FUSER Production present INTACT, Devised work by Cecile Payet, Emily Yalli, Sabrina Muszynski, at the Woodburn Creatives Redfern, 1 Woodburn St. Redfern. 26th May - 27th June.
Thursday, July 1, 2021
|Photo by Robert Catto|
Thursday, June 17, 2021
|Photo by Prudence Upton|
Sydney Theatre Company presents, GRAND HORIZONS, by Bess Wohl, at the Roslyn Packer Theatre, Hickson Rd The Rocks. 7th June - 3rd July.
I thought, as I sat in the Roslyn Packer Theatre on the Opening Night that GRAND HORIZONS, has a set of characters mirroring the highly successful 9 seasons, 210 episodes, television sitcom, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND (1996-2005 : two elder parents who are abusive and abused - in our case 80 year old Nancy (Linda Cropper) and husband Bill (John Bell), two competitive brothers - in our case married, harried Ben (Johnny Nasser) and hysteric gay son Brian (Guy Simon), and a wife - in our case a very pregnant, patient one called Jess (Zindzi Okenyo). The play has two guest spots to enliven the family interactions, in our case a young gay pickup (James Majoos) for our uptight Brian who is taught a few surprising things about his internalised homophobia and the 'girlfriend', 'floozy' (Vanessa Downing), that Bill has met at his Standup comedy class who is in much sympathy with Nancy who has weathered Bill all this time. Ms Wohl's company of characters are familiar and very comfortable to be with.
Nancy and Bill go through the habit/ritual of preparing to eat the evening meal - a choreographic dance for the huma-trons. After chewing, 80-year old Nancy asks for a divorce, Bill chomps, and, calmly, gives it. Divorce ON. The sons are just panicked-spare at the news while Jess offers stock new age guides to calm them down. The big woofs of laughter come from the revelations of 80-year old mum's sex life and her flagrant use of 'potty' language to talk about cunnilingus and the use of clittorial vibrators - "How shocking - how hilarious!" - and Bill's woeful standup comic jokes about 4 nuns and St Peter and curmudgeon sling-off's at everybody around him, at the over-the-top whinings of Brian, the grossly grotesque gay hysteric Drama teacher son, Brian, backed up by a similar overworked lawyer brother, Ben, who feels massively under-appreciated (they could be the Crane brothers from Frasier - two closeted 'straight'/gay men!)
Now, I'm not denying that there are regular laughs going-on, some of the audience were highly entertained. But why they would pay $89 or $67 to watch this down there on Hickson Rd when they can see it free to air every day on Channel 11 Bold, I don't know. Director Jessica Arthur has encouraged an enlarged facsimile of the Broadway Helen Hayes Design, more or less, from Renee Mulder - this retirement apartment in the Grand Horizons building for the STC is sooo large - the floor plan is huge, the height to the ceiling is gigantic and every nook and cranny is visible in the white blaze of light ( bright light for comedy, so they tell me) from Verity Hampson. One wonders the Budget cost for such extravagance - it could probably cover the costs of 5 or 6 independent theatre productions! Ms Arthur has adapted the play to a Sydney location and employed the Australian accent to deliver the American rhythms and word sounds (I assume the author Ms Wohl has given permission, and not just a gross appropriation of another artist's work or culture) and deftly moves the actors across the space and manages the sensational act one curtain with great aplomb.
Linda Cropper is astonishing. Her characterisation is marvellously observed and delivered and seems to be able to make so much TV dialogue dross, a kind of verbal Gold.
Is there not an Australian comedy out there? I recently attended the reading of Joanna Murray-Smith's THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES, which I don't believe has been professionally seen in Sydney. And if we are going international, I might encourage the curators of our season repertoire at the STC contact the people at the local Outhouse Theatre Company and get a few tips for they seem to read the international reviews and the new pertinent plays: GLORIA, THE FLICK, JOHN, ULSTER AMERICAN, a recent choice. THE SEVEN METHODS OF KILLING KYLIE JENNER, is another contemporary play produced at the Eternity Theatre, Darlinghurst, by The Darlinghurst Theatre Company and Green Door Theatre Company, that seems to have escaped the door keepers at the STC who curate their season/s work
If the Sydney Theatre Company (STC) regards itself as the leading theatre company in Australia, can you imagine its equivalents in London: The National Theatre of Great Britain (or Scotland, for that matter), or The Royal Court, can you imagine these leading National Theatre companies presenting GRAND HORIZONS on their stages?
I meditate - agitate - that QUESTION: ... ... Not bloody likely!
Come on STC, leave this play to the Genesians, the amateur theatre down in Kent St. Become what the present sparks may call AWOKE!
