By Tes Lyssiotis
Directed by Robert Draffin
Cast: Nina Landis, Maggie Millar, Diedre Rubinstein, Mary Sitarenos
Theatreworks, Melbourne, until March 28
Reviewed by Bronwen Beechey
Blood Moon is Tes Lyssiotis' 13th play and the third in a trilogy. While A White Sports Coat and The Forty Lounge Cafe were bilingual plays drawing heavily on Lyssiotis' experience of growing up with Greek cultural traditions in an Australian context, Blood Moon is set entirely in Greece and deals with more universal themes of grief, loss and the complex dynamics of families.
Ten years after the death of their mother, four sisters return home to distribute her possessions. It is the first time that the four have been together for many years. They are very different. Marina, the eldest, has lived in her mother's house all her life, enduring an abusive marriage and caring for her mother in her final illness. Anna, the second daughter, is a globe-trotting sophisticate, Katina was sent unwillingly to an arranged marriage in Australia, and Sophia, the youngest, is an affectionate, romantic dreamer.
Through a hot, still night, the arguments over who was promised which of their mother's possessions escalate into an intense and occasionally violent confrontation as past secrets are revealed and old resentments, passions and fears expressed.
Lyssiotis' poetic language may initially seem a little overblown to Australian ears, until it is realised that although the play is in English, the characters are using Greek idioms and expressions. The title refers to the full moon that Sophia refers to as "mother's moon", and seems to symbolise the continuing presence of this formidable woman in her daughters' lives.
It also explores the different meanings of "blood" — the shared blood of the four sisters, which ties them together in an inescapable bond, the "bad blood" between them, as well as the obvious connotations that the title has for a group of women.
While Lyssiotis takes obvious pride in her culture, she is not blind to its negative aspects. All the sisters have suffered from sexist and patriarchal traditions. Marina, the one who took on the approved role of dutiful daughter and wife, suffers most — the house where she lived all her life and cared for her mother will go to the oldest son, who lived in Athens and hardly ever visited.
The four actors, who between them have a wealth of experience in stage, film and television, are all magnificent. I had the feeling that they really enjoy the rare opportunity to portray strong and complex female characters. Maggie Millar's portrayal of the proud, stubborn Marina's collapse as she recognises that all her sacrifice has been in vain is particularly powerful.
Blood Moon represents an important and growing strand of of an increasing number of plays by women writers which focus on female experiences, it is also a part of a movement toward a theatre in which writers from non-English speaking cultures are increasingly finding a voice.