Yentl

by | Mar 7, 2024

By Ash Cottrell

When I think about it, it’s been forever since I saw a superb, couldn’t-fault-it, piece of art. I’m pleased to report that last Saturday night, Malthouse Theatre delivered that kind of an evening. In short, Yentl was flawless, and I haven’t stopped recommending it since. From the moment I sat down, until the extensive (and totally justified) standing ovation ended, I was enthralled.

In truth, apart from some bunching of a downstage curtain, which bothered my perfectionist sensibilities, I truly can’t think of anything to criticise here. All the departments came together seamlessly in this outstanding production which I am unsurprised to learn, was the recipient of several Greenroom Awards on its debut run.

On a nostalgic note, and for a whole host of reasons, Malthouse Theatre has long been my favourite place to see live performance in Melbourne. It’s not just the arts precinct that it finds itself in the heart of, but the palpable sense of community and artistic spirit encapsulated between its majestic walls. If you work in the arts, it feels like every time you visit, you’re with your brethren. Taking people there outside of that world, a distinct privilege and while for me, the shows have been somewhat hit and miss of late, Yentl well and truly delivered a homerun for this iconic playhouse.

On a somewhat sombre note, I have never received an email prior to attending a show, relating to personal safety and security presence – which landed in my inbox some time before Saturday night. With that said, I completely appreciate, Malthouse Theatre’s decision to separate, Yentl from the hotly anticipated, Clementine Ford event. Despite this, it was glorious to just focus on the storytelling and the ability for it to elevate and transcend. In fact, this was one of my lasting impressions of the show -art has the unique ability to educate and elevate the collective consciousness.

I was taught at film school that you can make a bad film out of a good script but that you can never make a good film out of a bad script. I’ve always applied the same logic to theatre and without doubt, the writing in this show had a sophistication and zeitgeist sensibility to it. Kudos must go to the credited writers, Gary Abrahams (writer/director), Elise Esther Hearst and Galit Klas – masterminds of storytelling, indeed. Due credit must also go to the incomparable cast led by, Amy Hack in the title role of our protagonist. A character, so rich that they took the audience on a humble journey of self-discovery and vulnerability. In that way, it was somewhat, ‘coming-of-age’ in its approach. The broader cast, Genevieve Kingsford, Evelyn Krape and Dann Barber were all flawless and were given depth, colour and shade by the expertly designed costumes by Dann Barber, whom I was interested to learn was also responsible for the phenomenal set design.

I’m sure that the audience was aware that this production was an adaptation and without delving into a study on its various antecedents, it is important to note that a potential ‘departure’ is the notion of trans identity – was explored with such discovery, joy, and sensitivity here. Skilled creatives taking an established story and mining the depths of humanity buried within that work, uncovering a contemporary beating heart is perfection.

As aforementioned, there’s not too much else to comment on. The show was extraordinary. If you feel the urge to see some theatre this season, Yentl should be on that list. It runs until March 17th and is well worth your patronage.

Images: Jeff Busby

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