GRAND HORIZONS, is a slick professional production of a play for the comatose.
|Photo by Jeff Busby|
Junkyard Dog Productions and Rodney Rigby present COME FROM AWAY, with Book, Music, and Lyrics David Hein and Irene Sankoff, at the Capitol Theatre, Campbell St Haymarket. 3rd June…
On September 11, 2001, the world stopped when two planes flew into the Twin Towers in New York and in some targets in Washington. As recalled in the program notes for this performance:
In a heartbeat 38 planes with 6,579 passengers were stranded in a remote town in Newfoundland and the locals opened their hearts and homes hosting this international community of strangers - spurring unexpected camaraderie in extraordinary circumstances. On September 12, 2001, their stories moved us all.
COME FROM AWAY, uses 12 actors in a no-interval production to tell the stories of the passengers on a plane landing at Gander in Newfoundland, and also playing the people of Gander who associate and befriend these unexpected visitors. Using the theatre traditions/techniques of the theatre-in education (TIE) passed down and re-configured from the traditions of German practitioners of early last century such as Erwin Piscator and Bertold Brecht, Director, Christopher Ashley, and Choreographer in charge of the Musical Staging, Kelly Devine, manages the techniques and the actors into a very slick ensemble that as well reveal through detail-packed gesture of voice and body to create many different characters, swiftly and accurately. Add the contribution of the Musical Supervision, Ian Eisendrath, for this sung-through musical theatre with the colour of folk music and we have a concentrated entertainment that tells us of the basic 'goodness' of some humans facing shattering events of contemporary history.
COME FROM AWAY, is a deserving winner of many theatre Awards and this Australian production is a first rate heart warming time spent in the Capitol Theatre. Zoe Gertz, Sharrrriese Hamilton, Douglas Hansell, Kolbe Kindle, Philip Lowe, Simon Maiden, Sarah Morrison, Ash Roussety, Alana Tranter, Kathleen Moore and Jasmine Vaughns were the artists that delivered a knock-out ensemble work.
The Set Design is simply designed for general visual support for all the locations required, it is by Beowulf Boritt, supported by the Lighting design of Howell Brinkley. Costume Design is by Toni-Leslie James.
I can recommend COME FROM AWAY with enthusiasm and encourage parents and family of a sophisticated age to GO see it.
Monday, June 14, 2021
|Photo by Richard Farland|
Outhouse Theatre Company and the Seymour Centre present, ULSTER AMERICAN, by David Ireland, in the Reginald Theatre, at the Seymour Centre, City Rd Chippendale. 13th May - 2nd - 9th June (extended season).
Friday, May 21, 2021
|Photo by Teniola Komolafe|
Darlinghurst Theatre Company and Green Door Theatre Company present SEVEN METHODS OF KILLING KYLIE JENNER, by Jasmine Lee-Jones, at the Eternity Theatre, Darlinghurst. 17th April - 15th May (an extended season).
SEVEN METHODS OF KILLING KYLIE JENNER, is a 2019 play, by Jasmine Lee-Jones. It premiered at the London based ROYAL COURT THEATRE - a theatre company that is a factory (meant in a complimentary way) producing some of the best new work that there is to see. If we are ever are able to get over to London again in our lifetime, this is a theatre that should always be on your list of must attend no matter what is showing. (In fact, I advise, no matter what you have read from the British critics, go. The standard of work is always impressive even if the particular production is regarded as a dud. The Australian stage, rarely, reaches that quality of presentation we see over there. It is always rewarding somewhere, somehow.) With the available National Theatre productions the quality of work one can see in London is immensely impressive and, mostly, awe inspiring.
The National Theatre can be seen on the Net, so, some of the Royal Court repertoire can also be seen. The productions are also screened in the Art House Cinemas: The Palace and the Dendy.
SEVEN METHODS OF KILLING KYLIE JENNER, after reading the London reviews, seemed to be an impossible wish to see in Sydney. It is written for two black female Londonites: Cleo (Moreblessing Maturure) and Kara (Vivienne Awosoga), arguing in a difficult regional dialectical demand debating black politics, and using a youthful cultural entry point of the twittter/internet sphere. All this may have presented as obstacles for attempting to produce this play in Sydney as an Independent Production. Darlinghurst Theatre Company and Green Door Theatre Company were not deterred. Bravo their courage.
A twitter announcement from Kylie of the Kardashian/Jenner cultural juggernaut as the cause of triumphalism as the first self made billionaire infuriates a low earning citizen, Cleo, to retaliate with a reply that burgeons a dynamic lighting up of the 'gadgets' of contemporary communication. Cleo's best friend Kara joins her at Cleo's small flat/home where the 'twitter war' ignites a cauterising battle of political ethics that are at once, universal, and personal, between the two women. Covering, amongst much else then just colour/race, blackness, feminism and queerness, the play becomes a crucible of hot confrontation and telling of truths that flay the two women to the central core of their joint beliefs - challenging their friendship. Kara is forced to leave the friendship, and standing alone, Cleo must confront the pedestal that she has placed herself on. The play is brilliant in its furious argument, a stimulant for intellectual awakenings and compassionate empathies, rawly exposed for the characters and, I believe, for the audience. The play, I must add, is a comedy as well as a confrontation - bracingly funny.
