Showing posts with label Theatre in Sydney. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Theatre in Sydney. Show all posts

Monday, 30 June 2014

Richard III - review

                       credit: TimeOut
Reviewed by Ben Oxley
Richard III
Ensemble Theatre
from JUNE 24

"Fitting memorial"

I read with interest this week of the real Richard III's monument being built near Leicester Cathedral. Festivities mark the occasion, and timely coincidence has enabled us to have a fresh look at "this son of York" here in Sydney.

From Mark's Kilmurry's blog:

9 August 2013

Starts work on play

"As I stand, sit or wait lurking at the back of the room to enter the world we have created (none of us actually ever leave the acting space but are dotted around the upstage area) I marvel and congratulate myself (just once) at having such a great and dedicated cast. It has been a joy in a job that could have been so hard to make work till now, fun and exciting."

"The cast are great. Patrick Dickson smooth as Buckingham, Amy Mathews fiery as Lady Anne, Danielle Carter guarded and knowing as Queen Elizabeth, Toni Scanlan earthy Duchess and dead right as Tyrell, and Matt Edgerton playing so many roles and yet giving them all their own truth and humanity... I am thrilled. As director."

Kilmurry's portrayal has elements of Gollum, especially in the conversation with himself. He physically negotiates the tables and chair seats to create the dimension of a conventional theatre. Twitchy, restless, conniving - all traits we expect from this usurper are there.

Buckingham and Assistant Director was Patrick Dickson, who gave us a wan political figure who backs the wrong horse. Pun intended.

The trio of ladies cover the female and male roles, other than Matt Edgerton's nimble work with Clarence/Rivers/King Edward/Ratcliff/Catesby. Danielle Carter is superb as Queen Elizabeth, most vitriolic in her encounter with Richard.

Amy Mathews gave Lady Anne tremendous vocal and physical presence, and turned up with a resolute Richmond at the finale. In between she paired with Carter as the Prince of York, and gave a halting vignette as the Second Murderer.

The experience of Toni Scanlan as Richard's mother, the Duchess of York, fearlessly pegging him for what he really is, which contrasted with a watchful Tyrell and a very amusing First Murderer.

Friday, 27 June 2014

The Mercy Seat - Review

Reviewed by Ben Oxley

The quality is strained

The Mercy Seat by Neil LaBute

Gentle Banana People in conjunction with Sydney Independent Theatre Company
Old Fitzroy Theatre
Credit: Sydney Independent Theatre Company

Rebecca Martin
Credits include – The Shape of Things, autobahn, Punk Rock, Dogs Barking (pantsguys productions), Havana Harlem (Sydney Fringe), After the End (Tap Gallery), Cock (NIDA).
As a director: autobahn, The Knowledge (pantsguys productions). As Assistant Director - Lord of the Flies (New Theatre)

Rebecca graduated from Actors Centre Australia in 2010 and has a BA from UNSW and an ATCL in Speech and Drama from Trinity College London. Rebecca teaches for NIDA and is currently studying a Masters of Teaching at Melbourne Uni

Patrick Magee
Patrick is a comedian, author and actor. His credits include Tempest/Lear (Verge Theatre), Richard III (Genesian Theatre), Brideshead Revisited (RGP Productions) and MOJO (Belvoir). 

On one hand there's a disaster, on the other the possibility of a new life. Or is there? 

In reality, it is a sexual battle played out in confinement. We know the lovers are going to split, as there is little to keep the relationship alive. Competing for the same position at work, Abby becomes Ben's boss, and so the illicit relationship begins on a conference trip. 

Two postmodern people struggling with overwhelming guilt and self-loathing tear strips off each other's fragile egos. The moral recognition of their sins is very brave, but could they go as far as turning from this affair?

We don't empathise with Ben at first, as his shallow self interest is pale against Abby's overbearing angst and tempestuous bitching. It's possible he has had a sudden windfall due to the events of 9/11. But no, there is a personal reason for his plan to escape, or 'run' as Abby says. 

It has been his wife trying to reach him on his mobile phone, despite his knowledge of what he has done. But the play ratchets up to the climax. 

Abby lays her cards on the table to say she will sacrifice her position and life for Ben. Will he do this one thing for her: call his wife and children and explain he is not coming back?

Ben picks up the phone, and calls. What happens next is a bombshell more devastating than the World Trade buildings crashing down. 

Rebecca Martin is a powerful presence, using her voice and body skillfully to portray the dysfunctional 40 something career climber. Patrick Magee makes Ben a credible loser, particularly in the growing tension of being forced to decide between his family and his mistress. 

Not easy watching, but worth the fine performances from these two actors.

