Monday, 29 April 2013
Reviewed by Jasmine Crittenden
During Shakespeare’s lifetime, Timon of Athens was never performed. Some critics argue that this is because the play was incomplete. Others argue that it touched a nerve with the royal family.
Written between 1605 and 1608, just after James I had taken the English throne, the play is a portrait of Timon, a generous Athenian who showers his friends with money and gifts, but upon falling into debt, finds himself cast out. Given James I’s reputation for financial mismanagement, there’s every chance that Shakespeare’s drama may not have been welcomed on the public stage.
Whatever the case, Timon of Athens is rarely performed, even these days.And when it is, it tends to make directors want to pull their hair out.Hence, the decision of Erica Brennan and Lucy Watson, partners in production company This Hour, to make Timon of Athens their first full-length show, was an ambitious one.
Brennan and Watson make creative use of the grungy, underground space that is The Old 505 Theatre. They attempt to draw the audience into the drama even before it has begun, with a prostrate, handcuffed vagabond and a rather outspoken canine inhabiting the entrance way. The action begins outside of the theatre, in an effort to immerse the audience in the clamorous, fast-paced opening scene.We are invited in only when Timon’s famous feast begins.
Brennan has cast Felicity Nichol in the lead role. To begin, Nichol’s take on the warm-hearted, wild spending Athenianis engaging. The contrast between his maverick generosity and the responses of varying characters,from cynicism to transparent sycophancy,is achieved through effective dynamics.
However, as the play advances into darkness, through the gradual exposure of Timon’s foolishness and the ghastly hypocrisy of the once fawning masses, the production doesn’t keep up. Nichol is better at cheerful Timon than at the disillusioned cast off, and the crowd’s alteration becomes unconvincing and laboured.Perhaps more attention could have been paid to subtleties.
Tuesday, 9 April 2013
From the 14th of February until the 6th of April, the Sydney Theatre Company presents 'Mrs Warren's Profession' as part of their 2013 season, a season that has been so successful, the company has announced an extension to the program with 'Mrs Warren's Profession' now showing from the 4th to the 20th of July. I walked in as a fan of George Bernard Shaw and was not at all disappointed by this production at the wharf. Keeping with the integrity of the play the focus remained on the heavy dialogue, laden with social commentary, witticisms and explorations of capitalist values. As with any period play, audience concentration is paramount and the actors really kept the performance alive.
They mis en scene was simple, effective and perfect, for example, a set of books, a hammock and a backdrop of pink roses. This stunning beauty was illuminated by subtle lighting and contrasted as a wonderful juxtaposition to the second act. Everything on stage was used and had relevance and is a credit to the production team. The play is directed by Sarah Giles and supported by a stellar cast of notable faces, such as Simon Burke, Helen Thomson, Drew Forsythe and newcomer Lizzie Schebesca. I believe it was the calibre of performance that kept me glued to the tale, as each carried their own power and stage presence, drawing emotional connection to a story of old.
It was perhaps a bit of a risk to perform an piece with social commentary about a context that is not ours, one from 1893 to be exact. However, through the minimalist nature of the staging, costuming and continuity, the focus lay with the universal themes, for example, if one does no exploitation, yet by extension witnesses it, are they too at fault? Once the universal subtexts were highlighted and drawn out, the period play had great relevance to our audience. However, if you perchance just want to witness the humour of a great playwright and the directing from a great theatre company, I strongly recommend a night at this play. I just hope that audiences keep their minds open to deliberating a subtext, for if they do, they will surely milk more for their money.
For more information, please visit http://www.sydneytheatre.com.au/what's-on/productions/2013/mrs-warrens-profession.aspx
Wednesday, 23 January 2013
The Secret River, by Kate Grenville, is one of those stories that really hits your inner core. To most Australians, it’s a familiar tale- of white land possession in the colonial period of Australia and how these events has negative effects and consequences for both the Indigenous custodians and white settlers. The story follows a newly freed convict family who take some ‘vacant’ Australian bush and the hardships which follow a people flung into an alien land. Their experience is then paralleled to the Indigenous peoples on whose land they annexed- a very familiar story to all Australians who know of the Indigenous experience. In fact, some people may be put off by this text; for fear that it will be a broken record on Indigenous oppression and suffering. While The Secret River does contain these elements and this underlying message, the story is not at all a guilt trip. As with any Kate Grenville text, the craftsmanship is in the storytelling and the beautiful weaving of the narrative blanket. The text itself has won numerous prestigious awards, the Commonwealth Prize for Literature, and the NSW Premier’s Prize, to name a couple. It was shortlisted for Miles Franklin Award and the Man Booker Prize. Grenville has captured an age-old story and resurrected it with her beautiful words and made it relevant to a current society.
