Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Joanne Mitchell's date with Johnny Depp

You may have seen Joanne Mitchell in a play, but there's every chance
that you've never heard her. The actor-writer's biggest on stage role
so far was in British playwright and actor, Mark Ravenhill's Dublin
Theatre Festival offering last year, Product.

Well, starring alongside one of Britain's most successful contemporary
playwrights in a two-handed play, that sounds like a great role,
right? But…Product calls for a young actress -- playing the part of a
young actress -- to sit listening attentively while Ravenhill himself
fumes, rants and raves at her in the persona of a slightly psychotic
movie producer. (There's another sort?)

"Mark told me he kind of improvised, working off whoever was playing
the part that night, and that it was a difficult role, because you
can't speak, but you need to be acting like crazy," says Mitchell.
"Which was true."

As a matter of record, Mitchell was quite good within the limits of a
non-speaking role in an thoroughly verbal piece of theatre – even if
it's hard to know how many of the audience will have noticed.

Ravenhill ("a dote…we're both very into Betwitched. I found him a DVD
of it he was looking for…") has promised make it to the Dublin run of
Mitchell's first solo show, Living with Johnny Depp. Which, in the way
of these things, does not star Johnny Depp.

In fact, Mitchell herself plays all the roles in Living with Johnny
Depp, which included a slightly loopy Junior cert student from the
West of Ireland, whose Walter Mittyesque relationship with Depp fans
the secret desires of two members of the school teaching staff, until
they too are lost in Deppy fantasies.

The play, originally produced in Galway early this year is very much
the product of the Jacques Lecoq school (who needs an acting course in
Dublin, when everyone goes to Paris anyway?) Eilis Nic Dhonncha, who
co-creator the show met Mitchell at Lecoq, where Portuguese-born,
Micaela Miranda, the director of the Dublin run, also studied.

"We use the clowning style that you might know from Barabbas [the
Dublin troupe was also set up by former Lecoq students) and the
commedia del'art style that corn Exchange do," says Mitchell, who has
also worked with Blue Raincoat, to complete a holy trinity of Irish
experimental theatre companies.

"It was sort of based on all the things you'd hear in a staff room and
you really shouldn't," says Mitchell, who spent some time as a
teacher. "I remember hearing one teacher in a staff room one day say
about a girl who was coming to the school 'Her mother was a bitch, her
sister was a bitch, and I'll bet you she will be a bitch too'. And I
just thought, the girl doesn't have a hope!"

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

REVIEW: Product (Project, Dublin)

A man and a woman in a bare space. He speaks, she listens with all her
might. Sixty minutes elapse. Mark Ravenhill's self-drive vehicle (the
playwright wrote the piece and also stars) is pared down enough to be
a Beckett play, although its obsession with Hollywood, terrorism,
violence pretty much clears up any confusion.

Ravenhill, the author of that bain of posters everywhere, Shopping and
Fucking, has graduated from the enfant terrible of British theatre.
These days he is an artist with enough clout to tour widely in a show
that, without his presence it's easy to imagine, would be far less
widely seen. To put it mildly.

The playwright plays a slightly crazed film producer who has a script
– titled Mohamad and Me, we read on its cover – which promises to put
the "clash of civilisations" into Hollywood language, or at least play
around with some of the clichés and racism that lie behind it. To this
end, he has convinced a "name" actress (Joanne Mitchell) to hear his pitch.

The movie pitch, that hyperventilated spiel designed to attract the
attention and the favours of the gods of money, is an economical way
of evoking those big shots that will cost all the money if the movie
ever gets made. But there is also a growing trend, which Mark
Ravenhill's Product is another example, in which the movie pitch is
--despite suggesting the opposite -- is an end in itself.

As such, it is an illustration of the opposite of "don't tell, show".
It is all "tell, don't show"

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