Oleanna - Review

Reviewed by Nathan Finger and Sydney Abba
David Mamet’s Oleanna (1992) has a reputation for dividing audiences. ‘It’s my job to provoke you’, says John at one point, and it seems that this is Mamet’s objective as well.

The play is set in John’s university office. A power dynamic is straight away suggested by the presence of two chairs. John’s is large and imposing; the student’s, tiny by comparison. Indeed, this is a play about power. Carol, a student of John’s, is finding his course, Psychology of Education, impossibly difficult. At first John is uninterested, though he eventually becomes sympathetic to her plight (remembering his own from years ago). John rambles on and becomes increasingly familiar with Carol, which she finds intimidating. In the second act we learn she has complained of sexual harassment against him. His hopes of achieving tenure and buying a new home are subsequently threatened. The pair tries to resolve their issues, though further conflict, prompting Carol to up the charge.

Here audiences will divide. Is this rape or political correctness gone crazy? The kicker, of course, is that both characters are wrong, whilst also being ‘right’. But then, the play isn’t about that at all. Mamet’s point is actually about the privilege of power. John, a college professor, is in a position of privilege: he designs a course, he proscribes the texts, and he decides whether students will pass or fail. The power that comes with this privilege he exercises over Carol: he demands her attention, talks down to her and makes her feel inadequate.

Of course, as the play progresses the power shifts. Carol finds ways to assert control over John’s life: threatening his job, his home, even his family. This is also an abuse of power and one must ask - is it justified? The play becomes an examination of the conventional systems that exist within society and how they exert control over us in ways that are accepted and, at times, not even fully recognized for the damage they may cause.

This was obviously a pet project for Jerome Pride; nevertheless, the play appeared somewhat too big for the actors’ boots. Both Act I performances felt self-contained and it was only during the second half that the audience was invited in. Our student, Carol, played by Grace O’Connell (a second year student at the Sydney Theatre School) is a mousy, confused cipher. Though her failure to comprehend her professor’s classes is never really explained O’Connell does her best to fill in the gaps. O’Connell has an interesting, rather mysterious presence on stage, yet the character’s final transformation led to stock-standard acting choices that detracted from the power O’Connell wished to convey. 

Our Professor, John, played by director Jerome Pride, is best described as intellectually self-indulgent. Pride layers a subtle blend of unconscious abuse of power with a seemingly contradictory cognizance of how smug he is. This works well. Whilst he plays this insufferable middle-ager with gusto and understanding, it is evident that the choice to either direct or act should have been made. This is because the chemistry between the two performers, whilst good, lacks the lustre or shine that one would expect from a two-hander. This could have been avoided by a full time director.

Oleanna is playing at the Sydney Theatre School until the 6th of July. For more information see

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Winter - Review

Reviewed by Erica Enriquez
Venue: Old 505 Theatre – 505, 342 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills. Runs until 22nd June 2014, 8pm Wed-Sat, 7pm Sun.  Tickets are $28/$18, bookings essential.  Doors open 1/2 hour prior to performance start time
Playwright: Jon Fosse
Director: Jonathan Wald
Actors: Susie Lindeman, Berynn Schwerdt

Theatre review
It’s amazing what can be said with very little dialogue, and even more intriguing what can be conveyed with the little dialogue presented. In Winter, writer Jon Fosse shows the audience the tragic, desperate, sometimes timid but always tense relationship between a man and a woman who shouldn’t have come together at all.

If you’re a fan of Fosse’s work, this one won’t disappoint – it’s perfectly in keeping with this Norwegian playwright’s stylized, almost bare-bones portrayal of two people in the midst of a clandestine affair (although, aren’t all affairs clandestine in the beginning, until it becomes just like any other relationship needing maintenance?).

When relationships are interpreted in film or theatre, the characters speak of their feelings for each other, whether good or bad, in often flowery, rambling prose, as if words cannot contain the depth of their emotions. In Winter, that same scrambling-for-the-right-way-to-say-it type discussion is pulled off with dialogue you almost imagine saying yourself in that situation – stilted, confused and sometimes anxious, as if every sentence uttered is fraught with fear of saying the wrong thing. Fosse’s script felt as if it was written like song lyrics, in that they were delivered like verse and chorus. Under Jonathan Wald’s direction, Susie Lindeman and Berynn Schwerdt as the despairing couple pulled it off well.

Lindeman’s character will resonate with many, particularly women. She is at once vulnerable, yet coy and a little quirky at times, and she’s fascinating to watch. Opening scenes show her as an almost coquettish vixen type, but as the play moves along (there’s only an hour of it, so it moves along nicely) you see another side of her character, one that demands not only affection but also respect.

