Monday, November 20, 2017

Australia Day

Photo by Chris Lundie

New Theatre presents, AUSTRALIA DAY, by Jonathan Biggins, at the New Theatre, King St., Newtown. 14 November - 16 December.

The New Theatre present a revival production of Jonathan Biggin's 2012 comedy, AUSTRALIA DAY. It was first seen in the Drama Theatre for the Sydney Theatre Company (STC), in 2012.

AUSTRALIA DAY is set in the local community hall in a country town called Coriole. Says, the Director of this production, Louise Fischer, a girl from the country:
When I first read AUSTRALIA DAY I was transported back to my misspent youth. I recognised the people that inhabited the world of Australia Days, the Wallys, the Brians, the Mariees. They are funny, flawed, feisty and sometimes not very nice. But they are human, they have hearts and intentions that, whilst maybe misguided, are meant well. When working with the actors on this play, I wanted to find truths rather than caricatures. It is easy to see this play through the prism of satire but I think the residents of Coriole deserve a little more than that and I hope that is the story we bring you tonight.
And that is what Ms Fischer has given us. Her well chosen company of actors: Les Asmussen (Wally Stewart), Peter Eyres (Brian Harrigan), Alice Livingstone (Maree Bucknell), Lap Nguyen (Chester Lee), Martin Portus (Robert Wilson) and Amelia Robertson-Cuninghame (Helen), have an authentic look about themselves and a typical laconic Aussie essence that with the no fuss, even rough-edged production, turns, from memory, what I saw at the STC as a caricatured satire into a gentle and accurate unresolved comedy of really ordinary human beings blighted with half-baked philosophies laden with superficial prejudices muddling their way through a changing and bewildering world. It felt sadly, but funny, 'real'.

I think I heard more of the debate that Mr Biggins poses throughout the play, and certainly embraced the characters with a warmer reception than I did last time I saw it at the STC. There is clumsiness in some of the scene shifts of act one but, generally, the Design elements, David Marshall-Martin with his Sets and Ms Fischer with an eye-out for the Costume look, the Lighting plot by Nicola Block combined with a very verbal Sound Design from Mehran Mortezaei bring a simple honesty to all that is offered.

AUSTRALIA DAY was much appreciated, by most, on the night I saw it.

Silent Night

Photo by by Brett Boardman

Darlinghurst Theatre Company present, SILENT NIGHT, by Mary Rachel Brown, at the Eternity Playhouse, Burton St. Darlinghurst. 10 November - 10 December.

SILENT NIGHT, is a new Australian play, by Mary Rachel Brown, Directed by Glynn Nicholas. In July, 2015, this Writer and Director brought us THE DAPTO CHASER, a modest comedy/drama about working class dreams/angst in the greyhound racing industry, that has had a life touring around the country.

SILENT NIGHT, tells us of a working class family, the Lickfolds, living in North Ryde - a suburb of Sydney (the one I grew up in!) - the mother figure, Anne (Amanda Bishop) invested in the local Christmas light decoration competition: the Australian Regional Christmas Excellence, ARCE, pronounced 'arse', and relentlessly so throughout the night - one of the top comic offers of the night; the father, Bill (Richard Sydenham), consumed with his doomsday rehearsal with his self built bunker; and their son, a satanist, dope smoking dropout, Rodney (Aaron Glenane) who has conjured up an Uninvited Guest (Michael Denkha), the anti-Christ, himself.

The first act of the play is crammed with stupid jokes handled (desperately) by the actors. The second act is mostly a proffered satiric intrusion by the anti-Christ, pursued with an admirable essence of comedy earnestness, by Mr Denka.

The Set Design by Hugh O'Connor is valiantly overloaded with the demands of the preposterous story line of Ms Brown's, and is the best offer of the night. None of the actors can save this night in the theatre, try as they do.

Glenn Terry, Artistic Director of the Darlinghurst Theatre Company, in his note in the program of this production calls SILENT NIGHT "wonderful new Australian writing", and that the Darlinghurst Theatre Company "seek out work that explore, discuss and engage with contemporary Australian and topical issues." SILENT NIGHT, is, unfortunately, none of those things. With all due respect.


Bodysnatchers Theatre Company present PLASTIC, by Mark Rogers, at the Old 505 Theatre, Eliza St., Newtown, 31 October - 18 November.

PLASTIC, is a new Australian play, by Mark Rogers.

This play tells us the story of a young scientist who has an altruistic belief in his work and that it will be of enormous benefit to the world. His only problem is that the theory cannot be verified by successful experiment. Caught up in his own ego and the pressures of corporate industry - the subsidisers of his research - he dares to publish and in a public presentation is unmasked as to be practising in a fraud, euphemistically known as, 'scientific misconduct' - which, of course culminates in an enormous scandal.

The Writer, Mark Rogers, and the Director, Sanja Simic were both fascinated by the examples of real fraudulents (e.g. Diederik Stapel in social sciences, Haruko Obokata in stem cell research) and to "what was going on in their heads, what drove them, and why", and hoped that PLASTIC would give some answers - insights - to those questions. The writing amounts to a clear, but, relatively superficial narrative of cause and consequence with next to no incisive interrogation of the character motivations, reasons for the why, or much conversation as to the ethical debate that such circumstances must throw up. Ms Simic, contributes to the shallowness of the interrogation of the people and issues in the writing by encouraging an overtly comic/satiric tone to the bravado of the actions of the characters in the forum of the play action.

All the actors: Nick Bartlett, Hannah Goodwin, Harry McGee, Doug Niebling and Michelle Ny, have been well drilled but lack back story to give their responsibilities much dimensionality. The play remains mostly a comic strip and thread bare enlightenment. Nick Bartlett, as the misguided ethically bereft scientist, has charm.

Sparely Designed this is not a difficult night in the theatre, but it is a disappointingly shallow one.

Merciless Gods

Photo by Sarah Walker

Little Ones Theatre and Griffin Independent present, MERCILESS GODS, by Dan Giovannoni, based on the book, Merciless Gods, by Christos Tsiolkas, at the SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross, 1 - 25 November.

'Little Ones is a Melbourne queer theatre collective, formed by Stephen Nicolazzo, which creates camp, kitsch, and erotically charged theatrical events with the potential of cultish fascination. It can be bold, risqué and nearly always comic, subverting classical theatre conventions through design, style and performances.' - from the program notes.

