Review : Altar Girl
by Elana Bartholomeusz
📍: Adina Treasury Tunnels, King William Street.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
Adaptations of Shakespeare are no stranger to any theatre-goer. But what if you immersed your audience in an underground party, with bare concrete floors and trashed red cups? For any looming tragedy, this would be its hellish home.
Melbourne’s Rotten Honey present Altar Girl. Labelling itself as “Othello meets Heathers meets Cruel Intentions at an underage party in the bathroom,” Altar Girl presents a horrifyingly familiar setting – a high school gathering. Beginning in this web of bitchiness, intoxication, and desire clearly allows the play’s insidious themes of jealousy to seep through. Modernising not only its temporal setting, Altar Girl also casts a female Othello, or Ollie, whose relationship with golden girl Dess is undermined by queen bee Lara. This interestingly brings issues of sexuality to the noxious mess of betrayal.
This visceral performance retains that teenage sense of nervous terror throughout, but also a slightly discomfited immaturity. Think Skins, with its duality of transfixing intensity, yet youthfully gawky cast. Here, this is both a strength and downfall. Altar Girl is certainly engrossing, but at times, the audience is confronted with voyeuristic discomfort, perhaps in the same way adults feel shocked at the crudeness of an unhinged teen party.
The intimate setting of the Adina Treasury Tunnels is a highlight. With only twenty audience members, it insinuates creeping into the underworld of human nature. The actors’ intimidating proximity further increases the play’s overall intensity. Lighting and sound includes messily draped fairy lights and muffled trap – certainly evocative of what to expect in the aftermath of a private school party.
Altar Girl certainly keeps its audience in suspense, in pursuit of such a raw interpretation. The immersive tragedy with intensity abound, although sometimes too earnest, certainly brings tangible peril for every character within. For better or worse, we all wait intently at our collective altar, watching Othello’s dark demise.