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Review: Clara: Sex, Love & Classical Music at La Mama

Review By Lucinda Naughton

Clara: Sex, Love & Classical Music is a one-woman show about the ground-breaking feminist icon, classical composer Clara Schumann, written and performed by Elena Mazzon. The sixty-minute piece, directed by Catriona Kerridge, is an engaging life story about Clara’s experience as a female classical composer and pianist in the mid-1800s (born 13 September 1819, died 20 May 1896) and features many of her compositions, as well as featuring some of her husband’s, Robert Schumann, along with Johannes Brahms’. The piece is centred around her approaching date with Brahms, and is a series of reflections on her father, Friedrich Wieck’s influences and teachings in her childhood, the changes that occurred in her life when she became a wife and later mother of eight, and the effects these roles had on her career and talent.

Mazzon writes and performs Clara with wit, charm, and great sensitivity. She balances between her confidence in her composing and piano talents even in the face of the male dominated industry at the time and her gentle and, at times, timid nature. It is an interesting conflict to behold.

The story begins with her excitement and nervousness for her looming date, and she then starts her reflections on why it has been so long since her last one. She tells tales of her youth, describing how her father would not let her go to school but instead taught her music, and showed her talents off to his guests from when she was only eight. Mazzon embodies and explores Clara’s love of music and how falling in love changed her direction. Her father’s feelings of disproval over her marriage were very ahead of his time, which was interesting; Clara explains that he didn’t see her as a girl, just someone who he could teach the wonders of music to.

Mazzon explores the struggles of motherhood and the pains of not being able to compose music as much as she could before. Her feelings of longing are apparent. Her love of music palpable. Mazzon demonstrated some strong vocal impersonations in her story-telling, although at times her characterisations in conversations were a little confusing. She still manages to entertain.

Some of the audience was situated on Mazzon's stage right, creating an L shaped intimate audience experience. However, at times this does not add much to the piece other than Mazzon’s constant head turning while she addressed her spectators, which was probably intended to be part of the intimate, speaking-directly-to-the-audience technique, however, perhaps was not quite effortless enough. There is much breaking the fourth wall in this production, which works at times, while other times can be a little too forward.

Paul Reisenberger’s lighting design was simple; for the most part it included the audience, again sticking to the theme, but also occasionally spot-lit for Mezzon’s stories. This added a strong dramatic layer to the stories.

The interspersing of piano pieces Mazzon plays are elegant, beautiful and add great value to the play. They are of course the real pieces, which adds much to depth and realness to the romantic stories.

An endearing play about a real feminist icon, exploring breaking through the barriers in her composing career, while the duties of being a wife and mother intervene.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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