Showing posts with label Seymour Centre. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Seymour Centre. Show all posts

Friday, 2 May 2014

Wonderland - Review

Review originally posted at
Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Apr 8 – 12, 2014
Playwright: Alexandra Howard
Directors: Alexandra Howard, Kate Clark
Actors: Alexandra Howard, Samuel Doyle

Theatre review
Art should be created by anyone who has the desire to do so. Some would argue that the artistic process can sometimes be found in a vacuum, but performance, by definition, requires an audience, and this in turn implies that communication occurs, and the presence of that audience is often taken into consideration by the artist.

Wonderland is written, directed and performed by Alexandra Howard. It is a personal work by a very ambitious young woman about love and romance. She digs very deep for her creation, and there is a strong sense of catharsis about her expression, but its intensely introspective approach makes connection difficult. Howard is earnest, but she is also highly idiosyncratic. Without a greater effort to understand how her work is read, she often leaves us high and dry, and frankly quite uninterested in the show’s two characters or what they have to say.

Max is played by Samuel Doyle who shows surprising conviction and confidence. He works intelligently with the strengths and weaknesses of the script, and finds moments of drama to give the production some much needed variation in tone. There is no doubt that his potential is clearly on display, and would benefit from stronger direction and a more interesting story.

Memories of young love usually fades with time and maturity. It is easy to forget the range of emotions that comes only with youth, but they are represented in Wonderland. Sophistication and humour, however, are not often found in the young, and in the theatre, they are indispensable.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Construction of the Human Heart - Review

Reviewed by Nathan Finger
Construction of the Human Heart (2007) is Australian playwright Ross Mueller’s exploration of grief. It features two playwrights who are trying to write a play about two playwrights who are trying to write a play. This description probably already has a lot of people rolling their eyes – ‘yet another self-aware play about theatre, like we need that.’ Mueller’s play starts out looking like it is going to be another extended navel-gazing exercise. But then something different happens.

This isn’t a play about theatre, per se. Yes, it is self-aware, but it’s about something much more genuine: it is a study of the grieving process. Actors Michael Cullen and Cat Martin play two characters who are only ever referred to as Him and Her. The couple are a playwriting duo who have recently lost their only son, Tom, to some unspecified disease or accident. The play they are attempting to write is their way of coping. ‘I make up stories about him’, she says, stories where he is still alive and well. This is all they have, this is their coping mechanism. Together they relive and rehash the past, recreating the moments when they were happy and whole. It’s the only thing that keeps them going, but it cannot block out the pain of the present, nor adequately substitute the past.

As far as plot goes this is pretty much it. But the draw card for this production is the performances. Cullen and Martin have a real chemistry on stage. They both manage to capture that ever so slightly pretentious, faux-intellectual quality of the would-be, brilliant playwright. But behind this front they both allow the gut-wrenching grief they carry to slowly leak out, and we witness their struggle and gradual collapse. Indeed the two have been brought to breaking point and we get to see the conflict that arises between them brought on by the pain. They are obviously a couple that love each other dearly, but the loss of their son has placed a tremendous strain on their relationship, and even at the close of the play we cannot tell if they will be able to weather the tragedy. To see two actors allowing themselves to be totally vulnerable on stage is rare and moving treat.

Construction of the Human Heart may not be a play for everybody. Director Dino Dimitriadis offers up an empty stage, two chairs and pages of typed script, made to resemble the most basic of rehearsal spaces. The dialogue can be a little overly flowery in places. But there is a genuine and tragic story about what grief does and how people struggle to live with it to be told. There may not be a lot of plot, but this play more than stands up on the strength of its performances, which are well worth the trip in to see.

Construction of the Human Heart is playing at the Tap Gallery until the 3rd of May. For more information see:

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Twelfth Night, Or What You Will - Review

Review originally posted at
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.

