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Showing posts with label Play in Sydney. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Play in Sydney. Show all posts

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

After Easter - Review



FACTORY SPACE THEATRE COMPANY PRESENTS

After Easter
Reviewed by Ben Oxley

credit: Factory Space Theatre Company

After Easter
Written by prize winning playwright Anne Devlin
Directed by Roz Riley

(12th April to 3rd May, 2014)

Greta is protesting. Meanwhile, her husband is cheating. And her family thinks she’s just a little bit crazy.

Perhaps they’re right. After all, she is having visions, despite being an atheist. But they aren’t much better off. One sister is married, unhappily. The other won’t marry at all. Their brother is married to his art. Their cousin is married to God. And Dad’s dead, but he still has a lot to say.

A journey to the heart of an unravelling family – with a little fishing and shootin’ along the way.

Directed by Roz Riley
at the Star of the Sea Theatre, Manly
Fri & Sat 7.30 evenings, and Sun 3pm matinees, 12-13 April, 25-27 April & 2-3 May
Tickets $35/$28 from trybooking.com or 94391906

Cast: Mitchell Cox, Ciaran Daly, Eilannin Dhu, Imogen French, Laura Gailbraith, William Jordan, Celia Kelly, Karoline Rose O’Sullivan and Ros Richards.

This is the first play of Factory Space’s 2014 season, which will span three productions. This is the 14th year of professional productions for the Factory Space Theatre Company – and the fifth as resident company at Star of the Sea. And a fine theatre it is too.

The general vision is often both comic and dark. The vision is also a feminist view of women asserting themselves over men. Note to self: why are there so many Irish men at the pub?

Throughout, the visions come to Greta, sometimes disturbing the action, sometimes not. The Flynn family tears itself apart by the time the children grow up. The parents lived a lie, staying together out of commitment rather than passion.

Consequently, the sisters have a negative vision of their family’s way of life. The mother, Rose, beat some of the children. Rose’s life is a struggle but motherhood empowers her and because she is conventional and hard-working she feels her life is successful. Greta's mental stress, a suicide bid and breakdown are due to her childhood and marriage disenchantment.

The performances are strong, focussed and riding the emotional wave of the drama. Karoline Rose O'Sullivan maintains an innocent charm as Greta, creating sibling tension with Aoife, played by Celia Kelly and the bossy Helen (Eilannin Dhu).

Sister Bethany struggles to deal with Greta's visionary gift, proving an unhelpful guide to spiritual understanding. Manus (Ciaran Daly), the young fiddler and Ros Flynn (Ros Richards) give us the remaining family, at pains to reconcile to the impending loss of Michael, their father.

The play is optimistic in the sense that it is a search for identity by the main character Greta and her sisters. Eventually Greta’s search for security, love and the understanding of her own identity overcome the pain.

The final scene shows Greta returned to serenity and blissful motherhood as she tells her baby a fairytale. This affirms the good in her life; the mystery is restored.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Possessions - Review

Review originally posted at www.suzygoessee.com
Venue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Mar 27 – Apr 5, 2014
Playwrights: Jane Bergeron, Carrie Ann Quinn
Directorial Support: Luke Mullins, Anna Kamarali
Actors: Jane Bergeron, Carrie Ann Quinn, Frances Attard, Morgan Davis, Shane Waddell, Samantha Stewart

Theatre review
Possessions is about the aristocratic Mancini sisters, Hortense and Marie, from 17th century Italy. The script is based on their memoirs, published in an era where female memoirs were a revolutionary concept. There is a distinct appeal in featuring unusual historical figures, especially ones who had broken moulds and lived extraordinary lives, but it can be a challenging task finding a way to relate past stories of nobility to our modern times.

Often, comedy is the key to telling courtly tales. Absurdities abound and it is natural to respond with incredulity and humour. Those lives are so thoroughly alien to what we experience today, that laughter is the most direct reaction. The production is consciously directed towards finding comic elements in the Mancinis stories, and significant effort is put into creating a Black Adder type tone to the proceedings, but the performers’ skills seem to lie in areas other than comedy, such as melodrama and musical theatre. Fortunately, both Jane Bergeron and Carrie Ann Quinn both have opportunities to showcase these skills in the concluding scenes, even if they do appear too late.

