It’s easy to believe plenty of personal experiences have gone into The Mentor, a new Australian play on stage at Theatre Works.
The play uses the interaction between 70-year-old former Hollywood star, Amanda Redfern, and a 20-something aspiring actor, Jordan Ridley, to explore a number of social issues together with the entertainment industry.
Amanda Muggleton whose career spans 40 years in television, film and theatre, plays Redfern while Connor Morel, who is newer to the industry (albeit with an already impressive CV), plays Jordan. The play is written by Joshua White who is an actor and emerging writer.
When we first meet Amanda it’s clear her life is lacking direction. Her living room is a mess and she’s fast asleep on the couch when Jordan comes to her house for his first one-on-one acting lesson. He’s late and she has seemingly forgotten about his visit.
Eventually Amanda agrees to tutor him and the play follows the interaction between the two. Her often-confronting techniques cause friction with a number of classes ending in recriminations. Yet gradually both open up about their professional frustrations and tragic personal experiences.
Amanda’s greatest frustration is the attitude of the entertainment industry towards people of a certain age. She feels she’s not getting acting roles due to her age and appearance. She also believes there is a lack of respect and recognition in society generally for older adults. Jordan is equally frustrated as he believes he has a great deal of talent but instead of him, it’s his friends who are getting roles on local Australian television shows and in commercials.
Through Amanda’s teaching methods we also learn of a major event that has impacted Jordan’s life. Amanda’s traumatic history is explored through her interaction with Jordan and messages left on her answering machine.
One of the joys of The Mentor is watching Muggleton and Morel believably bring to life their characters’ personalities. Muggleton successfully portrays her character’s passion, insensitivity, vulnerability, anger, affection and frustration. Morel is equally successful in portraying similar characteristics in Jordan together with a touch of arrogance.
According to the play’s director and producer, Christian Cavallo, from Bravo Arts, portraying the themes raised by White’s play such as navigating the entertainment industry, mental health, sexism, ageism and overcoming obstacles with dignity was one of his major aims. He has succeeded.
The Mentor is playing at Theatre Works until November 26. Visit Theatre Works for more information and tickets.
*Photo credit: Lucinda Goodwin.
Jenny Burns attended the opening night of The Mentor as a guest of the producers.
- live theatre, Melbourne, review
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