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a flower of the lips @ king street theatre newtown

A FLOWER OF THE LIPS began in an informal manner with narrator Yiss Mill welcoming the audience, and shaking hands with people in the front row. Mill is the only bloke on stage, and he plays the author of the story about Bruno Aloi, his great grandfather. Bruno was a Calabrese whose work for the state as a prefect almost 100 years ago leads to his death. His tale of betrayal and murder is recounted by an all female cast.

The cast, with the exception of Marcella Franco (Bruno), all play multiple roles and the acting was fiery. Though the play’s stage directions direct that all adult males but one wear mustaches and hats, they wisely omitted this direction for the production. An all female cast in mustaches would have been far too cheesy looking to take the play seriously, and the best acting in the world would have struggled to overcome such accoutrements.   

This is an odd play in some ways, and there were some interesting creative choices made, yet due to strong performances it works. It is easy to imagine A Flower of the Lips as an opera, it is sufficiently dramatic and the action is structured well; though the inclusion of a character playing the author, who serves to signpost the scenes, wasn’t necessary. Particularly in a court scene, when the jurors act as a Greek chorus at the announcement of the verdict, the author’s role was superfluous.

Highlights? Jamila Hall played six different characters, including Bruno’s nemesis Gabriele Caulonia and was terrific. I loved her particularly as a sombre judge in the play’s trial scene, and as a choir boy who sings ‘Ava Maria’. Hall’s versatility was as impressive as it was hypnotic. Other standout performances included Kiki Skountzos as Dr Salvatore Ritano and Cosimo Caulonia. Skountzos’ intense focus was commendable, particularly in the more physically demanding scenes.

Musico’s writing is humorous and poetic, he successfully brings to life the warmth of the long dead in this tribute to Bruno Aloi and Aloi’s descendants. Though it is never certain who was responsible for Bruno’s death, we are riveted by the possibilities that director Ira Hal Seidenstein and Musico present.

Valentino Musico’s A FLOWER OF THE LIPS,  co-production by the playwright and Emu Productions, is playing at King Street Theatre, Newtown until 24 October.- http://www.kingstreettheatre.com.au/

Featuring:  Michelle De Rosa, Marcello Franco, Jamila Hall, Yiss Mill and Kiki Skountzos.

Creative Team: Valentino Musico (author), Ira Hal Seidenstein (director), Serena Weatherall, Amanda Zahab, Vince Vozzo, Michael Bell, and Tom Kaprowski.

Featured pic- left to right- Michelle De Rosa, Marcella Franco, Jamila Hall, Yiss Mill and  Kiki Skountzos

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