I remember, particularly, their production of PSYCHO BEACH PARTY, and have heard, for instance, of their furore with DANGEROUS LIAISONS. MERCILESS CREATURES, adapted and written by Dan Giovannoni, is a slight shift away from their usual style, creating an evening of 'drama', having investigated the relative savagery of Christos Tsiolkas' book,  of the same title, which was published in 2014 - a collection of 15 short stories.

Mr Giovannoni has, with the Director, Stephen Niccolazo, taken 8 of the stories and transcribed them into dramatic form either as play vignettes or monologues. The success of each of the pieces is dazzling because of the language of the playwight and will be received, individually, by each audience member according to taste.

Most of the audience will know the work of Christos Tsiolkas from his novels, THE SLAP (2008) and BARRACUDA (2013), both adapted for Television - both 'softer' in cultural and social critique/angst, and, so, more middle-of-the-road than most of his other work, such as novels, LOADED (1995) - made in to a film HEAD ON (1998) - and, (my personal favourite) DEAD EUROPE (2005) - also a film (2012).

The world of most of his work deals with intergenerational and inter-racial conflicts and in the more adventurous works is charged with a pre-occupation of the intermingling and 'marriage' of graphic sex and violence. The work is supercharged with the sexuality of the marginalised. One being the emigrant story, focusing on the Greek and Turkish Melbourne population; and another the underground world of participators in 'deviant' sexuality and addiction.

One cannot help but recall the shock of the literature  of Jean Genet - OUR LADY OF THE FLOWERS (1942/43); THE THIEF'S JOURNAL (1948/49); THE BALCONY (1955/56/57) – or, the work of film maker Pier Paolo Pasolini in films such as TEOREMA (1968); SALO, OR 120 DAYS OF SODOM (1975), when reading Mr Tsiolkas' work, and never more so than in MERCILESS GODS.

The content of the works, both the Short Story collection and Mr Giovannoni's play, can be confronting for some, and the visual style of Mr Niccolazzo's imagery (Set and Costume Design, by Eugyeene Teh; Lighting Design, by Katie Sfetkidis) takes that confrontation further in the theatre. The Sound Design, by Daniel Nixon contributes 'operatically', to the vision of the production.

In the foyer, after the performance, there was a debate, among some, about the 'shock' content and a 'wonder' as to what does one have to do in this day and age to really shock/offend an audience?

The company of actors (Paul Blenheim, Brigid Gallacher, Sapidah Kian, Peter Paltos, Charles Purcell and Jennifer Vuletic) vary in skill but have been well prepared for this season (this work has already had a season in Melbourne) and accomplish impassioned executions of the work, but it is the outstanding performance by Jenny Vuletic in three stories that catapults the experience in the SBW Stables theatre into a sphere of high voltage: firstly, as a loving and distraught, grieving mother, Franca, confronting the imagery of her son, who had gone to be an actor in LA, in a pornographic film performance, who is now dead from an AIDS related illness; then, as a narcissistic novelist, Lisbeth, rejecting all assistance from her daughter in a stripped-back nakedness of sheer, unbridled ideologue class rage; and starkly, as Dan, a cancer ridden working class 'revolutionary' celebrating with his family his euthanasia over-dose to oblivion. Ms Vuletic's characterisations are embodied with a genuine rage against the dying of the 'light' distilled with telling individualistic insight and outrageous courage - simply magnificent to behold in this tiny theatre space.

If Christos Tsiolkas at an extreme edge of some of the world's experience is to your taste, Dan Giovannoni and Stephen Niccolazzo, give him honour. Ms Vuletic electrifies, vivifies, her stories for him. Do go see.

Sunday, November 12, 2017


Belvoir presents ATLANTIS, by Lally Katz, in the Upstairs Belvoir St Theatre, Surry Hills. November 1 - November 26.

ATLANTIS is a new Australian play by Lally Katz. It is a heady hilarious piece of a type of magic realism. I loved it.

The principal character in ATLANTIS is called Lally (played by Amber McMahon). The last time I met this 'Lally' was in Joe's Pub, a Cabaret venue in the Public Theatre in New York, where she was played by the real Lally (Katz) in her monologue called: STORIES I WANT TO TELL YOU IN PERSON - she had already given these stories at the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne and the Downstairs Theatre at Belvoir. In that performance piece 'Lally' is concerned with dealing with her Melbourne 'full Jew' (defining herself as only a 'half Jew') and escaping to New Jersey to see her grandparents, and having adventures in New York - where she meets/employs a Psychic called 'Cookie' who she feels has subsequently cursed her. ATLANTIS begins with 'Lally' dealing with Dave (who, one may presume to be her 'full Jew' - played by Matthew Whittet), and her consequent journey back to New York to visit her grandparents before they die, and to find "Cookie' to negotiate her dilemma - her cursed ovaries!!!! and her ticking biological clock.

In the Upstairs Theatre, after a little talk with Lally, Dave wanting to get to sleep, turns on the the television to the noise of Alex Jones, a US conspiracy theorist and podcaster, noted for his 'ranting' - e.g. climate change et al. While, presumably, Dave has been lulled to sleep, 'Lally' looks at us, the audience:
Hi, everyone, I'm Lally Katz. I'm a playwright and I wrote this play. I know I should give a disclaimer to stop me from being sued and say that it's a work of fiction and none of the characters are based on real people. But to be honest, almost everything in it is true and absolutely every character in it is based on a real person. [...].
We begin a Four Act journey of fact/fiction then, the first act dealing with her relationship with Dave and the following three on her new adventures in the USA. We leave Sydney and go to New York, New Jersey, Kansas, Miami and Las Vegas to many locations that come and go quickly. Many are interiors, such as a psychic consultation room, apartments - including a dodgy airbnb - chemists, cars/taxis, shops, bedrooms and doctor's surgeries. Some are exteriors such as streets, mountains, highways, oceans. Wow! some challenge. As Ms Katz's wishes in her published text: "Good Luck" to the production team!

This production of ATLANTIS has had more than luck, it has had inspiration: Set and Costume Designer, Jonathan Oxlade, with supporting shadowy surreal lighting by Damien Cooper, provide a 'playground'/'landscape' of whimsical architectural shapes, furnishings and colours for Director, Rosemary Myers, to marshall and inspire her five actors: Paula Arundell, Lucia Mastrantone, Hazem Shammas and Matthew Whittet - creating some 42 characters - encountering Amber McMahon, as Lally, the central figure of the play, with an hilarious and inventive Composition and Sound Design by Harry Covill to join the dots in the journey and keep it all moving along.

