Showing posts with label TAP Gallery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TAP Gallery. Show all posts

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Arthur’s Place - Review

Review originally posted at
Venue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), May 7 – 11, 2014
Playwright: Ben Eadie
Director: Ruth Fingret
Actors: Dominic Witkop, Aaron Nilan, Matt Jacobsen, Steve Vincent, Timothy Parsons, Jamie Merendino, Cait Burley

Theatre review
The young Australian man has in recent times become a subject of interest in media and social discourse. Characterised as violent, drunk and disorderly, he is also often considered to be of white and middle class origins. Ben Eadie’s script is concerned with this particular group of “lost souls”. Six characters are created to represent an aimless but troubled segment of our society, each with a distinctive personality type but all are purposeless except for a preoccupation with drugs and alcohol.

Eadie’s efforts at painting a picture of detachment is effective. He gives a clear impression of characters unable to engage meaningfully, but although we are able to relate them with some familiarity to our lived communities, they struggle to evoke empathy or arouse much interest. The fact that they are privileged enough to live a lifestyle that includes no work but a lot of debauchery, prevents us from feeling for them or for dramatic tension to build sufficiently. Not very much seems to be at risk. Some attention is paid on sexual abuse in a couple of the boys’ histories, but those scenes feel like afterthoughts, even if they are clearly well-intentioned.

The pace of the show is exceedingly languid. Much of the acting seems to be based in “real time”, which often comes across too slow for the audience. Dominic Witkop’s performance is slightly too internalised, but his focus and commitment is strong. His character Lance is by far the most convincing one, and the care and measuredness at which he attacks his part is laudable, but introducing a greater sense of vigour would allow him to connect better. Arthur is played by Aaron Nilan who lacks the enigmatic quality required by the script, but his less restrained performance in the second act adds much needed energy and animation to the stage.

Unlike its characters, Arthur’s Place has a purpose. It discusses our social problems, which is one of the most important functions of theatre, but while it tries to push the envelope with its exaggerated use of profanity, more conviction is needed to advance its central message. We do not expect plays to give us solutions, but when art is able to make us care about our worlds, it becomes indispensable.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Mothers - Review

Venue: Roxbury Hotel, 182 St John’s Rd, Glebe (on Friday 9th May at 8pm, Saturday afternoons 3rd & 10th May at 2:30pm; plus a special Mother’s Day finale at the TAP Gallery, 278 Palmer St, Darlinghurst on Sunday 11th May at 5.30pm)

Playwright: Produced by Joy Roberts with monologues written by Jane Cafarella, Chantal Harrison, Gillian Brennan, Julie Danilis, Kate Rotherham, Kate Toon, Kathryn Yuen, Michelle Wood, Neda, Vee Malnar, Serena Kirby and Peter Shelley

Director: Cheryl Pomering, Erin Gordon, Glen Pead, Kaye Lopez and Joy Roberts

Actors: Alannah Robertson, Charlotte Connor, Clare Tamas, Feda Dabbagh, Lisa Hanssens, Lynda Leavers, Rowena McNicol, Shabnam Tavakol and Shayne Francis

Images courtesy of Richard Farland - Farland Photography via Sirmai Arts Marketing

Theatre review
If you believe anything you see online, you’ll believe that motherhood is a fanciful, beautiful state of being, where the mother’s sole purpose is now for the child alone. It’s an Instagram post with a “lo-fi” filter, a Pinterest image tagged #inspirational. In short, it’s unrealistic.

But Mothers, a collection of new monologues, dedicated to motherhood, shows motherhood not from the rosy side of maternal bliss but from the real, raw and often times rough as guts angle. Produced by Joy Roberts, herself a mother, Mothers was created from a series of monologue submissions, and what we are given are brutally honest stories.

They are told through the eyes of nine main characters, all mothers, but different types of women. There’s the teenage mother, a young woman who tells us candidly, “I don’t resent her, I just wish it didn’t happen now”. There’s the immigrant mother, whose isolation and status as a mother also going through depression truly highlight what it’s like to be a stranger in a strange land (in every sense), and there’s the grieving mother coping with the loss of her child. There are so many elements in this production that it’s hard to pick a favourite, but one is sure to resonate with you.

The monologue that proved particularly telling was the one given by Shayne Francis, whose character finds that she is not as natural to the process of motherhood as she first thought. She talks of her frustrations over “mumtrepreneurs” and women who on surface look like they are doing well. She talks of the “Sisterhood”, who make motherhood look so easy. Perhaps this is a commentary on our view of mothers, and how we can’t simply see it from just the easier-to-digest angle, but that it should be looked at from a very realistic view.

