Written and Directed by Wendy Beckett
Choreographed by Meryl Tankard
Photographs by Daniel Boud
Sydney Opera House Playhouse
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
Paris in the 1880s and an interesting relationship in the history of the arts sets the scene for the Australian premiere of Claudel at the Sydney Opera House.
Sculptor Auguste Rodin, whose best-known works are The Thinker and The Kiss, had a muse, student, lover and inspiration named Camille Rosalie Claudel who turned out to be a significant sculptor in her own right. Two passionate, emotional artists is a recipe for the conflict that creates interest for an audience.
Instead of copying traditional academic postures, Rodin preferred his models to move naturally around his studio, despite their nakedness. Enter the influence of renowned dancer and choreographer Meryl Tankard who provides her own dimension to the production. She moves the models around the stage in typical Tankard style that is reminiscent of the more appealing, Graeme Murphy/Janet Vernon era of the Sydney Dance Company.
Writer/Director Wendy Beckett prefers the actors to retain their Australian accents with the odd French phrase, and it works. An element of the writer also being the director of a production is that there’s often a reluctance to make script changes and can result in slow spots.
If you go to see Claudel, it would definitely be worth your while to book seats in the front half of the theatre unless you own opera glasses or binoculars. With the “artsiness” of the production, combined with my inability to see the actors’ facial expressions from Q row, I sometimes imagined that there were sculptures of Hypnos and Somnos.
The irony is that Tara Morice, who found fame playing the lead role of Fran in the stage and film versions of Strictly Ballroom, has been cast Camille Claudel’s mother who is probably the least choreographed role in this production.