Joining Lally on this journey is all a bit like joining Alice on her Wonderland trip (in this case with a Panther instead of a Rabbit or Cheshire Cat). Katz's ATLANTIS is an escalating magical mystery trip of growing absurdity that is truly hilarious and still, yet, a deeply empathetic experience as Lally, like the Billie Piper character, Her, in the recently broadcast (at the movies) Young Vic production of YERMA, is worrying about her ovaries and reproductive age, and yearns to have a child. She pursues that need with a desperation that grows, in this case, quite differently in tone to that Simon Stone version, into a comic mono-manic adventure which causes her to ignore the world that is falling apart around her.

Her biological clock is ringing warning bells! Time for herself is the essence. The play spins out into a surrealist comic poem of whimsy and fantasy that ends up with the love-making of Lally with her childhood daemon, a Panther, and at Caesar's Palace at the 4pm performance of the Fall of Atlantis: "It is not too late. We're both still here. We're both still alive. There's still hope." Ms Katz, the writer, shares something of herself with the world, her wacky imagination, and has us laughing so much that we can for the brief time we spend with her, forget the world and its present chaos and scariness, and allow a sliver of hope that all can/will be well.

The simple joy of the surprising imaginative logic of Ms Katz's world is beautifully brought to life with a team of actors with a truly gifted sense of mayhem and skill. Amber McMahon is the central figure that barrels through the adventures of this amazing character with a lightweight élan, effortlessness, that has all the innocence of the classic 'hero' figures of great comedy (Chaplin, Lucy, even Marge in the Simpsons, at their ingenuous best). The role requires stamina and infectious optimism, qualities that Ms McMahon radiates unequivocally from start to finish through every 'hoop' of 'madness' that Ms Katz can devise. She is the spine of this work and it is as joyfully flexible as any you could wish.

While the other four actors are simply brilliantly articulate in the creation of their roles. Paula Arundell once again demonstrates her finesse: her capability to translate Electra the 'dodgy' airbnb hostess, from a breathless comic rant and, yet, bring it to a truly moving pathetic statement of a life of the desperate, is – as usual – astounding. She does it again at the end of the play with a short portrait (less than a page and a half of text!) of a mum dressed in Cowgirl gear in Las Vegas - funny, and still, whimsically sad. Add her ebullient comic presence in two of her 'moustache' roles - the leader of an evangelical choir, or the 'Cuban man', to see a rare gift that is an example of great acting. To see her is to believe in the 'genius' of performance art (and craft). (When are we to see her in a central role of import - a Hedda, a Mother Courage, a Phaedra?) But similarly, in this production, Lucia Mastrantone scores with her Taxi drivers and the hilarious Bella, the New York 'psychic'/shonk. While Matthew Whittet, skewers his portrait of the 'awful' Dave and as the far from insouciant daughter of Bella, along with other duties with careful on-the-edge insight. Hazem Shammas is outrageous as the sexy gigolo, Diego, in the desert town motel and manages to ooze a comic pathos fully out-fitted from head-to-toe in a black panther costume with glowing eyes.

I loved the play, and reading some other people's response to the show, I appear to be getting onto Lally Katz's 'bus' with her unique writing for the theatre, especially within the Australian oeuvre, as other's are getting off. But I reckon, whatever you make of the playwriting, the ticket price is worth the joy of seeing five very, very, very excellent performances, conjured by Director, Rosemary Myers.

I encourage you to go. Go to laugh and you will be suspended in a two hour or so pleasure space at Belvoir - it has been a long time, for me, between such stuff at Belvoir.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017


Performance Space and Liveworks Festival presents World Premiere, CARRION - Justin Shoulder, in Bay 20, Carriageworks, Wilson St, Redfern. 25 - 28 October, 2017.

Performance Space and LIveworks Festival present, CARRION, in a new Performance Art piece created by Justin Shoulder.

From the program notes:
Justin Shoulder is an artist working in performance, sculpture, video and nightlife/community events production. His main body of work the "Fantastic Creatures" are invented alter-personas based on queered ancestral mythologies. These creatures are embodied through hand crafted costumes and prostheses and animated by their own gestural languages. Shoulder uses his body and craft to forge connections between queer, migrant, spiritual and intercultural experiences. He is a founding member of queer artist collective The Glitter Militia and Club Ate, a gang of Asia-Pacific sissies.
A few weeks ago I travelled to Blacktown Art Centre for the opening of BALIK BAYAN, a curation of works by Filipino-Australian artists as part of the Philippines Art Project (until November 2). I went, particularly, because there was a video work that involved Justin Shoulder. I have been a curious fan of Justin Shoulder's work over the past few years. His imaginative urges combined with a creative skill has impressed me with his weird and wonderful costume creations. The theatre works have always been arresting visually if not always 'mechanically'. But, the wonderful thing, for me, the other night, was to see Mr Shoulder, not just with a 'mind-blowing' imaginative creation and execution of costume, but, also, a development of maturity of control of his physical skills. It is this gradual and determined possession of movement craft disciplines that demarcates this work, for me, as real progress/advancement.

In the program notes there are some artist statements about the political inspiration and aspiration of this work, and they may, for some, bring some clarity to what this Performance Artist and his collaborators Victoria Hunt (Mentor and Artistic Collaborator), Matthew Stegh (Costume and Set Design), Corin Ileto (Composer) and Benjamin Cisterne (Lighting Design), were aiming to deliver to us. In my experience of the performance the meaning of the work was of secondary importance, although, not negligible, even in its present opaque resolutions.

There were, for me, some 'problems' with the second section of the work that was over simplistic and a little underwhelming in its artistic conception (on the other hand, a couple of my companions loved it) - although, I embraced the lengthy silent costume change with imaginative 'grace' - some have complained of it.

The first costume, and the linear exposition of its 'secrets' were remarkable and when re-connected to, in the latter part of the show, was a rewarding extension. However, it was with the third costume, that was of a living 'rock'-mountain that metamorphosed into a predator with a sphincter like head and mouth, that a true awe was achieved. The Lighting Design by Mr Cisterne and the Musical contribution by Ms Ileto lifted the work into a sphere of childlike wonder.

It is so rewarding to attend projects that offer other ways to create art. The Livework Festival, an annual presentation from Performance Space, curates from the 'happenings' and investigations of artists outside the 'traditional'. CARRION is a hybrid cannibalisation of various performance modes - in this case, at least, costume-sculpture and movement/dance.