Not that this play is meant to detract anyone from parenthood, or children, or families. But you will appreciate this very unguarded look at what nobody tells you in utmost honesty. That motherhood is hard. That there’s a notion around “motherhood” that makes is seem all Earth Mother, Wonder Woman, Super Mum. One character says, “I don’t hate my baby. It’s motherhood I don’t like”. It’s this exact sentiment that makes this production so valuable not just to current parents but also to any woman. You will begin to see that “motherhood” is about the journey women go from being women without children to then becoming responsible totally for the lives of their children, and how daunting, exhilarating and transformative this is.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Dancing Naked In The Backyard - Review

Review originally posted at
Venue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Apr 15 – 26, 2014
Playwright: C.J. Naylor
Director: Travis Kecek
Actors: Matt Hopkins, Zasu Towle, Estelle Healey, Alan Long, Sam Smith, Sascha Hall, Kara Stewart
Theatre review
Contentious issues in our daily lives can make for great theatre. Dancing Naked In The Backyard explores over-development in suburbia, and attempts to make an argument for population growth control in residential areas. A shady character Reland, spearheads the Sylvan Towers project that will see construction of six-storey apartment blocks on quiet Hinton Street. In opposition is the clean cut Derwent who makes it his mission to stop the project from being approved by local government.

The premise is simple, and the production is plain. The script and direction are straightforward in what they wish to say, but what results is a show that feels overly didactic, and the lack of complexity in their argument makes for scenes that feel repetitive. The themes being discussed are not uninteresting, but the characterisation of Derwent representing good and Reland bad, is too obviously unbalanced and consequently, unconvincing.

Derwent is played by Matt Hopkins who does his best at channelling his character’s conviction into his own performance. The material he works with is not always strong, but he is believable and charming in the role. Hopkins has great presence, and his eagerness in connecting with co-actors gives him a sense of polish, and conveys confidence. Estelle Healey is memorable as the highly idiosyncratic Nancy. At times funny, and at others awkward, she might not always hit her marks but she is definitely a magnetic personality that adds exuberance to the stage.

The play clearly has a point to make, but its one-sided approach can cause its audience to question the validity of the debate at hand. Lamenting the introduction of low rise apartments into an idyllic suburb is romantic, but our daily lives point to a realistic perspective that is not sufficiently represented in the work. Backyards with unobstructed views are very nice to have, and almost everyone dreams of owning one, but when that privilege runs out, and we seek to mourn its disappearance, it is important to first scrutinise the rights we claim to have over this piece of earth we inhabit.

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:

Friday, 11 April 2014

Stitching - Review

Review originally posted at
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.

High Windows Low Doorways - Review

Review originally posted at
Venue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Jul 4 – 14, 2013
Playwrights: Jonathan Ari Lander, Noelle Janaczewska, Katie Pollock, Alison Rooke, Mark Langham, Ellana Costa, Melita Rowston
Director: Paul Gilchrist
Actors: Alice Keohavong, Helen Tonkin, Peter McAllum, Matt Butcher, Kit Bennett, Gavin Roach, Naomi Livingstone
Image by Zorica Purlija

Theatre review
Subtlenuance’s new production features seven monologues by seven different actors and seven different playwrights. The monologues are presented as a cohesive whole by director Paul Gilchrist, although it is always clear where each story begins and ends. The theme that binds them is the concept of spirituality, with a focus on the actors’ personal experiences, rather than their beliefs.

Common themes emerge. We hear revelations about family, religion and the metaphysical. We also see a sense of struggle that often comes into play in these reflections on spiritual lives. Naomi Livingstone’s piece starts in a space of hopelessness and pain. Her performance is heartfelt and sincere, with a powerful emotional quality that she tends to slightly over-indulge in. Nevertheless, the authenticity in her expression invites us in and helps us connect with her story. Ellana Costa’s interpretation of her story is well structured, and the imagery they create is vivid and uplifting. Gavin Roach’s style is vibrant and camp. The actor’s enjoyment of the stage and his eagerness in keeping his audience engaged, makes him the most entertaining of the group. Mark Langham’s script for Roach’s story is probably the most complex in the show, which helps the performer craft a segment that is more elaborate, physical and livelier than the others.

Matt Butcher’s piece about his grandmother is one of loss and longing. He craves an impossible meeting with her, and finds solace in his memories of their time together. Jonathan Ari Lander does a good job putting those recollections to words, and Butcher uses them to paint a bitter sweet picture of reminiscence and love. In a similar vein, Helen Tonkin recalls her father, further illustrating the link between family and spirituality. Assisted by Peter McAllum’s performance, their depiction of the father and daughter relationship tenderly demonstrates the depth at which childhood experiences affect our lives.

The trouble with monologues is that they are too often written without keeping in mind the other senses that an audience brings with it to the theatre. There must be a difference between reading a poem or a memoir on paper, and going to see a staged performance. There are instances in this production that feel as though the writing would have worked better in a book, but the personal nature of the material helps make the production feel earnest and accessible. There is a resonance that exists where people dig deep to tell personal stories, and in High Windows Low Doorways, the cast wants us to hear them, but the commonality of our experiences also makes us feel heard.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Reviewed by Regi Su
From the 24th of October until the 2nd of November, The Tap Gallery in Darlinghurst hosts the world premiere of Ron Elisha’s Love Field; A Flight of Fantasy. In this very interesting account of experimental history, playwright Elisha explores a very tense flight on Air Force One to Washington just after the assassination of John J Kennedy. The play imagines a conversation between Lyndon Baines Johnson and Jackie Kennedy over the still-warm coffin of her husband, President Kennedy.

