Showing posts with label Sandra Bates. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sandra Bates. Show all posts

Sunday, 10 November 2013


Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli
From: November 6
Directed by Sandra Bates
Reviewed by Ben Oxley

CHLOE BAYLISS, (genuine triple threat, seen as Nell in Reef Doctors, fiesty, biochemical view of relationship as Avery) 
DIANE CRAIG, (Australian acting royalty, perfect study of Alice) 
GLENN HAZELDINE (with a wealth of stage, TV and film credits, is a highly plausible and disturbed Don)The play Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica, which featured and reunites him and GEORGIE PARKER, ( a beautiful and transparent Catherine), famous for above all being a champion of Ensemble Theatre. Her performance is the hub of the play. If it were not for Catherine, all the others would continue on disconnected. As we discover, 
ANNE TENNEY, so right for the depressive Gwen and the completion of the relationship triangle, has a hand in changing their outcomes.
Media star academic Catherine Croll, who has made her reputation as the "pretty girl who talks porn", returns home to care for her mother Alice. Her mother has had a heart attack, and it awakes questions in Catherine as to what her priorities should be. In the same New England hometown where her mother lives, her former grad school boyfriend, local college disciplinary dean Don Harper lives in his uneasy marriage to her former grad school roommate Gwen. Caroline is by turns deep and shallow, academic and alone. Don has the unfulfilling resume of beer, pot and porn. As the backstory unravels he is pressed into defining what he wants.

It is the cross-section of the views of three generations that fuel this piece. Avery has cutting insight into Catherine's problems: "It went wrong, you move on." She challenges the views of the other women, while asserting her "hooked-up, permanent" relationship is solid. She learns and applies the tips that Catherine, Gwen and Alice pass on.

Gwen is a barometer for where the play is headed. Owning her habitual drinking by joining AA, and making note of it at every turn, she sets about judging others, particularly Catherine. Her dissatisfaction of her life moves from Don to her old rival for his affections.

Don, the man in the middle, is an under-achiever who moves between a below par standard for Gwen to a dizzying one that Catherine unconsciously sets. He can no longer reside at the low end of the gene pool after his encounter with Catherine after years apart.

Gwen is the soul here, with loving concern for Catherine, and little time for Gwen's posturing as the fulfilled mother over the lonely academic. Her timing with Refreshments are signature, accommodating Gwen non-alcoholic cocktails, contrasting the sessional excess between Catherine and Don.

If Theatre sports had additional categories, would 'Ensemble Theatre' style be included? It's a tribute to stalwart director Sandra Bates, who focuses us on each character in turn. There is intimacy and pace, almost at TV tempo. Designer GRAHAM MACLEAN kept clean lines for the story to move forward, and Trudy Dalgleish made a fluid assigment of the lighting changes. Congratulations!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Bombshells - Review

Reviewed by Jasmine Crittenden
In this fast-paced, chameleonic series of monologues, the protagonist begins life as a frenzied mother,and leaves us as a streetwise yet fragile cabaret star.During the two-and-a-half hours between, she plays a narcissistic talent quest hopeful, a cacti-obsessed ex-wife,a doubtful bogan bride and a widow who re-discovers her sexuality.

What?Yes, you read it right. Sharon Millerchip talks, dances and croons her way through no fewer than six roles in playwright Joanna Murray-Smith’s one-woman show, Bombshells.

At the play’s heart, lies the question: what does it mean to be a woman in twenty-first century Western society? How should we be thinking about gender roles?How do we measure society’s expectations against our own? How do we manage our ideals in the face of our disappointments?

When the lights first shine on Millerchip, she is Meryl: struggling to drag her weary body out of bed to attend to her newborn. The next fifteen or so minutes represent a day in her manic life as an over-stretched, married mother. As she shops, vacuums and ferries her children about, we are privy to her constant self-interrogation. Is she a good mother? A sufficiently loving wife?Fit enough?Witty enough?

The pace slows with the second monologue and the emergence of Tiggy, spot lit on a dark stage. A shattered romantic desperate for the return of her unfaithful husband, she delivers a panegyric to cactus, rich with sexual innuendo. Murray-Smith’s writing skates the brink between comedy and sadness, provoking our laughter in our acknowledgement of the familiar, then catching us unawares with sudden moments of pathos.

Millerchip’s capacity to slide from one character to another, establishing the distinctiveness of each both verbally and physically, is impressive. It is easy to forget that it’s the work of just one actor.

While the third monologue is perhaps the weakest, for its lack of subtlety, the second half of the show builds to a rapturous finale. Millerchip has us in stitches as a champagne sculling bride, cynical yet desirous to be “wanted”; hanging on every word as a philosophical widow who becomes physically involved with a blind student several decades her junior; and enthralled by her singing and dancing as an eccentric, lovelorn, outrageously flirtatious German front lady. With their combined talents, Joanna Murray-Smith, Sharon Millerchip and director Sandra Bates had the Ensemble Theatre crowd on their feet by the night’s end – no easy feat for a one