What is interesting in the curation of this kind of Festival is that artists of daring, courage, weird idiosyncrasies, often existing - struggling, more often than not, struggling - way out on the margins/fringes of our art/performance networks are invited to present to a public showing of the progress, the newest iteration, of their obsessions in a very public space to, sometimes, a very discerning and experienced audience.

The thrill, and more often than not, the frustration of attending this kind of work, is that failure is as great a possibility - an option - of the experience, as success will be. But that engagement with a puzzled/angry audience can be, for the real artist, an invaluable lesson in defining how they are 'communicating', as much as an unmitigated success can be. It is the Performance Space curation teams' integrity, that is of paramount importance in helping the  development of the work of these artists of evolving curiosities and skills, even at the risk of failing its audience. It should, however, be, I reckon, the risk of witnessing failure, of suffering boredom, that is part of the 'contract' that a Liveworks Festival audience engages in. For me, watching CARRION, was to witness the continuing (and pleasing) evolution of the work and, especially, skills of Justin Shoulder.

CARRION was not perfect but it is building on the opportunities that public showings 'force'. I reckon Time and Perseverance will deliver us an artist of unique achievement. I will be glad to have been part of his fan club. An act of faith and hope in the future.

We'll, hopefully, see.

Monday, October 30, 2017


Ken Unsworth in collaboration with Australian Dance Artists presents, RESTRAINT(S), at the Ken Unsworth Studio, 137 Belmont St Alexandria. October 26-31.

Australian Dance Artists: Choreographers and Performers: Susan Barling, Anca Frankenhaeuser, Patrick Harding-Irmer and Ross Philip with Creative Collaborator, Norman Hall, have for the 13th time created a dance work with the participation of Australian artist Ken Unsworth who has created the Set and Installations for each of the sections of this experience in the theatre. Unique costumes by Elia Bosshard and the Lighting by Roderick van Gelder add to the vividness of the work. As well, an original score by Kate Moore, is played live by Claire Edwardes (percussion), Genevieve Lang (harp), Rowena Macneish (cello), Kristy McCahon (double bass) and Anna McMichael (violin) and gives the performance an irresistible energy and compulsive imaginative sound background to be endowed and owned by the listener.

It is, ultimately, the integration of the sculptural installations created by Ken Unsworth that becomes the life force of this work. His offers to the dancers are a provocation to igniting their creativity and skills to movement/dance solutions. Beginning with a square of elastic restraints, configured like a boxing ring, followed in the next piece by a suspended 'hoop' of possible horizontal and vertical positions, and much more throughout the night, the dancers have been configured in movement to create an immersive hour long experience - the attractive score a 'sensation'-causing aid to that unconscious 'plunge' into time suspension.

Every element of this production seems to be securely held by the willpower and concentration of all the artists/participants, The fact that all of the mechanics of this extremely complex production is all old 'fashionably' manually achieved, adds to the energy of RESTRAINT(S) and is as much choreographic in its pragmatic determinations as the dance - the backstage crew led by Chris Axelsen and Annie Winter are as much central to the work as are the dancers and musicians. The propulsive energy of the dancers, crew, musicians is the invisible seduction that captures and sustains the audience's experience of being lost in space and time.

RESTRAINT(S) is, for me, the best of this company's work that I have seen over the years. It is clean, clear and succinct in its creativity, as well as visually beautiful, and aurally mesmerising, with all the dancers featuring both as ensemble, duos and soloists throughout its schemata. The creative discipline around the installation designs from Mr Unsworth give the performers and the audience a thrilling sense of the 'live or die' element of great theatre - there is a sense that the timing of the movement/dance is spontaneous, especially as the mechanism for the movement of the various installations (wait for the 'magic' of the revolving peacock glass panels to see what I mean!) is through human effort (not Machinery), so that a great energy of improvisation and company focus is intuited by us the audience - it becomes breathtakingly exciting, unconsciously 'dangerous'. The control and the concentration of the dancers give us the confidence that all is planned, but, 'is it?' - a tantalising question to appreciate after the work is complete.

Australian Dance Artists were nominated for their past work in the Australian dance industry awards this year. They should be again with RESTRAINT(S). Why THE SYDNEY FESTIVAL have not featured this Sydney Company to expose it to a larger audience is beyond my fathoming. If you can get to it, do.

Like the Opera IL TABARRO that I saw in a food preparation space (factory) in Enmore, or the play, THE GULF*** in a warehouse, in Camperdown, RESTRAINT(S), in Alexandria, represents the ingenuity of artists combined with their god-driven necessity (disease/addiction) to perform (remember THE RED SHOES) and can give unexpected delights that have purpose, meaning and hope. Worth hunting out, in this fractured time.

It makes the City of Sydney's discussion paper: An Open and Creative City well worth knowing about, contributing too, and, perhaps, supporting.

Grace Under Pressure

Photo by Heidrun Lohr

Seymour Centre and The Big Anxiety - Festival of Arts+Science+People present, GRACE UNDER PRESSURE, by David Williams and Paul Dwyer in collaboration with the Sydney Arts and Health Collective, in the York Theatre at the Seymour Centre. 25 - 28 October.

GRACE UNDER PRESSURE is a new work of verbatim theatre. Verbatim theatre is a type of 'documentary' theatre in which the script is created from the spoken words of real people gathered in interviews.

This work involved the health industry and concerned itself, principally, with the nurse and doctor experience, with each other and the patient. The work is broken into several sections that traverses the career expectations and experiences of these professionals. We begin with the altruistic aspirations of the young and move through the training, the political and social obstacles of the system - both positive and negative - and into the moral/ethical dilemmas of the day to day challenges.

Lit with a 'surgical' cleanliness by Richard Manner, a white suspended circle tilted and cross-sectioned with vertical and horizontal wooden lines is balanced with a white oval space on the floor which is dotted with 12 or so microphones (Set Design, by Isabel Hudson). Four actors: Renee Lim, Rose Maher (especially interesting), Sal Sharah and Wendy Strehlow, dressed in simple contemporary casual wear move from microphone to microphone and impersonate the transcribed and edited text both orally and, subtly, physically. There is no narrative just bare-bone witnessing of the experience in our health system from a professional point-of-view. It is all handled cleanly and efficiently by Director, David Williams, with an atmospheric and useful Sound Design by Gail Priest - even though, for me, there were moments, particularly, towards the end of the work, of slightly jarring theatrical 'gesture' that had a propensity to zealous identification by the actors with some of the material - creating a sentimental, maudlin aura about it - so that the work lost its objective clarity and muddied it with uncomfortable distracting subjectivity.

