REVIEW: The Lady of the House of Love

A restaging of a 2008 Brisbane hit, Metro Arts hosts The Lady of the House of Love. Daniel Evans adapts this tragic tale of a lonely, reluctant vampire — bound more by habit and ritual than by her curse — from Angela Carter’s 1979 short story of the same name. (Read my recent interview to find out more about the play’s history.)

Above all, as a one-man production, The Lady of the House of Love reminds us of the power and pleasure of a good storyteller. Sandro Colarelli’s shape-shifting performance is central. Reaching through the rose-laden lattice of an isolated chateau, he seduces us into Carter’s rich text. Choreographed by Neridah Waters, Colarelli is at once narrator, strong man and strange woman, whose beauty “is a symptom of her disorder.”

Sandro Colarelli (photo by Nat Lynn)

Jake Diefenbach’s compositions ensure that The Lady of the House of Love transcends from a good play into an astounding chamber production. (It’s well-worth picking up the soundtrack, coproduced by James Lees and Bryce Moorhead, on the night.) It’s uncanny to hear Diefenbach’s distinctive lyrics and musical signatures sung in Colarelli’s hypnotic voice. At the piano, John Rodgers faces away from the audience, but his presence is front and centre, alongside Colarelli.

David Fenton directs a production that is unashamedly gothic — though not without wit; this feels entirely right, considering the text’s deference to Victorian melodrama. In the music as well as the costuming, there’s a little ’80s goth too. Josh McIntosh’s design and Andrew Meadows’ lighting work together to suggest candle-lit boudoirs, dense with incense and dust, deep in the stone heart of a mountain chateau.

There are a couple of moments wherein the melodrama could be reined in just a touch, but in the Countess’s “cave full of echoes” there is little room for subtlety. And who could deny her a little excess when her worn tarot cards, laid out and laid out again, finally reveal a change of fate — from La Papesse, La Mort, La Tour Abolie . . .

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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