Powerful stories resonate in Blood of the Lamb

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The Globe Theatre presents Blood of the Lamb by Bruce Mason, in association with Arts Festival Dunedin
Thursday, September 20

The long-awaited return home of “the prodigal daughter” for her wedding leads to an epic battle of wills in Bruce Mason’s Blood of the Lamb.

Directed and designed by Richard Huber, the play opened to a full house last night at the Globe Theatre.

The committed cast form a tight trio, led by a superb performance from Helen Fearnley, in the bravura role of Henry Higginson.

Comfortably inhabiting Henry’s theatricality, Fearnley is exuberant and reflective by turns, and achieves a mesmerising telling of the life-changing traumatic events in his early life.

Toni White is charmingly motherly as Henry’s `wife’ and help-meet Eliza, bringing a lovely warmth to the relationship.

Anna Dawes is also strong as the couple’s difficult, challenging daughter, whose demands to know about her roots prompt some extraordinary revelations.

It is a tribute to the dedication of the three actors that they manage Mason’s complex word-play, filled with classical references and phrases in Italian, Latin, and Maori, with such aplomb.

Spectacularly-costumed Dunedin singer Jessica Little adds voice to Henry’s imagination, appearing from time to time to join him in singing snatches of Mozart opera.

Staging the play in traverse _ with the stage in the centre and the audience on both sides _ proves a clever device, providing a visual representation of the conversational battle and shifting allegiances.

Also adding to the power of the piece is its soundscape, which combines Mozart music with taonga puoro and the occasional burst of woodwind, and at times repeats snatches of dialogue for emphasis.

Costumes by Sofie Welvaert help cement the characters into their roles, particularly the suit-wearing Henry, and Little just looks amazing as the singer.

Craig Storey provides lighting and sound, while Alison Cowan is stage manager.

The premise of Blood of the Lamb may have lost a little of the shock value that would have accompanied its release almost 40 years ago, but it remains as relevant today as it ever was.

In its exploration of society’s response to those who challenge the norm, gender issues, and power imbalance, Blood of the Lamb resonates in the mind long after the lights go down.

Blood of the Lamb continues at the Globe Theatre until Saturday, September 29, with most performances at 7.30pm. There is a matinee at 2pm this Sunday, and no performance on Monday.