All’s Well That Ends Well - Review

Review originally posted at
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.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


Reviewed by Regi Su
Photo by Sylvi Soe
This year, the world’s biggest little festival, celebrated their Sydney Gala Finals at the Seymour Centre to conclude the 2014 festival. During this year’s Short and Sweet Festival, over 162 plays were performed out of around 1000 nominated internationally. To date, the festival has catered for more than 3000 original new theatre works globally, since it began in 2002.

The top twelve at the Sydney Gala Finals were as follows-

1) Guided By Voices- This piece was creative and original. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this piece as it opened the set with humour, good nature and a quirky insight into the little voice commentary we often have while we humans make decisions. Excellent timing and excellent acting.

2) Nana- During this play, the audience roared with laughter at the sexually explicit humour presented by a little old lady. The synopsis states that the play “explores some of society’s most taboo topics: love, loss and sexuality among the aging.”

3) The Blue Balloon- I really enjoyed this play. For me it was touching, metaphorical and it showed excellent use of props and lighting. The use of space was very creative and the idea was very innovative, with undertones of human loss, even depression. Very poignant.

4) Stalemate- This was a wonderful play; innovative, original and terribly amusing, with relevant pop culture references. It magnified the frivolous in a fresh new way, as the protagonist had chosen to bake a cheesecake with a biscuit base, but the biscuit backfired with a lengthy lawsuit demanding his rights. There were puns galore.

5) Some Other Toy- This play engaged with an original futuristic concept, while the audience were in stitches over the dilemmas that arise when the use of a sex toy goes horribly wrong. Great use of lighting and well-acted by the two women who held the scene.

6) Wild Flowers- This play finished the first act with a bang and led us into the interval with a food fight. The fight arose from high-pressure tension between three ladies at a tea party and their social etiquette, rules and psychological bullying. An exaggerated flare up that left the audience in high morale by the night’s half-way point.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Seven Kilometres North-East - Review

Review originally posted at
Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Mar 8 – 22, 2014
Devisor and performer: Kym Vercoe
Singer: Sladjana Hodzic

Theatre review
Kym Vercoe’s Seven Kilometres North-East is structured like the travels she has been on. Adventurous and purposefully vague, we don’t really know what is happening until we get there. The experience of exploring unfamiliar terrains is replicated in Vercoe’s work. We are at times bewildered and anxious, trying to make sense of everything that is exotic, alien and strange; and at other times, we discover people who tell fascinating stories and places that narrate histories, beautiful and horrific.

The plot of the piece takes us on winding roads, and bumpy rides. It is not the most comfortable of journeys, with challenges appearing at almost every turn. Vercoe does not aspire to make things easy to stomach. Instead, she places emphasis on authenticity, and a sense of reverence for all that she had met during her time in the Balkans. Her performance style is dynamic and colourful, which keeps us engaged. She has a warm enthusiasm that asks for our trust, and we stay on with her, subconsciously aware that our guide is peeling layers off an onion with a core that will be worth the trek. Indeed, the concluding moments of the show is as dramatic and powerful as any work of fiction that aims to hit you like a ton of bricks.

At tonight’s performance, three people walked out. The third chose to leave at a particularly heightened and tense section towards the end. The stage is on ground level, and at that moment, the performer was standing close to the audience and near the exit. The departer got out of her seat and walked deliberately in front of Vercoe and headed our of the theatre. It looked like a protest. Perhaps there are nuances in the politics of the region that are too complex for an 80 minute performance to encapsulate, or maybe Vercoe is making a statement that is shocking to some. For those of us who are afar, and frankly, only mildly familiar with the travesties in recent Bosnian history, Seven Kilometres North-East seeks to appeal on a humanist level. What Vercoe shares comes from the personal and it speaks to us personally. Larger contexts are not required, when telling tales of murder and genocide.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Dead Ones - Review

Reviewed by Regi Su
The Dead Ones is a performance piece written and performed by Margie Fischer and is showing at the Seymour Centre from Wednesday 18th until Saturday 22nd of February.

Its a personal exploration into a universal story, with themes that resonate with all members of the audience. Our journey began in WW2 Austria and followed her parent's plight to Shanghai as Austrian-Jewish refugees. After 10years in China, her parents moved to Australia and built a life in East Lindfield. Yet, the tale is more than a simple refugee story.

