Maria Ornata

Thu 10th – Sat 26th August 2017

reviews

Claire Leibovich

at 11:35 on 19th Aug 2017

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It usually takes me a few minutes to get into a show, but with ‘Maria Ornata’ that moment never came. I did not understand a thing about what was going on, and not because of the accent. I think it was about Christianity. There was the Virgin Mary, the archangel Gabriel, a hermit and many saints including Mary Magdalena and two different Saint Catherines. The word ‘Bolonia’ came up a lot as well.

This complete confusion was due to extremely bad acting and an absolute lack of staging. For other shows at the Fringe I have wondered if it is the actor or the text that is bad, but here there is no doubt. I thought that the text might be good if I tried to concentrate very hard on the meaning alone and ignore the acting. I gave up that tactic after a while, so I have no idea of the quality of the text itself. Dieter Brusselaers adapted a play that originally had ‘a large cast’. It took me a while to understand that he played many different roles, and then abandoned the idea of identifying them because there was absolutely no difference. He would impersonate character A in spot 1, then turn around to do character B in spot 2, and then would return to character A, but this time in spot 3. His restless and aimless wandering around the stage did not make for a better identification of the characters and comprehension of the story. Not only was the actor’s characterisation flat and tedious, there were also no props or staging. Brusselaers had the same costume on during the whole show; a costume which obscured the storyline even more since it did not fit all of the characters. As for the lighting, it was almost non-existent. Only the occasional classical music relieved me, making me long for the world outside the room.

I was shocked by how abysmal ‘Maria Ornata’ is, and I spent the whole performance, which felt excruciatingly long, torn between anger at being submitted to it, and the most irresistible urge to burst out in laughter.

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Simona Ivicic

at 18:29 on 19th Aug 2017

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‘Maria Ornata’ is a one-man show that has left me lost for words, but unfortunately not for the right reasons at all. I quite literally have no idea what I just spent the last hour watching and even less of an idea as how to articulate it. On paper this play is apparently an intricate account of Heaven and Earth colliding, leaving the mortal and immortal world in a state of chaos. It is only the Archangel Gabriel that knows what truly happened and it is up to him to clarify to us, the audience, and the Heaven’s Celestial Council Chamber what exactly happened. But writer and performer Dieter Brusselaers did anything but clarify the situation; in fact it got progressively more confusing.

Maybe it’s because this Dutch-language play is intended for a large cast, that this one-man show didn’t quite work. The different personas Brusselaers’s adopted are sometimes muddled; the transitions were not always clear and the lack of definition between accents made it difficult to follow. If anything Brusselaers’ over pronounced accent made the entire show more confusing as it distracted from what he was actually saying. It was easy to get caught up or lost in his words. Despite these significantly detrimental flaws in the performance, Brusselaers as an actor shows great potential. He was charismatic, energetic and physically controlled and composed in ways that I was yet to see here at the Fringe.

There is a clear sense that there is a much deeper meaning to the play and the director's statement relates it to contemporary society: “We count on people with more power than us to use their better judgement but more and more they are blatantly ignoring solid evidence if it goes against what they believe. This play looks at what happens when characters, both divine and mortal, refuse to let go of their prejudices in order to face reality”.

As deep and meaningful as this may be it simply did not translate through to the play itself. Perhaps my own lack of understanding of the performance meant that a lot of the subtleties of the play went over my head but honestly after the first 20 minutes I was mind-numbingly bored. If a play about religion and prejudice intrigues you then definitely go give this a chance, but personally it was impossible to keep up with, let alone be entertained.

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