There are a number of instances where an actor plays herself and interacts with a Mancini sister across time and space. These moments suggest the feminist theme, but they are fleeting. We do sense in the play’s undercurrent, the creators’ interest in the evolution of women’s statuses, but they miss the opportunity to explore and expound things further. The production needs a certain aggression. The Mancinis’ story develops to a point where the women are forced by circumstance to show courage and conviction. In order to progress, they found a belligerence to push their lives forward, and that seems to be the lesson we have to learn from many who have left their mark.
www.escapeartiststheatreco.com

Twelfth Night, Or What You Will - Review

Review originally posted at www.suzygoessee.com
Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Mar 27 – Apr 12, 2014
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Director: Damien Ryan
Actors: Abigail Austin, Anthony Gooley, Bernadette Ryan, Christopher Stalley, Christopher Tomkinson, Damien Strouthos, Edmund Lembke-Hogan, Eloise Winestock, Francesca Savige, George Banders, James Lugton, Megan Drury, Michael Pigott, Robin Goldsworthy, Sam Haft, Teresa Jakovich, Terry Karabelas, Tyran Parke
Image by Seiya Taguchi

Theatre review
There are many ways to stage a Shakespearean play, and the discussion on the different approaches that artists take, is also a discussion on the nature of theatre. Sport For Jove’s production of Twelfth Night is about spectacle and entertainment. It is about skills and techniques from different theatrical disciplines collaborating for a live event that fascinates the senses and amuses the mind. This cast and crew are immersed in a wonderland of freedom, where the best of their talents are drawn out by a spirit of wild playfulness inspired by Shakespeare’s writing, resulting in a work overflowing with conviviality and colour.

There are no deep meanings and big messages in this story, in fact it is very silly. Director Damien Ryan takes the opportunity to remove himself from conventional emphasis on moralistic learnings, politics and intellectualism, and gives us a show that challenges the limits of artistic creativity and the use of the imagination. He seeks to impress not with what is being said, but how things can be said. It is about performance, and presentation. In other words, it is about exploring theatre in the ways it is distinct from other art forms and other media, using theatre to work in a way that nothing else can emulate.

Actor Robin Goldsworthy as Malvolio is quite frankly, faultless. Here is an actor with a very big hat full of comic devices, and he pulls everything out of it for a performance that tickles every funny bone in every conceivable way. Goldsworthy gives a simple character the most complex of treatments that surprises and outsmarts us at every turn. He works hard to regale us, and we are simply and thoroughly enthralled. The range and conviction he displays in this role, along with his extraordinary energy and timing, are breathtaking. This is a Malvolio not to be missed.

A Moment On The Lips - Review


Review originally posted at www.suzygoessee.com
Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Mar 4 – 22, 2014
Playwright: Jonathan Gavin
Director: Mackenzie Steele
Actors: Beth Aubrey, Sarah Aubrey, Claudia Barrie, Lucy Goleby, Sonya Kerr, Ainslie McGlynn, Sabryna Te’o
Image by Katy Green Loughrey

Theatre review
A Moment On The Lips is a play about the relationships between seven women in Sydney. Entangled as spouses, lovers, friends and sisters, they navigate a multitude of complex discordances, all of which are familiar and reflective of our personal lives. Jonathan Gavin’s script interweaves issues from personal and social spaces, with themes like ethnic and sexuality discrimination, converging with family and professional lives.

It is a tricky work to direct. The play seems to be about “first world problems”, so while we relate to the emotions being portrayed, there is a lack of gravity that makes the characters’ circumstances seem somewhat trivial. Mackenzie Steele succeeds in extracting passionate performances from his cast, and some of the tearful and emotional moments are excellent viewing, but the action always seems a little detached. The scenes are short, resulting in a fast-paced show that is entertaining and thoroughly engaging, but this also presents a challenge for creating depth in scenarios and personalities, making empathy difficult to establish.