The audience I saw this production with seemed to be mostly Health system practitioners and resultantly there was often verbal response and knowing laughter and whispered comment and conversation with each other during the performance. GRACE UNDER PRESSURE does not really cover anything that we have not read or heard about in the recent years in the newspapers or on radio/television but is a succinct compendium of issues that underline the need to have 'real' conversations about circumstances that do not seem to have changed much despite the airing of them by those public means.

This work, so the program handout suggests, was developed to invite "you to become part of the conversation about how healthcare workplaces impact doctors, nurse, patients and carers, and how they can be improved." It would be wonderful if that happened and it seems to be a necessary priority but one wonders whether this work appeals only to the 'knowing' and the 'converted' who are already involved. Is GRACE UNDER PRESSURE just another revision of known facts that are present and provocative but not actioned with positive activity, consequently? Let us hope not. Although it seemed to me, as I watched and listened to this work, the hierarchical (patriarchal?) structure and values and claimed 'rights' of this tradition-bound industry are still well ensconced and the fear of speaking out for change is fanned by the need to help the ill, the patient, the community by the inspired altruism of the many and their preparedness to endure the difficult (criminal?) few despite the otherwise unconscionable pressures. If all that we read, have heard, is true, those practicians must have, perforce, a 'ragged' sense of Grace, that, despite all, still embraces the fabric of humanity at its working best. Like the explosion of sexual harassment reporting that is currently being examined in the Entertainment industry - it takes numbers to generate power for change, it seems. Maybe this is the value of a work like GRACE UNDER PRESSURE? Discussion, Queries. Facebook, internet pressure, may provide the catalyst of numbers. Mission objective achieved?

Please discuss.

She Rode Horses Like The Stock Exchange

Photo by Clare Hawley, Asparay Photography

Rocket Productions in association with bAKEHOUSE presents SHE RODE HORSES LIKE THE STOCK EXCHANGE, by Amelia Roper, at the Kings Cross Theatre (KXT), in the Kings Cross Hotel. 20 October - 11 November.

SHE RODE HORSES LIKE THE STOCK EXCHANGE, written in 2014, is by an Australian playwright, Amelia Roper, who has been working and living in Los Angeles for some time.

Two couples: Amy (Matilda Ridgeway) and Henry (Tom Anson Mesker), Max (Dorje Swallow) and Sara (Nikki Britton), friends because of business contacts - Amy and Max having worked as rivalling investment bankers together at the same firm - meet up in a park accidentally and tentatively sit on a shared picnic blanket and have a chat. It is 2008 and the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) and the house foreclosure bubble has burst.

We meet, first, couple Amy, the banker and Henry, a nurse, and get to know them. Amy is a truly driven and manipulative 'professional' who is not, it seems, entirely scrupulous in her business dealings, and Henry a nurse, a hopeful personal partner more than slightly bewildered with the terms of their relationship. Their conversation is sprinkled with daffy offers from Henry and countered with spiky re-joinders and physical resistance from Amy. His proffered strawberry ice cream cone spurned, melted and crushed. It may be 'funny' because he is so 'innocent' and she is so nakedly 'audacious' with the use of her power.

Max, the other banker (ex-banker, we learn) and his wife Sara, laden with a standing lamp and lots of shopping bags stumble upon this other couple and uncomfortably join them for a moment or two in the park. The four way conversation develops into barely hidden hostility (toxic sometimes) of a personal and professional kind, accompanied with some stuffed goose pate on dry biscuits, supplied by Sara. Max is falling apart with his loss of power and past rivalry with Amy (maybe combusted and stoked by his feelings of humiliation at losing out to Amy in the world of investment banking in the office), whilst Sara is relatively - deliberately or not - fairly unconcerned with the real world - reminiscing of her riding horses and it's fond connection to her seduction of Max, and for her home with the veranda, tree and tulip garden.

Nothing much happens in the 80 minute playing time except the revealing of some nasty or deluded people who having created one of the great financial scandals of all time seem to be coping as best they can in the ever failing promise of the American Dream - some coping ferociously, some ignorantly, some despairingly, some self-consciously in a deliberate state of denial.

All the company of actors give solid performances, with Dorje Swallow and Nikki Britton particularly acute and expert in their comic (satiric) creations. The Design of the park (tree and grass) by Isabel Hudson, lit by Christopher Page, with atmospheric Sound Design by Ben Peirpoint, Directed, confidently by Nell Ranney provide a comfortable night in the theatre with playwriting of some promise. It doesn't quite make it, either as satire, comedy or critique. It is a big stretch indeed as to whether one should have feelings of empathy for anyone in this world of SHE RODE HORSES LIKE THE STOCK EXCHANGE - they, it seems to me, deserve everything that has happened.

In denial, Sara, lays down on the picnic blanket and pulls out a book entitled STRIP FOR MURDER, whilst defeated Max goes off to fetch them an ice cream with their last bit of money: "Don't worry about tomorrow. Spend all your money on ice cream. It's a beautiful day." 'Oh yeah',  one thinks, 'for whom?'

On the other hand the film 99 HOMES written in 2014, too, by Ramin Bahrani (also Directed) and Amir Naeri, with Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield and Laura Dern may give you another point-of-view of the GFC that will shake you into a proper state of outraged perspective.

Monday, October 23, 2017

A View From The Bridge

Red Line Productions presents, A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, by Arthur Miller, at the Old Fitz Theatre, Wooloomooloo. 18 October - 25 November.

Sitting in the Old Fitz Theatre in a newly configured traverse space with only a blond wooden floor between my audience companions on the other side, and the lighting changes – a suited figure begins to talk to us (the leader of a chorus?) – a man we come to know as Lawyer Alfieri (David Lynch) – introduces us to the situation and premise of the play in an extremely direct way (no expositional time wasting here). We learn quickly what is at stake in A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE. We absorb it carefully and take it into an unbroken two hour contract of playtime.

Within minutes, of the performance commencement, one can feel (see) a comfort ripple cross the audience that affects on it an open relaxation - a naked vulnerability - to attend to the action with a secure trust that this writer has authority - we intuit, swiftly, that we are in the presence of a master playwright/storyteller, in 'safe hands', and in this case, they are the hands of one of the Greats of the American Theatre, Arthur Miller.

