MIFF: Stephen’s Review – Stories I Want To Tell You In Person

An Emotionally Honest And Humorously Engaging Madcap Lap Round The Creative Mind Of Playwright Lally Katz. Fabulous Fun.

Putting on a theatrical show in cinematic language doesn’t always work out, though recent gems have included French offerings Guillaume Gallienne’s Me, Myself and Mum (Les Garcons Et Guillaume, A Table!) and Roman Polanski’s Venus in Fur (La Vénus à la Fourrure).

Add to the success pile Stories I Want To Tell You In Person, a short and snazzy adaptation of sharp-shooting US-born, Melbourne-based playwright Lally Katz’ one-woman show that zips merrily through the last few years of her life, laying bare her creative process (clue: there isn’t much of a structured process).

A riot from start to finish, it takes in making friends with a maniacally mean old Eastern European neighbour, photographically stalking a cowboy, paying shonky psychics to shoo away imaginary curses and trying to juggle a love life with theatre-writing success.

First staged at Sydney’s Belvoir Theatre, the show was a co-production with the Malthouse Theatre, transferring to Melbourne. It’s translated seamlessly to screen in a minimalist, stagey way. Jersey-born Katz is a magnetic presence with a voice seemingly resurrected from a prohibition era, gin and smoke-soaked New York speakeasy-owning broad. She’s fabulous, and this cutely kooky piece, sprung forth from a GFC-themed play that went AWOL but may yet surface as a musical, is disarmingly honest about the pressures of a life writ large, almost literally.

They say write what you know, and Katz’ work is bursting at the seams with the rag tag bunch of crazies she seems to pull into her orbit, including a thinly veiled reference to a certain presenter and novelist known only as ‘the Full Jew’ and portrayed here by Christopher Brown. Robyn Nevin reprises her role as the fearsome Anna from Katz’ Neighbourhood Watch and there are multiple other reference to her oeuvre, including the wildly successful A Golem Story and guest appearances by both the Apocalypse Bear (Mark Dickinson) and Hope Dolphin. Dry as a bone stand-up comedian Ronny Chieng also has a fun cameo as a straight-talking pharmacy store manager.

For those less familiar with Katz or her plays, Stories I Want To Tell You In Person still sings with the realities of the bumpy road towards artistic endeavour and is an amusingly sweet entry into the documentary form wrapped up in a dash of theatrical razzmatazz that’s sure to send a smile your way. Just don’t fork out for Cookie, whatever you do.

Stephen A Russell @SARussellwords

★★★★

Also screens with animated short Ernie Biscuit by Adam Elliot. For more information or to book tickets, go to www.miff.com.au