Reviewed by Stephanie Johnson

June 2011

Burnside Players has provided a two-course intellectual and theatrical feast with its latest fare of two one-act plays. Entrée is served with a South Australian play Jewels on Black Velvet and main course follows with Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit.

Director Fran Edwards has chosen Jewels…, a sparkling script set at a party in the Adelaide hills. This award-winning script is brilliantly crafted and requires careful handling if the cast is to truly capture and build the tension for the full impact of the climax.

Shelley Hampton tackles the role of The Woman with finesse. She tells her story with charm and a few nerves, which should disappear the season unfolds. In some ways her lack of confidence is impelling and helps keep edginess to this tale. Where is she leading us next?

Paul Zechner seems strangely disengaged as The Man and somehow this does not work. He tells his tale calmly but this is no calm story, particularly when it involves the consequences of hot-blooded man’s out of control passions. Catlin Mackintosh (as The Girl) is a sultry temptress with an ulterior purpose and does well to try to heat up the action.

Rather than sizzling, this production of Jewels on Black Velvet gently and subtly unravels its gems and poses questions, aptly setting the stage for the next existential play.

No Exit is compelling from start to finish with each actor rising to the occasion and beautifully dovetailing each other in a way that enhances and hits just the right mark for this script. Burnside and Director Edwards have done Sartre proud.

Tim Benveniste is suitably straight-faced and tongue-in-cheek as The Valet. He helps set exactly the right tone for the trio of actors who follow.

Aaron MacDonald is excellent as the cowardly and cruel Vincent Cradeau and ably mirrored by Kristen Telfer as Inez Serrano who wields and misuses power. Jennifer Piper is mesmerizing as the simpering and sinister society woman Estelle Delaunay. Each member of this hellish trio thrust and parries ably depicting Hell – the hell of human failings when mirrored. No Exit was first written in 1944 (and premiered in Nazi-occupied Paris) and yet is still chillingly relevant today.

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