Sabryna Te’o’s naturalistic portrayal as Bridget is a stand out in the cast. Her performance is a reactive one, which allows her to connect well with the other women. The importance of an actor who emphasises listening over speaking is demonstrated well here. The quality of understated authenticity Te’o brings to her role is refreshing. Ainslie McGlynn is a very funny actor. Her comic ability is truly excellent, giving a jolt of excitement whenever she appears to light up the stage as Anne. Her interpretation of mental illness is well handled. MGlynn loves to entertain, but takes care to give her character a sense of dignity through her multiple break downs. Lucy Goleby as Rowena is memorable in a scene where she confronts her homophobic sister. It is the single most powerful moment in the show, and a real visceral treat.

We are reminded several times, that “it is the little things”. The play wants us to realise not just the importance of relationships but also the subtleties within them. The things we say to each other may seem fleeting, but the words that sit a moment on our lips have effects that last beyond any intention. The destruction that comes from thoughtlessness can often be unpredictably severe. Relationships are hard, but it only takes a little care to turn love into a thing of nourishment.
www.madmarchtheatreco.com

All’s Well That Ends Well - Review

Review originally posted at www.suzygoessee.com
Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Mar 27 – Apr 12, 2014
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Director: Damien Ryan
Actors: Christopher Stalley, Christopher Tomkinson, Damien Strouthos, Edmund Lembke-Hogan, Eloise Winestock, Francesca Savige, George Banders, James Lugton, Megan Drury, Michael Pigott, Robert Alexander, Robin Goldsworthy, Sam Haft, Sandra Eldridge, Teresa Jakovich
Image by Seiya Taguchi

Theatre review
Sport For Jove’s production of Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well is sleek and action-packed. Damien Ryan’s direction makes every effort to reach out to his audience to keep us mesmerised and entertained. Like a Hollywood film, everything is made to be seductive, but Ryan has the fortunate knack of giving things a sense of sophistication, including full frontal nudity and a completely insane love story.

One of the Bard’s “problem plays”, it is both a tragedy and a comedy. Ryan takes advantage of its “dramedy” quality and forms a creation full of texture and surprise, maneuvering around the text with a freedom that flaunts his artistic genius and courage. His interpretation is utterly contemporary, frequently fantastical and flamboyant, but never inappropriately so. Shakespeare’s outlandish writing meets its match in Ryan’s wildness. Acutely aware of the pleasure derived from visceral responses in the theatre, Ryan magnifies elements of eroticism, humour, tension and shock that are found in the original text, but also has the talent to keep the central story engaging and plot lines coherent. In other words, his direction leaves nothing more to want.

Shakespeare’s male characters are generally more interesting, and that is certainly the case here. The men in the cast have much more room to play, and their work dominates this stage. Edmund Lembke-Hogan is perfectly cast as Bertram. He has the good looks that make the ludicrous love story almost believable. His performance is spirited but precise, with commanding energy that fills the venue and a disciplined focus that keeps his character defined in spite of the often chaotic settings. Conversely, George Banders shines with the looseness in his acting style. Banders is a thoroughly funny and charming man whose character Parolles is easily the most liked of the show. He reads the audience well, and times his delivery impeccably to get us laughing at every opportunity. The production’s comedy makes its three hours feel a mere breath, and Banders is responsible for the best of it. The King of France is played by Robert Alexander who exemplifies charisma and experience. The meticulous detail in his portrayal turns a smaller role into a spellbinding one. His chemistry with co-actors is excellent but the gravity he brings on stage prevents him from ever being outshone.

Set, lighting and sound design are incredibly impressive. Ambitious in scale and scope, the creatives have outdone themselves with a show that is glorious in its look and feel. Its physical environment seems to be perpetually changing, and except for some mechanical noise issues, stage management is executed quite flawlessly. The versatility of Antoinette Barboutis’ set is a real marvel, but costume design is the one blemish in this grand visual experience.

The story is not an appealing one. A woman going to extremes for the love of a man who had shown her only disdain and humiliation is hardly a great idea for today’s stages, but Sport For Jove Theatre’s magical endeavour has transformed a 500 year-old script into a night of glorious theatre. Shakespeare was their starting point, but where they have ended up is a place beyond his wildest dreams.
www.sportforjove.com.au

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice - Review


The Rise and Fall of Little Voice
Lane Cove Theatre Company
O'Kelley Drama Theatre - St Ignatius College
Tambourine Bay Road, Riverview
Directed by Christine Firkin

Reviewed by Ben Oxley

credit: Lane Cove Theatre Company

Cast includes: Wendy Morton, Nick Bolton, Kevin Weir, Luke Reeves, Michelle Bellamy, Mark Reiss and Debbie Neilson as LV.