This year, until the 9th of February, the Sydney Theatre Company presents a stage adaptation of Grenville’s The Secret River. In terms of production elements, the performance is beautiful, even magical. By recreating the iconic location, (the Hawkesbury River,) on stage, they transport us back to a land before our known time and they achieve so using only a communal campfire, simple mis en scene and eucalyptus branches. By employing self-conscious theatre techniques, the audience is alerted to the construction of the play and therefore the relevance of the social justice commentary; for example, sounds of the water trickling are made by a small boy down stage right, and the orchestra sits on the stage. These act as a subtle reminder to us that we are not to be immersed in the theatrics or the tale itself, but to remember the themes and message that this play acts as a vehicle for. The lighting and subtle uses of computer projections are excellent and stand as a testament to the absolute professional quality of the Sydney Theatre Company’s stage team. The directing was exceptional, tying up loose ends and detailing the play to the enth degree and the acting was so powerful, so intense. This production is not to be missed, even though we know the story, even though with hindsight we know the ending will be tragic. What we do not know is just how crafty Grenville’s storytelling is and how perfect and simple a Sydney Theatre Company production can be.
For more information, visit: http://www.sydneytheatre.com.au/what's-on/productions/2013/the-secret-river.aspx
Saturday, 3 March 2012
Reviewed by Catherine Hollyman
Part of the Mardi Gras Festival, Elegies For Angels, Punks and Raging Queens is an ode to those who have died from AIDS and a tribute to those who helped them through their final months, weeks or days.
Sounds a bit heavy for an evening’s entertainment?
Well, you’d be forgiven for thinking so, but rest assured that whilst it’s certainly a heavy topic, director Brett Russell has carefully crafted a production that certainly tugs on the heart strings, but that I found surprisingly more informative and celebratory than depressing.
The 31 monologues, each performed by a different actor, are written from the perspective of a character that suffered with, and died from, AIDS. After every four or five, the monologues are interjected with powerful songs representing the feelings of friends and family members dealing with the loss.
The music, by Janet Hood, and lyrics and additional text by American lyricist Bill Russell, were inspired by the NAMES Project “AIDS Memorial Quilt” – a community art project to create an enormous quilt in memory of people who have died of AIDS-related causes - and Edgar Lee Masters' collection of poems featuring 212 characters each providing an account of their lives and losses within a fictional small town, Spoon River.
The entire production was intimate, somewhat due to the theatre space itself, but more so thanks to the openness of the characters and actors. It was a bit like reading the diary of someone I didn’t know, which was both a revelatory and confrontational. I came away thankful for the message that life is short – celebrate it!
The sometime forced actions hammed it up in places where it didn’t need to be, once or twice yanking me away from the world of the character and back to my seat in the audience.
The lighting was basic and at times poorly timed, leaving an actor to depart the stage in full light. As this was the first show, it’s something that will improve in subsequent nights
With such a huge cast, you can often expect a few dud performances, but all 35 performers give a convincing performance and delivery of the American accent. Standouts for me included:
The four singers, in particular Jason Te Patu who shows depth of emotion throughout each of his songs and characters and brings the show to a commemorative close with his gospel-esque performance, with the rest of the cast as his chorus.
Deirdre Lee advises us on how to identify true friends in her portrayal as a female Sales Executive trying to climb the corporate ladder in a male-dominated world, whilst living with AIDS. Lucy Maunder’s musical response as the Personal Assistant who stayed by her side was heartfelt and honest.
Cassandra Joslin provides some well-timed light reprieve with her advice to “spend it before you die” monologue which morphs into song and dance and will get everyone in the audience laughing and clapping along.
Dates: On now until 3rd March
Venue: Reginald Theatre at The Seymour Centre
Times: Fri 6pm & 9pm, Sat 4pm & 8pm
Duration: 90mins no interval
Tickets: Adult $40, Conc / MG Member $35
Call: (02) 9351 7940 to book
Friday, 17 February 2012
The Temperamentals by Jon Marans is playing at the New Theatre until 3 March. It is in association with the Sydney Mardi Gras and is an Australian Premiere.
Kevin Jackson the director has striped the play down to rely almost totally on the quality of the actors and the play itself. It is a brave move but it works and actors have to be commended for the role(s) they play.
Jon Marans has produced a piece of work that marks an important historical time in gay social history. It is set in the early 1950's long before Stonewall. It is a docu-drama based on true stories about Harry Hay and a group of men who set up the Mattachine Society. The Mattachine was organised to assert the human rights for sexual minorities. It is not a play that packs a powerful punch, there is drama and laughter, but it quietly and simply re-tells the stories of these men and their lives. I use the word 'quietly' because all the time you are reminded how secretive they had to be; living in fear of being arrested. Of course this happens to Dale Jennings, he is arrested for allegedly soliciting a police officer in a toilet. Dale confessed to being a homosexual (this was unheard of as people shied away from public scrutiny) but denied any wrongdoing. Dale was acquitted on the basis of police intimidation, harassment, and entrapment of homosexuals, and the case was dismissed. It was a landmark case and increased peoples awareness of the gay movement. Behind the actors throughout the show you will see projections of the men themselves which is a constant reminder that this is a true story. You are reminded how unacceptable it was to be gay, you had to be married with children to be socially acceptable and even to advance your career, as Rudi discovers. You see conflict in the men between what they would like to be and what they have to be. Harry Hay (Douglas Hansell) the leader of The Mattachine is living a lie, he is married but having an affair with Rudi Gernriech (Daniel Scott). He also wrote a manifesto for homosexual rights. He eventually divorced realising that marriage wasn't going to 'cure' him!
