Showing posts with label Sydney Mardi Gras 2014. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sydney Mardi Gras 2014. Show all posts

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Stop Kiss - Review

Review originally posted at
Venue: ATYP (Walsh Bay NSW), Mar 5 – 22, 2014
Director: Anthony Skuse
Playwright: Diana Son
Actors: Olivia Stambouliah, Gabrielle Scawthorn, Aaron Tsindos, Ben McIvor, Robert Jago, Kate Fraser, Suzanne Pereira
Image by Gez Xavier Mansfield

Theatre review
One of the main things explored in theatre is emotion. We ask, what are these different things we feel, how do we create these feelings, how do we differentiate between cheap and authentic sentiment, and how do they affect our lives as individuals and collectives? Stop Kiss leaves its audience with such emotional intensity that these questions come to the fore. Diana Son’s script tells the simplest of stories, but its unique structure in terms of a non-linear timeline, and an unusual depiction of romantic love, keeps us enthralled, and speaks deeply to the most basic humanity in us all .

Under Anthony Skuse’s wonderful direction, Stop Kiss is both theatrical and sincere. There is masterful use of space, which gives the production a sophisticated aesthetic. In spite of budget constraints, the show is a handsome one. Set design is thoroughly considered, and elegantly executed by Gez Xavier Mansfield, and lighting by Sara Swersky is subtle yet varied and effective. The many scene transitions are established with elegant flair. We jump around in time and space with minimum fuss and maximum efficiency.

The love story and its romance are managed with restraint. Skuse deliberately downplays a lot of the drama, so that its powerful concepts work overtime in our heads. Like a striptease, we are only ever given just enough information so that our minds can conjure up all the salacious details on their own. The cast benefits from this sense of inhibition, as it allows for a somewhat ironic magnification of their inner worlds. We seem to obtain a better insight into what people are thinking and feeling when they are prevented from doing too much.

Gabrielle Scawthorn’s performance as Sara is marvelous, culminating in a final scene that can only be described as heartbreaking. The character she has created is not only believable, we find ourselves in constant need of seeing more, and knowing more. Her work is equally committed whether playing light or dark, and she tells her character’s story with careful compassion that is beautiful to watch. The connection Scawthorn makes with her audience is as intense as Sara’s falling in love in the story.

Olivia Stambouliah plays Callie with vivacity and complexity. Her energy keeps the show uplifted and dynamic, and her focus is magnetic. There is a steely determination in her performance that is at times impressive, but at others, slightly distracting. The actor sometimes works too hard but her final moments onstage are truly remarkable, and intelligently crafted. Ben McIvor has two memorable scenes as Peter. He finds a balance between tenderness, frustration and despondency, and portrays a character that is empathetic and immediately affable.

It is probably not a rare occurrence that tears are shed in the theatre, but the emotions in Stop Kiss are exceptional. We cry because we understand that true love is precious and rare, but we also cry in the knowledge that homophobic violence is widespread and alive. The play ends in a dark place, but it thankfully leaves us with a morsel of hope. Tears can be self-indulgent, but they are also the beginning of every important and necessary change in the places we live. This play may not be obviously political, but one hopes that its gentle approach would have an effect on those who have yet to be converted by our more strident preachers.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Vaudevillians - Review

Review originally posted at
Venue: The Vanguard (Newtown NSW), Feb 18 – Mar 2, 2014
Musical Director: Richard Andriessen (Major Scales)
Performers: Jerick Hoffer (Jinkx Monsoon), Richard Andriessen (Major Scales)
Theatre review
The premise is simple. Spouses Kitty Witless and Dan Von Dandy were accidentally frozen under a torrent of snow and cocaine in the 1920s, but were discovered and revived in our very recent times of global warming. Both happen to be brilliant performers, and have found their way to Sydney, just in time to present their show for the Mardi Gras season.

Cabaret is about performance. Stories are rarely important, but storytelling is everything. The Vaudevillians are played by Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales, American artists who are truly of an “international standard”. Scales provides excellent support to his leading lady. He is superb on the piano, and the re-arrangements he has created are intelligent and delightful. The choice of familiar songs by the likes of Madonna, Daft Punk, Cyndi Lauper, M.I.A., and Britney Spears makes for a setlist that would appeal to most, but it is his extravagantly comical interpretations that make them all so thoroughly entertaining. Scales does falter a little in confidence when performing his solo number, but it is wonderfully refreshing to see a highly animated and energetic piano man.

Jinkx Monsoon is a comic cabaret artist of the highest calibre. Clearly, The Vaudevillians is a work tailored to her specific talents and abilities, but the 80 minute show impresses and overflows with scintillating wit, belly laughs and stunning singing. Monsoon’s vocals are powerful, and she seems to have an infinite well of techniques for turning every line in every song into something that earns the audience’s laughter. A segment referencing Henrik Ibsen, “A Doll’s House 2: Electric Boogaloo” sees the leading lady attack Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” with the greatest amount of flamboyant drama one could ever wish to see. She is like a young Gloria Swanson, only louder and a whole lot sillier.

Combining disciplined training (you can hear it in her singing, and see it with her splits and headstands) and a sense of looseness that is unafraid of heckles and other chanced occurrences, Monsoon’s style is deceptively casual, and incredibly brave. It is live performance at its most thrilling, where the audience feels that anything could happen because the performers and the show’s structure allow, or even ask for it. There is danger in the air, the kind that is completely delicious and irresistible. The Vaudevillians is fun, entertaining theatre. Monsoon and Scales are silly as they come, but without a hint of stupidity, and their show is filled with genuine talent and quite genius creativity.

Everything I Know I Learnt From Madonna - Review

Review originally posted at
Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Feb 18 – 22, 2014
Playwright: Wayne Tunks
Director: Fiona Hallenan-Barker
Actor: Wayne Tunks
Image by Katy Green Loughrey

Theatre review
Madonna, the pop star, means many things to many people. Like many brassy women in the public eye, she is regarded by gay communities as an icon. An outspoken proponent of the gay movement since the early 1990s, it is understandable that her place with LGBT people has endured the years. In this one-man play by Wayne Tunks, he talks about her obsession with Madonna in his introduction, then goes on to share with us his stories of coming out and relationships with various men, liberally quoting lyrics by his hero at every available opportunity. His script is an interesting one. It is almost as if Tunks is unable to verbalise his thoughts and feelings without the aide of Madonna songs, so her words keep appearing in his monologue, sometimes seamlessly, sometimes a little forced, but it is no doubt that his admiration is beyond skin deep, and that her work actually provides a space of solace. It looks a lot like religion.

Tunks is an actor full of vigour. He appears on stage and is determined to seize your attention, and for the entirey of his performance, we pay close attention to his stories. It helps that Tunks’ voice is commanding and versatile. It is naturalistic acting but there is definitely not a hint of mumbling, everything is said loud and clear, which is fortunate as the bareness of the staging and minimal direction of the near two hour work, leave nothing else for Tunks and his audience to hold on to.

The show overflows with earnestness. For a seemingly shallow premise of pop star fandom, it contains no irony and very little frivolity. We are presented love stories with a string of men, Sean, Warren, Guy, Jesus, and (presumably) Brahim. They are not particularly colourful events, in fact, slightly mundane. There isn’t really a set up of context, just a man keen to share with a captive crowd, and we are inspired by his fighting spirit that never gets dampened by failed relationships. He keeps getting back in business as though nothing’s better than more because ultimately, what can you lose?

“You’re never gonna see me standin’ still, I’m never gonna stop ’till I get my fill” (Over And Over, Madonna 1984).