A strictly limited season. Five performances only!
Thursday 10th April 7.30pm
Friday 11th April 7.30pm
Saturday 12th April 2.00pm
Saturday 12th April 7.30pm
Sunday 13th April 2.00pm

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is a 1992 play written by English dramatist Jim Cartwright. Sam Mendes directed stars Jane Horrocks and Alison Steadman in the original run at the Royal National Theatre before transferring to the Aldwych Theatre in London's West End.

Horrocks went on to create the screen version, Little Voice, alongside Brenda Blethyn, Michael Caine, Ewan McGregor and Jim Broadbent.

Middle-aged alcoholic Mari Hoff falls for Ray Say (Nick Bolton), a struggling artists’ manager whose acts include dodgy acts and a couple of strippers. So when he hears Mari’s shy, reclusive daughter, Little Voice (LV), mimicking the classic divas from her father’s old vinyl collection in her bedroom, she is the answer to all his prayers. He realises he has discovered an undiscovered talent. She brilliantly brings to life the voices of Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Julie Andrews, Liza Minnelli and Lulu.

Wendy Morton as the acerbic, insecure Mari, is well cast and very funny – a “livewire” and queen of one-liners. Talking to the engineer fitting her new telephone she says: ‘‘Mari Hoff. Crappaty name, isn’t it? Me late husband Frank left it me. You can imagine my feelings on signing the marriage register... Mr and Mrs F Hoff”.

Michelle Bellamy is motherly as Mari’s “fat friend” Sadie. The pair celebrate Mari’s new relationship with Ray by bump-and-grinding to the Jackson 5 in the lounge. Knowing Sadie’s sweet tooth Mari tells her “make yourself a cup of sugar with tea in it” as a treat.

Fresh-faced Luke Reeves plays Billy the phone engineer, who romances Little Voice from an extended cherry picker outside her bedroom window. He is the one who loves her for what she is.

But it is talented impersonator Debbie Neilson as LV who steals the show with her big show-stopping numbers at Mr Boo’s club night. When she turns on the vocals for Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli, she has us back in the golden age of entertainment.

A tribute to artists that LV had loved and shared with her late father, it's the breakdown of a family that has lost touch with reality. A touching, amusing and nostalgic night at the theatre, especially if you love listening to classic divas like Edith Piaf, Billie Holliday and Shirley Bassey.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Stitching - Review

Review originally posted at www.suzygoessee.com
Venue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Mar 26 – Apr 12, 2014
Playwright: Anthony Neilson
Director: Mark Westbrook
Music: Chelsea Reed
Actors: Lara Lightfoot, Wade Doolan

Theatre review
Stitching by Anthony Neilson is cleverly written. It includes many ingredients that makes for great theatre; entertainment, shock value, emotional depth, realistic characters, an unusual story, and a brilliantly structured timeline. Neilson’s script is irresistible, and it is to Little Spoon Theatre Co’s great credit that they have identified and imported it from the UK for the Sydney audience.

Mark Westbrook’s direction anchors the production in a space of grief. A heavy aching permeates, and the atmosphere he creates is dark and severe. It feels authentic, but the narrow range of moods can be a little fatiguing. The thoroughness at which he has excavated the text with his cast is impressive. Every word is charged with intention and imagery, keeping us completely enthralled for the entire duration. The use of music (composed and performed live by Chelsea Reed) lets us breathe and reflect between scenes. Reed’s work adds beauty and helps release the suppressed sentimentalities of the characters. Westbrook paces the show well and his handling of the unusual timeline is marvellous work, but misses an opportunity at the crucial climax to shock the audience as the script obviously intends. Opening night jitters perhaps?

