing this underworld of performance was not going to be a night at the opera or ballet. It always had an element of danger and surprise, not least because there was a very real danger in those days that both performers and audience could be arrested by the law and locked up if what was being presented was deemed as morally inappropriate. I’ve tried to use some of those elements to preface the performance of The Lady of the House of Love to signal that I am about to take the audience into a world where anything could happen. It’s an invitation to come on a journey, and this case it happens to be a rather strange one.

ZF: Tell me more about why Angela Carter’s short story so resonated with you. 
SC: I discovered the collection of short stories that “The Lady of the House of Love” came from in a book sale when I was 15. I was intrigued by the title, The Bloody Chamber, and soon became enamoured of all the stories in the collection, but particularly of “The Lady of the House of Love”, because of my teenage fascination with vampires. The central character is basically a freak, she knows it, and she has no control over it, but she longs to be something other than what she is. She’s brave enough to even want death than to linger in the world of ‘eternal life’ she is stuck in. Carter’s quite matter-of-fact approach towards the romantic notion of vampirism and those who never die was both intriguing and humorous to me at the same time.

ZF: Angela Carter’s short story translates to the stage in such a way that, you’ve said, it provides an “irresistible theatrical playground to examine the human condition.” In a one-man show, how is the stage set for such an exploration?
SC: The first thing that struck me about the story, and Angela Carter’s writing in general, are the fantastic, mythical worlds she sets her stories in, masterfully balanced with a mundane reality that acts as a touchstone to our world and daily lives. Mixing fantasy with the domestic. The wonderfully descriptive, rich and poetic prose that she uses is irresistible; she conjures up these worlds of her imagination with a wry and dry humour. This balance really hit the spot with me. The setting of the story, which is fairly contained and features two characters, was perfect fodder for a theatrical adaption into a one-man show. The vampire bride’s power of singing her victims to her gave licence for an intrinsic musical element to be woven into the story with relative ease. The theatrical and musical elements are both equal parts of what I specialise in as a performer.

Sandro Colarelli (photo by Nat Lynn)

ZF: This production ran to rave reviews back in 2008. Last year you featured in another much-loved play to return to Brisbane after some years: Vikram and the Vampire. How does it feel to revisit works such as these?
SC: I love revisiting works. It provides an opportunity to further explore and develop the work in a more rich and satisfying manner. Your enter the rehearsal room knowing what the work is, and therefore can immediately experiment and take more risks. I am an obsessive perfectionist and am always grateful for an opportunity to perfect and try out different ways of approaching nuances in delivering lines, attitudes in character work, and playing with the music.

ZF: Nat Lynn’s gorgeous image (above) seems to have you coiled, ready to spring from your throne. Is there an element of potential energy coiled in the show as well?
SC: Absolutely — the vampire bride at the centre of the piece gives the illusion of a frail and vulnerable aristocratic girl trapped in her no-man’s land between life and death, sleep and wake. Her terrible hunger for blood manifests itself as a deadly predator ready to jump and kill her prey in a second. The image represents this potent and potential energy.

ZF: I recently re-stumbled across Theatre People‘s review of Zen Zen Zo’s Cabaret. Brent Downes wasn’t the only reviewer to describe you (as the Emcee) as the glue of that show — the performer with the most experience across both physical theatre and musicianship. What are the distinct challenges and delights of collaborating on ensemble work and performing a one-man show?
SC: I love collaborating with other people and being able to work relationships and chemistry with other performers. There is a wonderful camaraderie between colleagues when a performing dynamic is working. Its very satisfying. However, I also love doing a one-man show, because I can let my imagination fully embrace the world as I see it and lose myself completely in the story and characters. Particularly when you are doing a story like The Lady of the House of Love, which is close to your heart. Of course, there really is no such thing as a one-man show because the director, writer, composer, musician, designer, choreographer are all there contributing as well.

ZF: You’re right. And there’s is a seriously cool team involved with Lady of the House of Love: Jake Diefenbach, Neridah Waters, Dan Evans, Josh McIntosh and David Fenton. How have you enjoyed working with these talented folks?
SC: I was very lucky to be able too wrangle this group of monstrous talent together for this project. It’s a dream team and I am very grateful that all of them had the time and will to come and play with me, exploring this story I have loved for so many years.

ZF: How are you feeling about opening night?
SC: Nervous, excited, full of anticipation…

THE LADY OF THE HOUSE OF LOVE runs at METRO ARTS from 26 Jul to 3 Aug. The production’s soundtrack will be available for purchase at Sue Benner Theatre.

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