This docu-drama serves as a reminder that we shouldn't forget what life was like for gay men and woman and how brave these men were and that even today people are still fighting for Gay Rights, with marriage being top of the agenda at the moment.
If you like social history you will enjoy this and if you intend on going to the Mardi Gras Parade seeing this first will give it a more powerful meaning.
Listen to our interview with Daniel Scott (Rudi Gernreich)
Tuesday, 18 October 2011
The Sydney Independent Theatre Company are a new company operating out from 8A/32-60 Alice Street Newtown, it is a brand new space and is a work in progress! The Complete Package is the company's first production. They have been workshopping the show over the past three months and then went into rehearsals with the cast and director Julie Baz for the past month. It was a brave move, new play, new company and a new space. It could easily have been a complete disaster but after seeing the show if this one is anything to go by I can't wait for the next one.
The Complete Package is a very moving tale of Joshua (Tennessee Baz-Jeffrey) a ten year old boy in foster care. The writer Robert Allan touches on a number of topics throughout the play from the mundane office politics to the breakdown in communication between the characters and the social services department and common prejudices and believes to foster care.
Friday, 7 October 2011
The story is relatively simple the two brothers are following in the footsteps of their other brother, Lucky, in the hope for a better future in Australia. The human trafficker is in it for the money which he needs for his family. They are not well equipped for the journey, just a few belongings, water, rope and a radio. It is a story of hope and determination as well as illusion. It takes the audience on a journey of life, death and fear of the unknown.
The production is set on a large raft which moves about the stage as it would in the sea. The staging of the storm and the symbolic movement in the water were very polished and well orchestrated.
This was a stunningly, smooth performance. There was great use of sound with live performance and the use of the radio broadcasts which changed as the raft came closer to Australia.
The director Sama Ky Balson and the creative team made what could have been a very dull performance into an entertaining 50 minute physical production.
Sama is the founder of IPAN, International Performing Arts Network, which was established in Paris in 2009, where it hosted it's first International Theatre Exchange workshop. Ten theatre practitioners from seven countries collaborated and shared methodologies. The workshop gathered around 200 students over ten days. Lucky is an IPAN production in association with The Spare Room.
Saturday, 30 July 2011
Even though I am not a Mum I can remember what I put my Mum through when I was growing up. I particularly liked songs like Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, I leak, Do it, Costco Queen, actually when I look at the list I liked most of them. The Costco Queen's choreography with the lights on the shopping trolley's was very effective.
Monday, 18 July 2011
The Last Five Years, was cited as one of Time Magazine's 10 Best of 2001 and won Drama Desk Awards for Best Music and Best Lyrics. Luke Rogers the Director/ Producer and Mark Chamberlain the Musical Director did a great job at pulling this difficult piece of drama/ musical together. It is not a musical in the traditional sense i.e. there is no large cast with chorus lines and though the story is memorable the tunes are not. It is just two characters who literally sing their way through the last five years of their lives!
Before seeing this you have to know that Cathy played by Marika Aubrey is telling the story from when she and Jamie, Rob Mills split up and Jamie is telling the same story but from when they first met. It does get a little confusing at times, especially following Cathy who is telling the story backwards and I still not sure why she sang about breaking up an 8 month relationship after she met Jamie, unless she was having an affair. I was also found it interesting that at the start you felt slightly sorry for Cathy because Jamie had left her and you knew chances are that he cheated on her, but her songs we not as interesting and varied as Jamie's; her costumes made her look frumpy so by the time you see the scene when Jamie does have the affair you don't feel sorry for her at all.
Tuesday, 18 January 2011
Tuesday, 11 January 2011
You need to have read that paragraph before you go and see this as it is not an easy play or not a play to follow; so you know it is not you being dumb! To me it was as if Roland Schimmelpfennig had taken LSD and the trip got more and more surreal as he wrote the script! I don't agree about the excessive sprawling text; a couple of times maybe but I wouldn't say it was that excessive, I certainly couldn't have fallen asleep, I was too busy trying to make sense of it all. It was a play about a group of solders in the jungle, they had swapped their uniforms for bikinis and underwear. There are aliens, there is sex (suggested) there is blood and dying. None of these are really explored as in a traditional play but as Daisy says they just happen and that's it!