Both actors are wonderful in this production. Lara Lightfoot’s moments of subtlety and verve are perfectly apportioned. She is a naturally exuberant performer, but knows how to work with restraint to create a palpable intensity that is unforced and captivating. Her Abby is a remarkably intriguing character who is also convincing and realistic. Wade Doolan’s delicate performance as Stuart is a thoughtful and touching one. The sense of loss he portrays is readily identifiable, and the generous complexity in his characterisation gives the play its humanity. The chemistry between both actors is superb. A rare level of trust exists that creates an environment allowing no stone to be unturned, and their extensive exploration as players in this work makes for extraordinarily rich theatre.
www.littlespoontheatre.com

Six Characters In Search Of An Author - Review

Review originally posted at www.suzygoessee.com
Venue: University of Sydney Studio B (Camperdown NSW), Mar 26 – 29, 2014
Director: Saro Lusty-Cavallari
Playwright: Luigi Pirandello, adapted by Saro Lusty-Cavallari
Actors: Laura Barandregt, Sam Brewer, Jacinta Gregory, Joshua Free, Zerrin Craig-Adams, Lucinda Vitek, Stella Ktenas, Tansy Gardam, Nick Welsh, Alexander Richmond, Melissa McShane, Geneva Gilmour, Alex Magowan, Meg McLellan

Theatre review
Luigi Pirandello’s original was first created almost a century ago. It explores philosophical concepts of identity, and the nature of the theatrical arts. Saro Lusty-Cavallari’s update of Six Characters In Search Of An Author for the Sydney University Dramatic Society demonstrates that the central mechanics of Pirandello’s work contains fundamental truisms that retain their resonance, in spite of time’s passage and the gimmicky structure of the play.

Lusty-Cavallari’s brave decision in staging this text pays off. It is obviously a challenging proposition, and there are several sections in the first act that lack clarity, but he has created something fascinating and strangely engaging. Big questions about self-identity are presented with complexity and intrigue. We think about the meaning of personalities, how they are formed, and their elasticity. It is always a pleasure examining existentialist open-ended questions, and Lusty-Cavallari clearly has a flair in dealing with them in a delicate manner.

The director’s elegant use of space shows a good aesthetic eye, and his management of actors is also accomplished. The cast is a strong one, with Sam Brewer’s performance as The Father giving the show an excellent sense of confidence and finesse. Brewer’s love for words shines through, and our attention is firmly held by it. He is not the most agile of artistes, but the physical vocabulary he does have is perfectly suited to the task on hand. Laura Barandregt plays the role of the Assistant Director, and gives the show a necessary lightness that the audience is unquestionably grateful for. Her conviction for the stage is obvious, but the casualness of her demeanour can be distracting at times. Zerrin Craig-Adams is an effervescent character, with energy that brings a lot of life to the stage. She is an ambitious actor, and will no doubt develop her techniques to greater refinement in time.

To tackle challenging art is noble. It is a hallmark of civilisation when people take on things that seem too difficult and uncertain. Six Characters In Search Of An Author is about asking questions, and trusting that providing answers is only secondary if at all relevant. This show might not always make sense but it is tautly composed. It is colourful and entertaining, even as its intellectualism seeps out of every pore.
www.sudsusyd.com

To Kill A Mockingbird - Review

Review originally posted at www.suzygoessee.com
Venue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Mar 18 – Apr 19, 2014
Playwright: Christopher Sergel (from the novel by Harper Lee)
Director: Annette Rowlison
Actors: Khadija Ali, Katy Avery, Claudette Clarke, Sarah Carroll, Teagan Croft, Cheyne Fynn, Steve Donelan, Christine Greenough, John Keightley, Dave Kirkham, Kai Lewins, Craig Meneaud, Hudson Musty, David Ross, Donna Sizer, Lynden Jones, Peter Maple, Ryan Whitworth
Image by Bob Seary

Theatre review
Harper Lee’s book was published in 1960, and has since become one of the most popular novels in modern times. Its central theme of social injustice remains poignant and the depiction of its characters’ courage to oppose them, is no less powerful half a century later. New Theatre’s staging is mindful of the story’s significances and director Annette Rowlison’s work pays reverence to our collective memory of To Kill A Mockingbird, whether in the form of book, film or theatre.

Rowlinson’s rendering of the American South in the 1930s has a charming and sentimental beauty. There is a joyfulness in watching children play outside, and neighbours going about their daily business on their porches and front lawns. The trio of child actors, led by Teagan Croft as Scout, bring magic to the stage with their undeniable talent, and Rowlinson’s ability to create chemistry between these vibrant children and their adult counterparts is central to the success of the show. In fact, the show only falters in the court scenes where the children are not in prominence.