In retelling the lives of her parents, Fischer explored her family history in what seemed to be a moment of catharsis. The presentation- lecture style with corresponding images, held such a genuine tone and clarity in some of the most emotionally distressing times. Fischer explored themes of family, personal identity, memory, death and hope. Her storytelling wasn't particularly captivating, however it was the way Fischer managed to draw us with subtle humour, rhetorics and universal questions that I was able to identify with, for example, what happens to our memory when we are gone? Are we manifest in objects, space or is it enough to live in someone's mind? What's role do photographs play in context or out of it? Her selection of photos and images for the presentation seemed like archive material and soon enough, I was feeling quite at home learning about her family life and their dynamics.

The Dead Ones is definitely a time-of-life piece. I think it was a piece that formed part of Fischer's grieving process and showed how storytelling is vital in understanding, and later arranging, one's milestones into a conceivable structure. Commendations to Margie Fischer, who was able to hold her audience for the full duration, with a topic that must've been extremely difficult to research and confront.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Educating Rita - Review

Reviewed by Marie Su
As I walked into the Reginald Theatre at the Seymour Centre, I took in the stage and set and I thought to myself; “That looks just right.” My companion commented that the view out of the office window on the set looked terrific and that was how the play made its first visual impact on the audience in Paul Holmes’ production of Willy Russells’s 1980’s play Educating Rita. I was familiar with the play as a HSC text so, I was not surprised to be seated in the cosy theatre with a number of senior school students, who were a responsive and thoughtful audience. Here we have it, a play that looks right and feels right to an audience, many of whom were aware of Rita’s burning need to get an education through the Open University system in England.

Rita, played by Sarah Robinson, changes her working class hairdresser life through her need to ‘sing a new song’ so to speak; to have a different life to the expectations of her mother and conventional plans of her husband. To make these changes she studies English literature and steps out into a new world of opportunity and personal choice. Rita engages Frank as her tutor and mentor in this task. Frank, played by Paul Holmes, also evolves personally in the play to challenge his commitment to his career as an academic, assess his drinking habits, face his personal failures as a romantic partner, as well as his limitations as a minor English poet.

These two challenging roles in the 110min (plus interval), production were praiseworthy indeed. Ms Robinson was consistent in her English working-class accent while engaging us in her perfectly-timed, witty repartee as she quizzed and probed her intellectual guide and mentor, Frank. Ms Robinson was fresh, enthusiastic, exuded personal warmth and was quick on the costume change, personally perceptive and ultimately wise in her rendition of Rita.

Paul Holmes portrayed a cranky, sometimes off-hand, middle-aged man disappointed in himself and the rewards life had brought him. He played also, a man who cared about the personal and intellectual growth of his student, Rita. He was a man capable of his own form of redemption. Mr Holmes’ attention to detail in Frank’s covertly imbibing alcohol in mugs poured from a coffee plunger gave the audience a value insight into the self-destructive addiction of Frank. The older audience members were also able to remember what it was like in the 1980’s where people smoked freely in confined spaces as both Mr Holmes and Ms Robinson smoked many a cigarette in their production.

The clothes, manners and values of the 1980’s were conveyed faithfully with an engaging, refreshing, hopefulness that reminds us all that with good will and hard work we can reach out for a more satisfying life. However, it does take acceptance of calculated risk and personal responsibility to be achieved.

Friday, 3 May 2013

A Clockwork Orange - Review

Reviewed by Jasmine Crittenden
Director Alexandra Spencer-Jones has transformed Anthony Burgess’s harrowing tale of youthful disaffection into a stunning visual spectacle, operatic in dynamic and laced with homoeroticism.

Some might argue that Spencer-Jones has strayed too far from the text. In the novel, Alex and his ‘droogs’ (the punk equivalent of homies)direct their violent urges against vulnerable females. Here, with an all-male cast, the acts of sexual violation occur between men,and there’s ample doses of homosexual flirtation and crotch-grabbing. Most brutal scenes are conveyed through dance, lessening their impact on the visceral level. Neither the book nor Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film contain inferences of homosexuality, nor do they shy away from straightforward depictions of cruelty.

