Welcome to Red Door
For those who might not have read my more extensive introduction, Red Door is a celebration of plays that I – for various and extremely personal reasons – really dig. They are also works that I regard as key developments, as significant steps in the unfolding story of our theatre. They are by no means the only steps, or even necessarily the most important, but they are all in their own ways fascinating and distinctive works.
Here is the latest release from Red Door, FURIOUS MATTRESS by Melissa Reeves.
Furious Mattress has been a long time coming and its creator, Melissa Reeves, is well overdue for this imprint. I first met Melissa when, as a young drama school graduate, I auditioned for, and was cast in her extraordinary bioplay of Mary McKillop entitled Storming Heaven. It was produced by the dearly departed RED SHED in Adelaide which regularly commissioned both Melissa and Daniel Keene, and was responsible for many of their early successes. (Stay tuned for more of these to arrive in the catalogue shortly).
Furious Mattress is inspired by, though in no way seeks to represent, a well-documented actual case in rural Victoria. In 1993 in the tiny hamlet of Antwerp, Joan Vollmer died after undergoing an exorcism organized by her husband and carried out by several members of a local Christian group. Vollmer was a diagnosed schizophrenic whose behaviour appears to have been misread by a group of religious extremists.
Reeves imports the bare bones of this story into the narrative of Furious Mattress, including the bizarre involvement of a young and completely inexperienced ‘exorcist’.
You'll find more of my thoughts on Furious Mattress, along with our video interview with Melissa, on the AustralianPlays.org blog.
LATEST RELEASE: FURIOUS MATTRESS by Melissa Reeves
Loosely based on events that took place in country Victoria in the mid nineties, Furious Mattress is the story of a back-yard exorcism that goes tragically wrong.
Convinced that his wife is possessed, Pierce enlists the aid of Annette and Max, and together they battle for the soul of Elsie. As the country swelters in the grip of a heat-wave, even Elsie's death can't shake Pierce and Annette's desperate conviction they have done the right thing, and together they wait for her miraculous return.
Furious Mattress explores the human capacity for committing atrocities under the banner of doing good, and how ordinary and sad such tragedies can be, even at the extremes of human behaviour. We usually see ourselves as being very normal and incapable of viciousness and the play resonates with the perennial question most notably posed by the Nazi holocaust. How does 'evil' manifest itself in scores of people who see nothing obscene in their lives?
Stylistically, the play employs a slightly heightened form of psychological realism with surreal, grotesque and comic elements as well as moments of great pathos as well as beauty - which sounds contradictory but there are many contradictions in the play; it is about contradiction.
Tom Healey in conversation with Melissa Reeves