Atticus Finch is played by Lynden Jones with great integrity. The subtlety in his performance is an intelligent choice for a character that audiences know so well. There is no need to explain who Atticus is. He takes into account our familiarity, and saves his dramatics only for a handful of emotional scenes. Jones’ most heightened moment happens in the courtroom, and his powerful delivery rescues that scene from being otherwise slightly low on energy.

The support cast is uniformly strong. In fact all actors bring something special and each have memorable moments in the production. Katy Avery as Mayella Ewell transforms her simple role into a riveting one, and the intensity at which she attacks her part is a highlight. Claudette Clarke’s Calpurina is grounded and tender. She has a relaxed confidence that is very enjoyable. Sarah Carroll plays Maudie Atkinson, who is the Finchs’ neighbour and our narrator. She brings an air of upbeat optimism that is comforting, and also provides an effective voice of reason that is a crucial mechanism of the plot.

Boo Radley’s appearance towards the conclusion can be tricky to handle, but Rowlinsons’ artistic sensitivity shines through and the scene is a triumph. A moving crescendo is delivered, and the moral of the tale is brought home. It is impossible to not love To Kill A Mockingbird. We have all experienced ostracism, and we have all witnessed discrimination. Boo Radley lives in all of us, and to see him materialise and lovingly depicted on stage, is profound.
www.newtheatre.org.au

Quack - Review

Review originally posted at www.suzygoessee.com
Venue: University of Sydney Studio B (Camperdown NSW), Mar 19 – 22, 2014
Director: Zach Beavon-Collin
Playwright: Ian Wilding
Actors: Nick Welsh, Alexander Richmond, Melissa McShane, Geneva Gilmour, Alex Magowan, Meg McLellan

Theatre review
Ian Wilding’s fantastical script is action-packed, funny, and satirical. Its influences are genre film and popular television, which makes it a natural choice for the young theatre makers at University of Sydney. Using the western and zombie genres, and taking inspiration from the Australian adversarial political system, Wilding creates a strange bygone world in which everything seems to be an analogy for the state of our world today.

The Sydney University Dramatic Society’s production is as playful as the script allows. Zach Beavon-Collin’s direction makes lovely use of the atmospherics, greatly assisted by lighting and music design, and indulges heavily in the gory details of all the zombie action. His work will be remembered for blood and pus that overtakes the stage for a good half of the show, which is unfortunate for the actors whose performances are subsumed by the theme park quality of the experience.

The cast is a committed one, but the humour of Wilding’s writing proves to be challenging. Alex Magowan is an exception, leaving an impression with consistently effective comedy. His portrayal of Gunner as an overblown caricature is exaggeratedly brash but a very welcome presence to scenes in the first act that tend to be lacking in energy. Meg McLellan is another supporting actor who shines in each of her appearances. She plays Rodney with a sense of precision, and provides an authenticity that sets her apart as being the most polished of the group. Alexander Richmond is strongest of the leads. His Dr Littlewood takes some time to develop, but in zombie form, the actor is impressive (and repulsive).

As mentioned before, some of the technical elements and music are crucial to the more successful aspects of this production. Josie Gibson’s original score is an accomplished one and often steals the show. Lighting designer Chrysanti Chandra works with minimal facilities, but does well to manufacture a lushness in the show’s moodier sections. These artists might be young and hungry for experience, but they prove themselves to be anything but a bunch of quacks.
www.sudsusyd.com

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Dimboola - Review

Review originally posted at www.suzygoessee.com
Venue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Mar 13 – 22, 2013
Playwright: Jack Hibberd
Director: Darcy Green
Actors: Darcy Green, Louis Green, Ashleigh O’Brien, Phillip Ross, Alixandra Kupcik, Adam Delaunay, Anna Dooley, Julian Ramundi, Connor Luck, Annie Schofield, Kimberly Kelly, Zoe Tidemann, Letitia Sutherland, Tim Mathews, Michael Yore, Cameron Hutt

Theatre review
Jack Hibberd’s Dimboola is a play written with the metaphysical “fourth wall” completely removed. The audience’s presence is always acknowledged and whenever possible, characters are made to involve us in their story. In Epicentre Theatre’s production, even lighting design embraces the concept, with the entire theatre lit a bright white, and house lights are never turned off so that we are all conscious about being part of the onstage action.