The play hinges on character dynamics and the play shifts in power very easily. In portraying character, we see a distraught Jackie Kennedy in her overwhelmed state of grief, still covered in the blood spatters from the assassination. We are drawn into her closeted world of being first lady, love of America and doting wife. From there, we see her demise as she realises all the hopes for her future and the future of America have gone down with her husband. Meanwhile, LBJ has just had greatness thrust upon him in a very untimely manner. We see his character development shift and change along the play, according to his interactions with Jackie; his apprehension towards this new role, his vulnerability and finally his newfound Presidential confidence.

Lizzie Schebesta and Ben Wood performed with so much power, conviction and passion as Jackie Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson. Schebesta was feisty, like a live cracker and her performance seemed very akin to the characterisation of a grieving First Lady. Schebesta is very powerful on stage and has a lot of control, attention to gesture, detail and movement. Wood performed LBJ with such consistency. This man had stage presence and confidence and he was so easy to listen to.

In my opinion, the play was rather rushed to come to a conclusion. At times, I wasn’t sure where the plot was going because the audience was only peering in on an in-flight conversation between the two leads. Then the characters shifted and I felt the power seemed a little unbalanced. I think the ending was believable and the actors carried the play with their passionate performances, however I think had there been time for an interval, the final character twists may have seemed less rushed.

Apart from that, I was wholly impressed with the production. The set was perfect and the use of space was economical and rather clever. The sound and lighting was carefully managed, with interjections of multimedia. Actual archival footage from that fateful day in November, 1963, coupled with authentic sound bites really added to the play. I was very impressed. Furthermore, the Tap Gallery was a very amiable host for this event. Comfortable for an intimate audience, the Tap Gallery is a nice fusion of art and culture in the one centre.

I’d recommend catching Love Field in commemoration of the Kennedy assassination’s 50 year anniversary and I’d recommend it to people who are interested and curious at all things historical. It was a great experimental history.

Monday, 12 August 2013

The Merchant of Venice - Review

Reviewed by Marie Su  
The Tap Gallery Theatre in Darlinghurst is ticked away in Palmer Street in an old building with an interior bohemian ambience. The Tap Theatre itself is an intimate venue however, in this production of Sydney Shakespeare Company’s “The Merchant of Venice”, the sets and stage proved both versatile and capacious when used by the actors.

Sydney Shakespeare Company highlighted the theme of Revenge in this play, but there was also a strong emotional thread concerning the idea of just how far would a man go for his friend. Antonio, played with passion by Anthony Campenella, is the merchant of Venice, who risks all to enable his good friend Bassanio (Alex Nicholas) to marry the girl of his dreams, Portia (Lizzie Schebesta). The problems arise when Antonio borrows money from a Jewish moneylender, Shylock (Mark Lee) and then, due to the vagaries of maritime trading, finds he cannot repay the 3,000 ducats lent in the agreed time frame. Antonio must pay the forfeit a pound of his flesh nearest his heart. The debt and forfeit had been agreed to in a legally binding contract so, Antonio’s life, Shylock’s revenge and Bassanio’s debt all teeter on the legal skill and persuasive logic of Portia, disguised as Antonio’s defence lawyer.

There are at least three of Shakespeare’s best known speeches in this play and Mark Lee (Shylock) and Lizzie Schebesta (Portia) conveyed them with well paced, accessibility and with well defined humanity. Mark Lee sensitively drew us in to the world of the outsider, who makes his way and lives with his mistakes. This is why Shakespeare’s work survives, because he is writing about us. Shylock tells of victimisation, the need to retaliate, while Portia tells of the need to find justice which is tempered with mercy. All the characters act out the need to find love, appreciation and gratitude from people they care about.

This production had some intense emotionally charged exchanges, especially after the intermission. The interval was 15 minutes in a play run between 8-10.30pm. However, Steven Hopley, a capable producer and director, did not let us forget that this was one of Shakespeare’s comedies. The romantic love of Jessica (Renaye Loryman) and Lorenzo (Richard Hilliar) was cute and smooch which juxtaposed to their tenuous position as Christian/Jewish runaways. There was intense ardour in Bassanio’s love for Portia. While Portia had a playful, yet respectful understanding that the complex situations Bassanio found himself in were due to his feelings of loyalty. Schebesta delivered her lines with measured banter and knowing undercurrents which gave the resolution of the play a satisfying conclusion for the audience.

The other romantic pair, Nerissa (Rosanna Easton) and Gratiano (Craig Annis) who were servants to Portia and bassanio respectively, provided good contrast to their masters. These more overt characterisations provided the light and shade which helped the audiences focus on the serious issues at stake. Yet we were allowed to see the fun of disguised identities being revealed, princely suitors presenting themselves to exaggerated effect, as well as the foibles of old age and difficult child/parent relationships.

The Sydney Shakespeare Company has used modern technology in props, contemporary costuming, well placed lighting and professional actors, all of whom have portrayed “The Merchant of Venice” in a way that those with or without previous Shakespearean experience can understand and enjoy at a good value ticket price at a venue that is accessible to public transport. It is showing from the 7th until the 24th of August.