Fringe 2009, Kapito Cafe
February 12-18 | Reviewed by Kate Blackhurst

ESTHER ROSE GREEN and Sara Marlene Allen are excellent in The Mountain. I’m not entirely sure what the play was all about, but the acting by these two was phenomenal, as they inhabited several different characters with conviction.

Their main incarnations are Bee (Green) and Maggie (Allen), two sisters who live atop a mountain in a little cabin selling climbing gear. Their father has died and a genie, or chastity fairy, turns up in a bottle and tells them they must go to Purgatory to seek a key and release him.

So with the fairy safely underarm, they set off on this quest and encounter a number of spirits (played by themselves) in the chambers of lust, gluttony and envy. Co-writer and director, Julia Croft, has envisioned a world that is a cross between Pilgrim’s Progress and the more sinister aspects of fairytales. Envy’s blind-groping, gaping-mouth embodiment and Gluttony’s belching, farting personification are truly hideous.

Green and Allen strike poses, express emotions and throw themselves into these roles literally, with hair clips flying everywhere. The Ferryman, Keeper of the Gates, and German Nurse are remarkably distinct from each other. In the hands of lesser actors, these segments could have become tedious drama student exercises, but Green and Allen are so committed to their characterization (and their protective affection for each other) that we actually feel for the travellers in this allegory.

The play has a fantastically intimate setting in the Katipo Café with its intense blood red walls. Designer Rose Kirkup brings a strong but simple ambience to the set with climbing rope hung from the walls and punctured aluminium tins performing the role of stars, binoculars, cups and walkie-talkies.

A simple white wooden chair is the only piece of set furnishing and it too is well utilised as the actors sprawl in it, perch on top of it, or crawl through it The technical aspects of lighting and sound (Nathan McKendry and Brad) are again effortless and effective in this small space.

According to the programme notes this is the first public performance of a work that will be under development for the next two years. I expect it will be fleshed out a bit, as it is very short at the moment and leaves the audience wanting more, which is actually a great starting point for progress.

Perhaps the other deadly sins – sloth, greed, anger and pride – might get a look in. Perhaps the ending might be explained a little more clearly rather than being left to tail off into a bit of an anti-climax. Whatever the future for this play, and I sincerely hope it has one, the acting has already reached a pinnacle of performance.