Darcy Green’s direction pays tribute to 1970s Australia, with visual design aspects made to look very close to the 1979 film version, and actors determined to take us on a time travel expedition in which references to 2014 are strictly forbidden. What results is an experience that is unique, if a little bizarre. The humour is broad and old-fashioned. Under the guise of a country town wedding reception, the setting is relentlessly drunken and raucous. The air of wild disarray is successfully created by the uniformly strong cast, but some jokes and plot lines do get lost amidst the bedlam.

Adam Delaunay plays Angus with gleeful exaggeration, in a style that is reminiscent of villains in pantomimes. We don’t hear very much of what he has to say but his physical work is impressive and certainly attention grabbing. Anna Dooley as Florrie has some of the funniest facial expressions one can hope to encounter in the flesh. Her fight scene in particular is uproarious, and the most memorable moment in the show. Annie Schofield is hilarious as Shirl, playing up her character’s parochialism to great effect. It is a big and noisy crowd at the party, but Schofield works enough magic to stand out, with a characterisation that can be described as, well, a bloody ripper.

This work is an oddity. It is an interesting observational study of one aspect of our identity from a time past, so the audience does view it from a detached (and ironic) distance. We watch the nostalgia, but do not always find ourselves deeply immersed in it. Perhaps an update might improve the experience. Dimboola shows how we feel about ourselves when we are not at our best. The show is cheerful, forgiving and delirious, much like how we often think of each other.
www.epicentretheatre.org.au

Hilt - Review

Review originally posted at www.suzygoessee.com
Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Mar 12 – 30, 2014
Playwright: Jane Bodie
Director: Dominic Mercer
Actors: Alexandra Aldrich, Joanna Downing, Stephen Multari, Sam O’Sullivan

Theatre review
Jane Bodie’s script seduces with intrigue and structural complexity. Her characters divulge little of themselves, but we witness their interchanges at close range. At play is the way these contemporary Australians interact with each other, and we see how connections are formed in our modern lives. Bodie sets up what at first seems to be unconventional relationships, but over the course of her storytelling, we begin to question whether these are exceptional cases that we witness, or actually, a rare confession of common experiences.

Direction and performances tend towards naturalism, which makes Hilt “audience friendly”, turning challenging ideas into digestible concepts. Director Dominic Mercer succeeds in creating believable characters and communicating details of their stories, but could benefit from taking a little artistic license in expression. Real life sometimes needs sprucing up for the stage.

Mercer’s cast is a focused one, and all have clear trajectories with their individual motivations and destinations. Alexandra Aldrich plays Kate with a lot of graveness, which is an accurate depiction of the dark world in which she dwells, but prevents some of the dialogue from being more dramatic and punchy. Stephen Multari is effective in highly emotive scenes that require anger and frustration. Both actors seem constrained by the subtle and minimalist setting. Supporting actors Joanna Downing and Sam O’Sullivan provide excellent support and necessary lightness, helping add variety to the show’s palette of moods.

This is an Australian story that is as valid as any. It does however, have an unexpected sophistication in the incisive way it talks about family, marriage and sex. Nothing in the twenty-first century can truly be claimed as being unique to any cosmopolitan city, but Hilt certainly articulates a lot about what life today is like in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, etc. It provides a mirror into the things we do. Its accuracy and originality might be disorientating, but good art is known to do that.
www.venue505.com/theatre

Monkey - Review

Review originally posted at www.suzygoessee.com
Venue: UNSW Io Myers Studio (Kensington NSW), Mar 11 – 15, 2014
Director: Ben Winspear
Playwright: Les Winspear (based on the traditional Journey To The West)
Actors: Students from UNSW School of the Arts & Media

Theatre review
The enduring tale of Journey To The West is one of enlightenment and aspiration. It is also about mentoring, development and progression, all of which come together to make Les Winspear’s contemporary retelling of Monkey a natural thematic choice for a production involving young people. The characters in the story are mischievous, imperfect and unafraid of failure. This serves as great catalyst for students to approach their play with a sense of playfulness and daring.

