Children of the Black Skirt: Abbotsford Convent

'Children of the Black Skirt' is a family event, because adults will enjoy the quality performances, and kids will giggle at the funny accents and spot-on impressions.
Children of the Black Skirt: Abbotsford Convent
Children of the Black Skirt: Abbotsford Convent Three young children leap out into the land surrounding a run-down, abandoned house. Intrigued, they creep inside. There are clothes strewn everywhere, and within five minutes, one giggling child tries on the outfit of a schoolgirl. Another toys with the clothes of a woman of the working class, pretending to scrub and wash clothes. The last girl, smiling and laughing, slips on the black skirt and zips the matching coat up to her neck. The room darkens, and she becomes the headmistress of this lonely orphanage; she is the Black Skirt, and her friends are her miserable slaves. Totally silent and heartlessly cruel, the headmistress implements control with a pair of very large, very sharp scissors. The newest girl to the orphanage, terrified and alone, hides under her blankets while the others laugh at her. The typically-gruff cleaning lady gives her the only memento of her former life; a dirty, signed book. Children of the Black Skirt revolves around the haunted spirits that instil themselves in the bodies of the residents of this spooky house; there are young English lads, dead too soon, Scottish lasses sent off to find husbands in the wilds of Van Diemen’s land, and a girl consumed by the memory of a fire. The set is constructed deceptively well; every inch of space is utilised to create the image of a different room, or a different point in time or memory, while the addition of a cloth window enables the stage design to add a deliciously spooky element to the story. The Black Skirt herself is played with wonderful stage presence, an element crucial to the counterpoint energy produced by the cleaner and the orphaned girl. Three actresses make light work of the script and the demand for multiple roles; it was something of a visual feast to watch the various physical contortions they used in an endeavour to replicate a very overweight woman, an orphanage inspector and several different young children. There is no deeply-hidden metaphorical message embedded in this play. It’s hard to find a performance that is entertaining and clever without secretly angling at some superfluous inner meaning that the audience must search to find. This is a family event, because adults will enjoy the quality performances, and kids will giggle at the funny accents and spot-on impressions. There is one offence to be noted, however; sitting on a cushion for 75 minutes does nothing good for the circulation in one’s legs. If you do go to see the Children of the Black Skirt, understand the methodology of the ushers, because they send the children in first to use up the cushions. When it’s time for the adults to go in, get yourself up front, because seats will go fast. At least when you see this play, you’ll know you won’t be uncomfortable and bored. The Black Skirt is an energetic, well-performed play with a tight script and clever stage layout; it’s worth suspending reality for one night to indulge in gothic whimsy and light-hearted storytelling. Children of the Black Skirt: Abbotsford Convent Dates: 13th & 14th August ONLY Time: 8pm Duration: 1 hour Cost: $20 all tickets Location: The Sacred Heart Chapel, Abbotsford Convent, Collingwood Train Station: Victoria Park Melway reference: 44 G5 Bookings: 0438 142 299 or Season Closed

Siobhan Argent

Thursday 20 August, 2009

About the author

Siobhan Argent completed an Arts degree at the University of Melbourne and is currently undertaking a postgraduate diploma in editing and communications. Given the chance, Siobhan would love to learn numerous different languages and read as much classic literature as she can get her hands on. Siobhan is currently a reviewer for ArtsHub.