However, if we do not judge the production according to its textual integrity (and why should we, necessarily?), instead viewing it as a kind of adaptation, Spencer-Jones has succeeded beautifully.

As the disaffected Alex, Martin McCreadie astounds – terrifying as the uncontrolled, seemingly uncontrollable, adolescent, and tragic as the victim of government manipulation. From the moment of McCreadie’s appearance, his multi-dimensional emotional investment demand sour involvement.

A rollicking score, combining rock classics with spurts of Alex’s much-adored Beethoven, propels the action, and inspires choreographed fight and dance scenes.Even though this element of stylisation dilutes the violence to some extent, it does inject the production with an arresting, testosterone-fuelled muscularity that works. Plus it’s visually compelling. This effect is intensified by the set design – all black, punctuated with striking touches of white and orange.

Humorous moments, often involving the satire of authority figures, are added with subtlety – a fine achievement in a story driven by such a dark, disturbed heart.

Even though Burgess purists may disagree with Spencer-Jones’s diversions from the original, there’s no arguing that she has achieved her vision with conviction and power.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Trapped in Mykonos - Review

Reviewed by Jasmine Crittenden
Independent theatre company, Gravas Productions, makes its debut with Trapped in Mykonos,a contemporary take on Euripides’ final work, Iphigenia in Aulis. Adhering to sizeable sections of the classical script, the Gravas team sets the action in a sexy bar/nightclub, and throws in a sprinkling of jokes referencing modern technology and cultural trends.

Written sometime between 408 and 406 BC, Iphigenia in Aulis hinges on a moral dilemma of epic proportions. The Greek fleet, moored at Aulis, Boeotia, and ready to sail to battle against the Trojans, is stopped in its tracks by a lack of wind. Calchas, the seer, informs the Greek leader, Agamemnon, that the goddess Artemis is controlling the weather because she is angry with him.Unless he agrees to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia, Artemis will not relent. Agamemnon must lead his dearly loved eldest child to the altar, or risk the entire Greek army. As the drama unfolds, he faces the wrath of his wife, Clytemnestra; his brother, Menelaus; and Achilles, the legendary Greek hero.

Over the past two-and-a-half thousand years, Iphigenia in Aulis has experienced an assortment of adaptations and transformations, two of the most notable being French playwright Jean Racine’s 1674 dramatic verse version, Iphigenie, and Christoph Gluck’s 1774 opera, Iphigenie en Aulide.

Trapped in Mykonos attempts to carry Euripides’ tale into the twenty-first century. The ‘chorus’ (EllyHiraaniClapin and Sasha Hoffmann) are cocktail-sipping twenty-somethings dressed in fluoro pink singlets and denim short shorts who hang at the bar, flirting with the baseball-capped barman/ ‘messenger’ (Jeremy Burtenshaw). Achilles is dressed likeG.I. Joe and Agamemnon rides a mobility scooter.

Tom Bannerman’s set design is a vibrant, realistic depiction of a Mykonos bar, lined with bamboo and decorated with stencilled palm trees in bold colours. Contemporary pop and dance hits, programmed by sound designer Helen Grimley, punctuate the ancient verse.

However, while it’s certainly fun on the sensory level, this interpretation is lacking on the dramatic front. Much of the acting is stilted and unconvincing and some of the stage directions, while clear in intention, become laboured to the point of losing impact. For example, Agamemnon’s immobility is perhaps symbolic of his personal weaknesses, but the scooter’s insistent high-pitched noises and constant frenzied circling become grating after a while.

That said, one actor worth watching is Isaro Kayitesi, who plays Agamemnon’s beleaguered daughter. She tackles the role with conviction, successfully carrying the audience on Iphigenia’s journey from fragility and fear to courage and acceptance.

Trapped in Mykonos is playing at the Seymour Centre until 13 April.