Mondadori blurs the line between character and writerMaddie Lynes

Playwrights and actors often profess to not care what critics think but still insist on reading reviews, but when Kia (played by Chaos’s writer Gaia Mondadori) declared it last night, it was believable. Chaos is about the artist and their creative processes, obstacles and discoveries – while plays cannot escape their audience, Chaos makes no effort to pander either.

“Its really powerful moments lay in its more abstract, movement-based sequences”

The play – or rather, this production specifically – works because of the deep interplay between Mondadori’s script and her performance in the lead role of Kia. One may well roll one’s eyes at playwrights or directors casting themselves in leading roles, but here, unusually, the decision has paid off in spades. The playwright and the actor blur and entangle as the text is performed, producing what feels like a raw and intensely personal meditation on family experience and artistic process. Mondadori has written an incredibly challenging part, but one she inhabits with a conviction that I suspect comes in part from having created Kia – it is difficult to imagine another actor bringing this conviction to the role. Mondadori’s range within the role, moving from dissatisfaction to anger to visceral pain, is remarkable. The struggle between a creative and their family history is not new territory in theatre, but the script deserves praise for being more abstract about family dynamics and offering some resolve to its characters.

"The ‘gnawing’ need to create cannot be negated by the artist"Maddie Lynes

Kia is guided in this institution by Mary (Hayley Canham) and Dr Herm (Paul Storrs) who are responsible for cleansing her and aiding her on her ‘journey’. Canham gives an excellently softly-spoken performance, while Storrs is slightly hypnotic as the charismatic psychologist who at times feels like a cult leader. They rarely appeared on stage together and are very much auxiliary characters defined in relation to Kia, but there’s still enough material for both actors to work with to spin compelling performances. The movement (work of movement director Stella Rousham) between Canham as Mary and Mondadori was particularly gripping – one sequence involving a voodoo puppet deserves special note – and is indicative of where Chaos’s really powerful moments lay: in its more abstract, movement-based sequences. These, accompanied by unnerving strings (conducted by Noah Jay), pulled the audience further into Kia’s trance-like ‘journey’ of artistic growth and counterpointed the long passages of near-poetic monologue that Kia delivers.

"Chaos is a powerful and carefully written play”

The internal world of Chaos – Dr Herm, Mary, Kia and the symbolism laded world of the room they create between them – is compelling, but when it met with external forces it became jarringly brittle. The scene between Kia and her sister (Canham dual-roling), in which the sister’s conventional suburban life is contrasted to Kia’s artistic pursuit, fell slightly into the trap of reducing the two characters into ‘art’ on the one hand and ‘real life’ on the other and placing them in opposition. However, Chaos’s claim was not that art and real life are opposed – the play as a whole is significantly more subtle than that scene. The comparison of the forever-unfulfilled artistic impulse versus the simple satisfaction found in the pleasure of eating ice cream elegantly expresses a central struggle of the play - the ‘gnawing’ need to create cannot be negated by the artist.


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Director Maddie Lynes deserves praise for the way in which Mondadori’s performance meshed well with Storrs’ and Canham’s. In a play so dominated by one performance, there is always the danger of the other performances being lost, or appearing unnecessary; it is to Lynes’s credit that the performances of the other two actors on stage felt every bit as vital as Mondadori’s. Chaos was also aided in no small part by its videographers (Chloe Kelly, Dominika Baerova) and animator (Gabriela Carina) whose work re-articulated the concerns of Mondadori’s script wonderfully and furthered the energy of the production as trance-like. In all, Chaos is a powerful and carefully written play with an outstanding performance from Mondadori at the centre of this production, which I would recommend to anyone who enjoys the symbolic, the abstract and the meditative in theatre.

Chaos is playing at Fitzwilliam College Auditorium on Saturday 5th February.