Pear-Shaped: A Melbourne theatre review by Alex First

April 11, 2023 by Alex First
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Having closely watched all 75 minutes of Pear-Shaped, I remain utterly confused about what I just saw.

It is a semi-autobiographical work (it contains both real and imagined experiences), written by Miranda Middleton and Ziggy Resnick, starring the latter and Luisa Scrofani.

Luisa Scrofani (left) and Ziggy Resnick star in Pear-Shaped
Photo by Angel Leggas

It concerns an eating disorder overlaid with Alice in Wonderland. What the?

From what I could make out, sexually ambiguous 23-year-old Frankie (Resnick) is studying theatre production design.

They are highly stressed and drug affected, trying to complete their final assignment.

They haven’t seen their sister Kayla (Scrofani) for quite some time, even though they are being prevailed upon to do so by their workaholic mother (also Scrofani).

The reason – Kayla has anorexia and no amount of imploring her to eat will get her to do so.

The play moves back and forth in time between the past (when the two girls were youngsters) and the present.

At one point, Frankie falls asleep while being goaded into performing Alice in Wonderland by her sister.

It is then that she tumbles down the rabbit hole that is the mainstay in Lewis Carroll’s logic-blasting, mind-bending 1865 English novel (the title of which was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland).

Frankie and Kayla are Jewish, and it is coming up to the Jewish New Year when food is in abundance. That also involves their grandmother Savta (Scrofani again).

In fact, both performers play multiple roles. Scrofani is also Alice, while Resnick is the Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts.

From what I could discern, all this is about the weight of expectations (no pun intended) and a desire to be “normal”.

The fantasy elements cover the serious concerns about Kayla’s mental state, about getting her “right”.

Pear-Shaped keeps up a frenetic pace throughout. Two doors in the home setting are constantly being opened and closed as the characters arrive and depart.

Cleverly, five empty picture frames of various sizes double as entry points by which puppetry is introduced.

This is undoubtedly an ambitious work that I struggled to connect with.

Part of that had to do with the acoustics in the theatre (its cavernous nature acted as an echo chamber).

I was sitting at the end of the second row, and much of the time, I couldn’t hear exactly what was being said.

(That was especially the case with instructions being blurted out by the assignment director to student Frankie via a small, old-style TV screen on the floor.)

It must be said I am a regular and avid supporter of Theatre Works and, generally, I haven’t had difficulty understanding speech delivered in productions there.

While I appreciated the energy in the work stemming from the performances of Resnick and Scrofani, I couldn’t get out of the theatre quickly enough.

I found it creative but perplexing.

I left hoping others would find more to appreciate in Pear-Shaped that I did.

Directed by Miranda Middleton, it is playing at Melbourne’s Theatre Works until 15th April 2023.

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