Miller with skill and respect allows us to re-experience our childhood hunger to know what happens next (remember squirming with curiosity wondering 'What happens to Snow White next?') Of this story it is obvious to us, almost instantaneously, that the longshoreman Eddie Carbone is going to get into 'trouble' if he keeps doing what he is doing, and we observe that he is so possessed with an urge so primitive that he cannot stop what he is doing, and that nobody can stop him from doing it. He is a bullish Sicilian patriarch. The Greek Kindly Ones (the Eumenides) have found a chink in his human nature and they will not let him go until he is destroyed. One knows from the beginning more or less what is likely to be the end of this journey. What Miller has done is to intrigue us not so much with the WHAT happens but HOW it happens.

Miller gives us a story that mesmerises us into a gathering stupor of breathtaking dread and, as well, which is not always given by our contemporary writers, the pleasure of living for two hours in a moral universe. A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE is a play that is like a gulp of fresh air (as was, for me, seeing Ibsen's GHOSTS, at Belvoir), a respite from moral and political relativism. Miller is clear and secure in his moral stance, as shocking as it maybe, and its power is as relevant in 2017 in Sydney as it was in 1955/56 America and Europe. It shakes one up and leaves one in a shocked state of awe, just as we are when Ibsen's Hedda Gabler does something at the end of her journey - shoots herself - for people don't do that kind of thing. What Eddie Carbone does at the end of this play ordinary people just don't do.

Eddie Carbone (Ivan Donato) has brought up his wife Beatrice's (Janine Watson) niece, Catherine (Zoe Terakes) with great care. We are introduced to their relationship swiftly and despite that Catherine is now a young blossoming adult we see Eddie holds her a little too close. When two Sicilian illegals, Marco (David Soncin) and Rodolpho (Lincoln Younes), other relatives of Beatrice, are given harbour in their Brooklyn apartment and jobs from the 'Organisation' on the Red Hook waterfront, a sexual tension of an unbearable kind is fanned into a conflagration. Eddie feels his power over Beatrice and Catherine dwindle, his 'reputation' on the docks disrupted with the presence of Rodolpho, and when unable to find a way to subdue his gathering 'furies' is confronted with his own unconscious nature, trapped viscerally by his emotions, he recognises a 'personal' betrayal of himself, that leads him to an act of betrayal that is an unconscionable 'tribal' taboo, for it menaces the whole fabric of their little society down there under the Brooklyn Bridge. Fate decrees that this imperfect man, if he wishes to find some honour, must reach for an act of redemption. The redemptive act he chooses is the stuff of tragedy. The idea of a man fulfilling in extremis his destiny, as the heroes of the Greek theatre did, in modern times, is absolutely compelling. And so it gruesomely is in Arthur Miller's A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE in the hands of Iain Sinclair's production at the Old Fitz. Arthur Miller said,"However one may dislike the man, who does all sorts of dreadful things, he possesses and exemplifies the wondrous and humane fact that he too can be driven to what in the last analysis is a sacrifice of himself for his conception, however misguided, of right, dignity and justice."

Arthur Miller heard of this true story while researching a film script, THE HOOK (1951) - which was never made - and he was oddly struck with the juxtaposition of the modern traffic crossing the Brooklyn Bridge ignorant and passing over this area below where this Greek drama was taking place and no-one ever thought about it. It is a view from that bridge. His 'homework' for his film helped him capture a specific time and place that permits not only his own personal voice but also the character's individual voice, turn of phrase - for instance, the language of Eddie and the language of Alfieri is pointed in slightly different directions, thus granting them an authentic presence and a fuller life. This language and atmospheric vibrancy of observed truth vibrates insistently throughout the play.

And, too, Arthur Miller, at the time of writing was caught up in the personal 'betrayal' of his own wife, Mary, and family, as he re-ignited his affair with Marilyn Monroe - later to become his second wife - and also in the public tribal betrayals from friends such as Lee J. Cobb and Elia Kazan for their testimonies to the House Committee on Un-American Activities under the behest of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Betrayal was painfully present in the conscious day-to-day life of this writer. He was writing from what he knew and in hindsight he said with an agony of knowing guilt.

The play is so well written that all the Director need do is to keep his actors and himself in open communication with what is written on the page and allow the writer to speak for himself. Iain Sinclair does this and on these bare wooden floorboards with just a chair and a knife lets his well chosen company of actors get on with telling the story. The combination of all the collaborators of this production are impeccable in their contributions. It is an exciting time in the theatre.

Ivan Donato is cast as Eddie Carbone, and is simply magnificent, courageously insightful and raw in his portrayal, shattering - the fact that he is some fifteen years or more too young for this role, and one misses the physical maturity and heft (I last saw this play on Broadway with Mark Strong), a sign of this actor's 'genius' is that it is no obstacle to our utter belief in every moment he has on stage (given this performance, what as and when will, we see him next? anything, based on this performance it seems, is possible, if given the opportunity). This is true as well of Janine Watson as his wife, Beatrice, who is cast considerably older than her actuality - one just wishes she were a little more 'latin' and less 'presbyterian' in her reading. On the other hand Zoe Terakes, in a theatre debut performance (she is still at school), gives a performance of some physical truth as Catherine, but it does not as yet have the life insight or technical range to provide the contrast of the innocent child sexuality with Eddie, burgeoning into Catherine's lust filled bride awakening with the arrival of Rodolpho. That, from Catherine, is especially pivotal to the action of the play. David Lynch is clear if a trifle too careful as Alfieri and maybe just a little too emotionally involved as the lawyer/narrator of this story. David Soncin gives another tremendous performance as Marco, the older brother of honour (remember his work in THE HOUSE OF RAMON IGLESIA or, earlier this year in THE JUDAS KISS]?), whilst Lincoln Younes is physically impressive and has the instinct for Rodolpho if not the emotional plumbing for the complete affective power of this gifted charismatic man, a man with a different kind of masculinity that make him a disturbing subject for homoerotic desire - it can sometimes sit a little too much on the surface. Giles Gartrell-Mills as Louis, creates a dimension of reality that helps anchor the world of the play with a fairly thankless set of opportunities. But, this is nick-picking, for this Ensemble is giving a brilliant night in the theatre, with Arthur Miller's play.

For here with this vibrating ensemble, led by Mr Donato's performance, scenes are indelibly imprinted into our psyches, one after another: Eddie's fear of Catherine finding a job, the singing of 'Paper Doll', Beatrice pleading with Eddie, Beatrice warning Catherine, the boxing match,the raising of the chair, Eddie's discovery of the lovers, Eddie's kiss with Catherine, Eddie's kiss with Rodolpho (brought gasps of shock), the terrible reckoning with Beatrice and the shocking sharpness of the climax.

A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE is a must see. Red Line at the Old Fitz delivering another remarkable night - you'd be an idiot to miss it.