By the same token, Schwerdt’s character is the one you think you know and recognize, but just like Lindeman’s character, he is also the party in the affair who needs attention too. They play off each other perfectly, one minute Lindeman is demanding, “I’m your woman!” to which Schwerdt responds with an infuriating, “Yes”, and just when you think you have decided on a side to stick by, Schwerdt is trying to find a reason for this whole mess, “I waited for you!”

Minimal set design and indeed the cast of two really bring out the struggle of these two characters trying to discuss what they are, and who they are to each other. Sometimes it takes away the white noise that plays in the brain when thrashing out relationship matters, and other times it is just white noise, highlighting the bewilderment that comes with relationships. Winter looks at how we communicate within our relationships, regardless of who’s giving it validity, or even how we meet and come to be in certain people’s lives. It’s about coming in from the cold, stripping off your bulky coat and laying all out on the table (or hotel bed).

Monday, 9 June 2014

Not Quite Cabaret 2014

Not Quite Cabaret has returned on a Friday night to the Exchange Hotel Balmain. It is a great way to end a busy week, with a glass or two, good food and a belly full of laughs. T

he Exchange Hotel in Balmain is full of character, though on Fridays you will see a few unusual characters too. Tucked away in a candle lit room, you can enjoy a meal while watching Not Quite Cabaret. As the title says, it is not cabaret but the room is set with tables and chairs, there is a small stage where you will enjoy six different short sketches. All the sketches in this season are very funny and very well written. Those of you who have been before, this is some of the best of the best.

TV Gold, Sushi Wushi Woo, Darth Vader, Crush, Renegade and World War 2. Unlike previous years there is only one interval, but after the interview is a double whammy of World War 2, these sketches have been an audience favourite for many seasons. They revolve around two airman who are certainly not the brightest in fact one of them has little knowledge that he is even in a war and has inadvertently bombed Britain by mistake.

There are four actors for the whole night, so yes, they play multiple characters. To make a night like this work you do need a strong cast who can quickly adapt in and out of roles. Jasper Garner Gore, Brinly Meyer, Fabrizio Omodei and Lara Lightfoot gave a first class performance all directed by Gary Boulter. Deborah Bradshaw the producer of Not Quite Cabaret has a very hands on approach and greets and seats all the audience members and warms everyone up with a filthy dirty joke.

Not Quite Cabaret is a fun night out, for more information -

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them - Review

Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them written by Christopher Durang is playing at the New Theatre until 28 June. This is an intriguing play. I don't know why Christopher chose the title but I expect it will put a few people off seeing it. It does have a dark side to the play and there is some violence but most of the torture is mental torture and some part of the play you can feel the tension rising in the characters. Christopher has, I expect, taken ideas from the insecurities we have now in the world after 9/11, but also the film The Hangover and just like The Hangover there is a lot of humour in the play.
Felicity (Ainslie McGlynn) wakes up in a strange apartment in bed with Zamir (Terry Karabelas). She has no recollection of the night before. Zamir wakes up before she can creep out and informs her that they are married. Felicity immediately wants an annulment but Zamir intimidates her and implies that he has a violent past so, she had better watch out. He wants to meet her parents Luella (Alice Livingstone) and Leonard (Peter Astridge). She talks to her mother first, saying that she suspects her husband to be a terrorist. In comes Zamir and puts on the charm but when Leonard appears the mood changed as Leonard and Zamir end up head to head, each threatening the other. As the play progresses it is apparent that Luella can only cope with life and her marriage by escaping into the world of Theatre. To her daughter she just seems a little mad but in reality she has be tortured for years by Leonard, not necessarily physically though it is implied but more mentally as he controls her. Leonard has a secret butterfly collection which he won't let anyone see. As his wife and daughter suspect he doesn't have a collection of butterflies, but belongs to a secret society who has been put together to protect the nation from terrorists. Leonard calls on Hildegarde (Romy Bartz) to help him get evidence on Zamir. Unfortunately, Hildegarde misinterprets a meeting Zamir has with Rev Mike (Ryan Gibson). Rev Mike married Zamir and Felicity and just happens to make porn films too. It all turns out very badly for Zamir, but Falicity doesn't like the outcome so asks to go back in time to make the play have a different outcome. There are several bizarre moment in the play.
The play was very well produced. The staging was thoughtful with one section revolving, so the scene changes were swift. All the actors were superb particularly Peter and Alice. The Director's notes talks about the Australian asylum seekers and their treatment in the detention centres. But, this link is tenuous as Durang deals more with peoples prejudices and misinterpretations, hence the title Why Torture is Wrong. I would relate the story more to women who are in abusive marriages and people who are accused of being terrorist when they are not. The play was nothing like I imagined though it had an underlying darkness, Durang wants to make the comedy to come through without making light of the serious issues. Whether he achieves this I will leave it to you. For more information and booking visit - Credit to read: Photographs © Bob Seary