Photographs Of A

2 July 2014 | 2:08 pm | Fleur Kilpatrick

'Photographs Of A' is hard work theatre that you should push through.

Daniel Keene is without doubt one of our nation's most accomplished playwrights and yet Photographs Of A feels more like an anthology of staged poems than theatre. This anthology, performed by the remarkable Helen Morse, tells of 'A', star of 19th century Paris, whose demonstrations of hysteria earned her doctor, Jean-Martin Charcot, the title 'Father of Modern Neurology'.

Keene's writing delves into the performativity of this period of mental illness: 'A' is a star not because her suffering is remarkable but because she can make it visible whenever Charcot tells her.

Morse's exquisite performance and Keene's rhythmic, musical text capture something of that fleeting moment of change from girl to woman: the beautiful, contradiction of simultaneously craving attention and privacy.

Photographs Of A moves at snail's pace and deliberately resists dramatic elements such as climax and drama. The set is minimal and music, never heard. The play asks the audience to slow its metabolism to the pace of the naked words. It's hard work. At times it feels almost too polished, lacking urgency and treating the words with a reverence that doesn't always benefit them. Push through it: inside is a sophisticated and very troubling condemnation of gender relations, society's treatment of mental illness and life under the microscope.

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