Set Design is by Jonathan Hindmarsh; Costume Design by Martelle Hunt; Lighting Design by Max Cox; and Sound Design by Clemence Williams.


  1. The first version of A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE was presented as part of a double bill with A MEMORY OF TWO MONDAYS, on Broadway, in 1955. It was revised at the request of Peter Brook, for a London production in 1956. The poetry form for Alfieri was taken away and the roles of Beatrice and Catherine were especially expanded. This play and production had fallen foul of the Lord Chamberlain (the British censor), whose strictures made it necessary to turn the Comedy Theatre into a club before Peter Brook's production could be seen by the public. It is the revised version that is being presented at the Old Fitz - although as one act instead of two.
  2. It is interesting that two of the best nights in the theatre in Sydney at the moment come from the Independent Theatre Sector: A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, from Red Line at the Old Fitz and NO END OF BLAME*** by Sport For Jove at the Seymour Centre. They are both plays for real theatre goers.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Kitchen Sink

Photo by Prudence Upton
Ensemble Theatre presents, THE KITCHEN SINK, by Tom Wells, at the Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli. 14 October - 18 November.

THE KITCHEN SINK is a British play by Tom Wells, first shown at the Bush Theatre, London, in late 2011.

It is a domestic soap-opera concerning a very ordinary British provincial city family and some of their neighbourhood denizens, all facing life-making turning-points that will initiate necessary change and so the inevitable scary adjustments, be they economic, emotional, social, spiritual, or, all of the former. Changes that will require a leap of faith that will turn out OK. To leap into the dark and trust that the next dimension of the journey will be OK. It will be, will be, OK.

In a realistic meticulously Designed kitchen, by Set Designer, Charles Davis (clever work, indeed, as he has another aesthetic Design on show, on this stage, in this season of repertoire: BUYER AND CELLAR, as well), that includes a kitchen sink, that serves the writer as a metaphor: you know, the sink that has, over its 'life-span' worn out its parts and needs repair or, better, new parts to have a functional future. Wink, nod, prod: just like its owners.

Dad, the life-time career milkman, Martin (Huw Higginson), being made redundant in this modern world - who needs their milk delivered anymore?; Mum, Kath (Hannah Waterman) the home body, who now that the family is grown, experiments with new recipes that are not always appreciated; a gay son, Billy (Ben Hall), who wants to be an artist and happy, despite his penchant for an output of innocent kitsch - a portrait of Dolly Parton with sequins. Which is it to be for Billy: London (and stress) or, his familiar, safe, home ground?; an unhappy daughter, Sophie (Contessa Treffone) invested in martial arts as a career path to assist women and girls in a hostile world, despite her own aggressive social 'feistiness' that may derail those aspirations, unless she seeks help for a secret that she holds too close; and her shy, long suffering wooer, Pete (Duncan Ragg), who has the responsibility of his dying grandma, but also (metaphor alert) is a plumber - you know, someone who can fix kitchen sinks and best of all, loves doing it.

This play in a series of short scene vignettes is a bit like turning on your TV and lazily watching NEIGHBOURS or HOME and AWAY or EASTENDERS, or even, THE BILL (one of my guilty secrets.) It is set in/with a hugely comforting familiar location and subject matter, character types, and like the best of those TV soaps, is fairly well done. It makes no demands of you and is kinda mildly funny and, sub-terrainously, hugely reassuring because you know, beforehand, the punchline for every situation and character development and every family-oriented 'joke' - and you know, as you sit there, somehow intuitively, deep in your soul, to the depth of your reproductive gonads, know, that everything and everybody is sure to turn out alright. It is, as we vaguely recognise, a life lesson for us, the near comatose couch potatoes, to give us confidence to take that 'leap' when the need for change beckons us.

The Director, Shane Bosher, has done a great job in keeping this over familiar material kind of interesting. He does it with the assistance of a terrific Sound Design from Marty Jamieson, keeping the many scene changes charged with propelling distracting energy for our ears, and, a fun, flexible Lighting Design by Alexander Berlage, that, similarly, keeps our eyes occupied during the scene changes to distract us from glum thoughts or conversation with our companions about how ... , you know, you know, how ... this writing, this play is so ... you know, don't you?

Best of all, Mr Bosher achieves much by moving around the space, the cliche characters, of the writer's, by encouraging from all his skillful actors, character semaphores of gesture and thought with as much soul as they can mine - personalise. I, especially, found Duncan Ragg, and Ben Hall amusing and enjoyed their imaginative energies and simple honesty.

As you can tell, I am in my usual horse-for-courses dilemma, about this play, THE KITCHEN SINK, despite the skillful production. I kept wishing, if we had to go to this location (North Country, I think) and this kind of play, why, say, ummm ... Arnold Wesker wasn't in front of us - I longed for the Ensemble to have resurrected, pulled out, say, ROOTS, than to give us this rather sugar-coated feel-good pill.

Then, of course, we wouldn't have had Dolly Parton on stage, a patron saint, I think of this household in THE KITCHEN SINK - certainly, this family knew her lyrics as if they were hymns of survival. Some of us commented in the foyer after the show, as we dipped our strawberries into the chocolate fondue sauce, that the Ensemble seems to be a 'Temple of Camp' at the moment (and why not?) what with Barbra Streisand occupying so much attention in the other show in its repertoire: BUYER AND CELLAR.

My personal prejudice believes that Barbra beats Dolly hands down in this 'temple'. Go, to one or the other, or both, as you wish.

No End of Blame

Photo by Kate Williams

Sport For Jove Theatre Co. and Seymour Centre present, NO END OF BLAME, by Howard Barker, in the Reginald Theatre, at the Seymour Centre, Chippendale. October 12 - October 28.

Sport For Jove have taken on British playwright, Howard Barker's 1981 play NO END OF BLAME: Scenes of Overcoming.

Ideas plus entertainment can equal art.

Howard Barker writes plays that are robustly muscular in content (ideas!) and language usage (literate!). 'Challenging', might be a word to describe them. He calls his great catalogue of work: The Theatre of Catastrophe and since 1988 has run his own company: The Wrestling School to do his plays that most others won't. The National Theatre did produce SCENES FROM AN EXECUTION, not too many years ago, nothing else. Barker is still writing and has been since the early 1970's.

