Review by Lauren Donikian
Dorothy Levitt: racing driver, writer, and a woman ahead of her time is celebrated in ‘The Woman and the Car’. Written by Mark Langham and produced by Ship’s Cat Theatre Company; a new independent theatre company based in Sydney. This play gives us a peek into Dorothy’s life at a time when she was at her lowest. Centered around her relationship with Selwyn Edge (alleged lover) and friendship with Isabel Savory, we see this bright and funny woman turn into a shell of herself with issues she must address.
107 Projects is a creative hub that supports the local community of artists. Quite unsuspecting is the theatre, that is a single door entry and a short hallway to the open space. Modern jazz is playing through the speakers and the set is of the living room in Dorothy’s house where the play takes place. Filled with antique pieces including a chaise lounge, piano and typewriter you are automatically transported into the early 1900’s where women had no rights and men ruled the world. The opening scene shows the versatility of the set, which is well used throughout the 70-minute play. The cast of three find ways to make the most of the space, whether it is sitting on the chaise lounge, moving the typewriter, or pouring drinks, they feel comfortable in their surroundings. The stage is lit with soft lighting, until it turns blue to reflect the passing of a day. During this time, the music plays again to make sure you stay in the world that has been created.
‘The Woman and the Car’ asks a lot of its actors, especially Lib Campbell who plays Dorothy. Lib is a bright spark whose energy hits you in the face - you can’t take your eyes off her and her consistent commitment to the character. Her emotional exploration is varied and believable throughout. The costumes are spot on and provide an insight into the characters. Selwyn Edge, played by Alex Spinks is a commanding character, not only because of his height, but because of his cream three-piece suit which differs to Dorothy’s white shirt, braces, and brown pants. She looks as if she has just gotten out from under her car and he is the epitome of wealth. Spinks brings his character to life, by his confidence and self-assuredness to the role. He never seems to take his eyes off Campbell which shows his infatuation with Dorothy or obsession with what she can provide. Zoë Crawford, Artistic Director of Ship’s Cat Theatre Company plays Isabel Savory. Her portrayal of a character that appears uptight but is full of adventure and rebellion is exciting to watch. She provides the lighter moments in the play and the rapport between her, and Lib Campbell is evident.
Without knowing the history of Dorothy Levitt, I was quite transfixed with the way that she was written. A strong woman, who has had to prove herself constantly through her life, she is cheeky and sure of herself which immediately makes you want to be her best friend. The play ended quite abruptly and to say that I wanted more is an understatement. This play encourages its audience to know their worth, have a true sense of self and passion in what they do, just like Dorothy Levitt herself. If this is an indication of the high standard of the Ship’s Cat Theatre Company, I look forward to their future productions.
Image Credit Clare Hawley