Director Ben Winspear’s style is brave and bold. He is faithful to the story, but is audacious in vision. Rules are made to be broken, and one is tempted to conclude that rule-breaking is a method he cherishes when creating magic in the theatre. Or perhaps, it is simply his outrageous imagination that reaches beyond convention and the predictable, into a space that feels refreshing and original for contemporary audiences. Indeed, the director’s ability at materialising the fantastical details of Monkey, not only gives us a work that is dynamic and highly amusing, it provides a safe and spacious springboard for his student actors to experiment and perform. The wildness of this world they create, encourages lively expression but also comprises a healthy protection for those who need it. This is a stage so full of colour and vigour that nothing can look out of place.

Design is excellent. All aspects, from costume and props, to set, sound and lighting are thoughtful, inventive and confidently executed. It is by no means a show about polished production values, but what this crew achieves with a minuscule budget in the most basic of venues, is impressive. It is a beautiful collaboration of disciplines that works together to tell a story with clarity, wonder, and a lot of fun.

All performers appear to be students. It is a big cast, with varying degrees of ability, but unified by a common level of enthusiasm and commitment. Some seem to be appearing on stage for the very first time, and others are brazen and ambitious. Most are allowed their moment in the sun, and each bask in their own, in idiosyncratic, joyful ways. There are performers who impress with their use of voice, and some with their dance. Actors who charm us with comic timing, as well as those with outstanding physicality, and presence so strong, they steal our attention for a second or two.

Although Monkey and his friends reach a penultimate moment of glory, what we remember most after all the dust has settled, are his qualities of mischief and joy. We often forget the importance of the light, for the weight of darkness makes for easy victories, especially in the arts. It is unimportant what the scriptures at the end of Monkey may contain, if the journey that is taken fills itself with all that is gallant, and good.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Heaven Help Us! - Review



Reviewed by Nathan Finger and Sydney Abba
Photo credits to Sirmai Arts Marketing

Keith Bosler’s new play Heaven Help Us! (2014) tells the age old story of good versus evil, with mankind cast as the football in the Devil/God grudge match.

The play opens in Heaven; God has just returned from a brief two thousand year holiday and is shocked to discover that the world has been overrun by the wicked, the sinful and Tony Abbott. Cue the Devil. He’s been having a grand old time leading the weak into sin during God’s leave of absence. After an argument, the two agree that the only way to settle the matter is through a bet: a competition over one soul. If the Devil can corrupt this soul, God has to leave for another two thousand years, but if God wins the Devil has to go. Sounds fair. Except the soul they’re after is Luke Allcock, a lawyer. Lucky for Luke, Archangel Michael (or Michaela now, having undergone a sex change since realizing that all men are heinous sinners) has elected to descend to Earth in human form to help the misguided man out.

Bosler (who also directed and produced) has put together a rather fun show that never takes itself too seriously. There are laughs to be had from start to finish, from the chilled out Lord All Mighty to the punk rocker Devil. There’s the old contract to be signed, horses to be killed, inheritance to be embezzled and an unlikely love triangle.

As Satan, David Woodland was devilish but a tad overplayed. Decked out in pleather lace ups and a 70s ruffle shirt, Woodland enjoyed his time on stage but failed to boil during furious outbursts. Lyn Pierse brought a relaxed whackiness to the role of God, sporting a rocking Hawaiian shirt in the process. The dichotomy between the two however was a little mismatched.

As the Archangel Michaela, Orlena Steele-Prior was wonderfully serene in performance, holding her own amongst the louder more aggressive performers. She managed to find the right levels for this character, and was probably the most nuanced of the ensemble. As the snaky lawyer Luke, Tai Scrivener presented all pick-up lines with a large serving of sleaze. Scrivener was well cast generally, but like Woodland tended to overplay his role. Thankfully he came into his own when he was required to transform into something more genuine.

The plot does weaken towards the end as Luke tries to get out of his contract with some very flimsy legal maneuvering. But we should probably take this all in the spirit in which it’s offered. Is this play going to change your perspective on life? No. Does it overplay some plot devices and jokes? Shamelessly. Is it enjoyable? Absolutely.

Heaven Help Us! is playing at the Bordello Theatre at the King’s Cross Hotel until the 29th of March. For more information see: http://www.heavenhelpus.com.au/