In Sydney we have rarely seen his work: THE LOVE OF A GOOD MAN; THE HANG OF THE GAOL; VICTORY, at the Sydney Theatre Company (Directed and starring Judy Davis); SCENES FROM AN EXECUTION, at Belvoir (starring Lindy Davies); WOMEN BEWARE WOMEN, at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (an adaptation of Thomas Middleton's play), Directed by Kate Cherry; whilst I Directed NO END OF BLAME, way back in 1983 for the New Theatre - I mean, how cutting edge were we? (How I would love to direct THE CASTLE).

His plays, usually, are connected to historical events. NO END OF BLAME, follows the lives of two Hungarian artists, one an internationally revered (feared!) political cartoonist: Bela Veracek, known as 'Vera' (Akos Armont), the other a painter, Grigor Gabor (Sam O'Sullivan). We meet them on the battlefields of the Austro-Hungarian Campaign, at the fag end of World War I, follow them into a near decade of Lenin and Stalin's USSR, then, to Great Britain throughout and after World War II, into the early 1970's.

Barker has contempt for 'messages' in the theatre, declaring he is not trying to influence anyone, instead proposing scenes that have no unified aim to response, rather giving us scenes that are complex, ambiguous and unstable, trusting that we will understand metaphors and not expect his theatre to be a place of literalness - he is famously, fascinated by contradiction. An audience cannot be comfortable with their identification of the characters in any of his plays' journeys, for Barker is more than likely to challenge your usual comfortable, first-impression middle class mode of reading a play or a character and categorising it or them (which, maybe why his theatre company is called "The Wrestling School"?!). His characters, his scene choices for his story, his subject matter, are not written to make it easy for you in the experience, doing all, whilst employing a pre-dominant view of the world that is essentially tragic. That 'tone' is not always a 'popular' choice (especially in Sydney). That tragic mode, though, liberates his language from banalities and returns 'poetry' (muscular poetry) to the speech of each of his creations. But be assured that he has a provocative sense of ironic and cultural humour to 'hook' you in, even though it is often coloured through a prism of sorrow. A sorrow for the follies of his fellow human beings. Of man repeating himself. Of man hopelessly flailing about with the aspirations of angels but with the 'pathetic' habits (needs) of animals.

This production is a major piece of work, amazingly 'built' by Sport For Jove (of the vibrant Independent Sector of the Sydney Theatre offerings), that is in production values equal too anything we have seen from the major companies this year. Damian Ryan, the Director has collaborated with Melanie Liertz to find a large, functional set and costume design solution to the many locations of the play spanning some six decades of history. They have also inveigled two contemporary cartoonists, Cathy Wilcox and David Pope, and artist, Nicholas Harding to illustrate - illuminate - with their creativity the projected background images for each of the scenes and its narrative. Fausto Brusamolino manages in the tight space of the Reginald Theatre to provide a Lighting Design to support the action of the play with avid sympathy and care for the projected images. Alistair Wallace has developed a Sound Design with atmospheric music (sometimes, too loud?) and sound effects.

This play written and performed originally with a company of nine men and three women, is, in this production performed by a company of eight , that attends with a conscious alertness to gender parity - one of the 'urgent' political developments of our contemporary scene - with four men and four women. It works seamlessly and rewards the actors (especially the women), and the audience, with stimulating challenges of intellectual adjustment. The decision to have only eight performers makes for heavier demands on all the actors who, besides, having the responsibility of creating and 'inhabiting' the 'life forces' of almost sixty characters of the play, also, are complicatedly involved with the multiple and immense scene changes. This company is heavily and vitally tasked to bring this play to its audience.

One intuits the energy and commitment of this set of collaborators to Howard Barker's vision in NO END OF BLAME. It can be a major strength that sweeps the audience into the experience, though it, on opening night, did give, to some of us, the appearance of an over zealous urge to point out solutions (messages) - a kind of limiting, earnest didacticism contrary to the intentions of Barker in each of the scenes of overcoming. Instead of trusting us, the audience to be immersed in its contradictions, its ambiguities - 'stewing' in it, finding it for ourselves. (The nervousness of the actors, the adrenalin so obviously 'pumping', sometimes gave the work a sense of it coming from a 'missionary' pulpit - Jesuitical in its certainty of clarity - of its importance!)

The passion of the actors for their solutions to their character and the realistic dilemmas that they find themselves in, sometimes squeezed out the 'cultural' comedy written with Barker's usual merciless irony. Was it a fear of creating, playing, caricature, perhaps?, that unbalanced the effect of Barker's constructed affects, for with study you will find that this use of irony is one of the strengths of Barker, in most of his plays. There are so many 'heavy' ideas going on in the play (all his plays), that any production does need to give the writing's levity room to breathe more luxuriously. It is, I believe a necessary theatrical relief for any of his plays to be a bearable night in the theatre - it reminds one of the argument that Chekhov, the Writer, always had with Stanislavski, the Director, about whether his plays were comedies or dramas. NO END OF BLAME could be funnier in the experience of this production.

Each actor has found a sound ensemble support for each other's work whilst also having moments of individual achievement: Lizzie Schebesta in her moments with ILona and her verbal desires in the park with her two men; Bryce Youngman, with his cartoonist, Mik; Angela Bauer with her life class model, Stella; Amy Usherwood in every offer she gives - it is very exciting work - especially her Ludmilla and Kenny; Danielle King, especially, in her first scene as Bobbi Stringer; Sam O'Sullivan, vivid in his work as Grigor (the painter) and in his appearance in the English newspaper scene - his is a central performance that helps to focus the scenes he is present in. Akos Armont, as Bela, is boldly brave but too often becomes belligerently bellicose in his energy efforts in every scene he is in - it is an amazing commitment  but it lacks a sense of arc judgement, there seems to be little deliberation of choice for restraint - a careful gradation of effort from scene to scene. Sometimes the emotional effort, complicated with the dialect work smothers verbal clarity. The performance becomes an endurance of admiration but is wearying in its consistent, relentless overwhelming effort - sameness. Less maybe more.

Bela Veracek, (inspired, partly, on the career of Victor Weisz, known as 'Vicky'), who embraces the craft of the political cartoonist, making quick art: "Dries quick, speaks quick, hurts", triumphant when "I stirred the police, (and) therefore I touched the truth" is caught in the paradox of the incongruities of the freedom of expression for the artist. Barker in NO END OF BLAME reveals the disabling of the truth speakers in the interest of the need for ideological government of society, for the good of that society, whether it be under communism or capitalism, where ideas of 'responsibility' counts more than freedom or even honour.

Sport For Jove brings another charged production of a play of ideas and poetry. Worth seeing - recommended, especially for the serious theatre goers.