SEVEN METHODS OF KILLING KYLIE JENNER, in this jubilant, bold production by Shari Sebbens is the best theatre that I have sat through in ages. It is a theatrical, intellectual cyclone of energetic thoroughness that makes one feel that the theatre is not dead as a contemporary means to stir an audience to thought, word and hopefully, deed.
Now, reading some other reviews of this production it has been interesting to see the authors declare their cultural age/heritage in assessing this play, to justify their owning and loving the material, treading delicately around the social appropriation, by them, (HA!) for having enjoyed it so much. I have to declare that I'm an elder of the tribe, an old, near dead white guy, who has passionately pursued his life goals and is quietly satisfied, and I wish to declare my identification with the conversation action of this play. I am unequivocal in my love of it.
This text had a third character on the stage : a live action video by Wendy Yu that vitally flashes the internet conversations in their encrypted language and emoji images, above the stage, accompanied by an adept Sound Design by Kim "Busty Beatz" Bowers, both, helping to sustain a flow of energy that ensnared our concentration. It was no matter that I had to 'learn' what was going on above my sight lines, for while I sat there, I became a quick learner - because the energy of this production made me to want to be in the know, not to be left ut of it or behind. Nor did the fact that the dialect used by Ms Maturure was almost, to begin with, a foreign language, to my ear, for, similarly, I gradually 'tuned' in, and I used the distinctive contemporary cultural gestural offers that both the women used, as an accompanying tool to assist in my translating. Nothing much was lost in translation - though I saw this production late in its season and I wished - wish - I could see it again.
The Set and Costume Design by Keerthi Subramanyam, fitted this space as best I have seen it used, lit well by Kate Baldwin.
Both Ms Maturure and Ms Awosoga, as individual artists and as a comic duo - ensemble - were brilliant in all their courageous flamboyances. Ms Sebbens should and ought to take great credit for her whip smart, daring Direction. Jasmine Lee-Jones was brought to life with assuredness to bring contemporary theatre life in Sydney into the next age. This production should find a further extension. I, personally, have many, many theatre going friends who missed it in this first showing and I would like them to be able to see it and grow. I, definitely, want to see it again.
It is interesting to see that the Royal Court has announced that a revival of SEVEN METHODS OF KILLING KYLIE JENNER will be the opening production of the Theatre after the long stop hiatus caused by Covid 19.
Bring it back to Sydney. We can learn from its urgency.
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
|Photo by Brett Boardman|
Griffin Theatre Company presents, DOGGED, by Andrea James and Catherine Ryan, at the SBW Theatre, Darlinghurst/Kings Cross. 30th April - 3rd June.
|Photo by Prudence Upton|
Ensemble Theatre presents, HONOUR, by Joanna Murray-Smith, at the Ensemble Theatre Kirribilli. 23rd April - 5th June.
HONOUR, by Joanna Murray-Smith, is a 'war-horse' in the canon of Australian Dramatic Literature, for we have seen several productions of this play over the years since its inaugural production in 1995 at the Playbox in Melbourne. Kate Champion is the Director of this present offering. Ms Murray-Smith in her program notes talks fondly of this play and suggests it may be the best of her work. Certainly, its success in Australia and Internationally might, also, verify that thought.
I have always thought that Ms Murray-Smith was one of Australia's leading playwrights despite an infamous time when Ms Murray-Smith was represented only by this play on our professional stages in Sydney, but times have changed, and despite the fact that much of her repertoire has not appeared in professional production here in Sydney still, plays such as her SWITZERLAND have found honour on Sydney stages and thrilled us with her wit, acuity and sensitive eye and mind for her social and political critique of our times.
This play concerns George (Huw Higginson), a successful literary figure married to Honour (Lucy Bell), who gave up her own literary aspirations as a young poet, to care and facilitate her husband's career, and nurture their daughter, Sophie (Poppy Lynch). And after 32 years of marriage abandons it for a younger woman, Claudia (Ayeesha Ash), a brilliant student of his. It is, as Ms Murray-Smith herself asserts, not a very original story. It is one that we have seen and heard before.
In HONOUR, however Ms Murray-Smith, in a brilliant collection of two-handed scenes allows each of these intimates in this familiar domestic tragedy, to argue passionate points of view that allows us, the audience, to be enthralled by the harrowing verbal thrash for these relatively sophisticated persons in search of reason and survival.
In this small space at the Ensemble Theatre, I found the play was revealed to me with much more clarity than ever before, and this was despite the weakness in the casting of Ms Ash, as Claudia, who seemed to me to lack both the physical and intellectual lust of this recklessly ambitious woman who chameleon-like can shape shift her actions with such blade-sharp accuracies to justify her actions throughout her encounter with this family. A clever family that becomes devastated.
Mr Higginson creates a brilliant, elder man helplessly entranced by a youthful siren who can sing and dance the right tunes of flattery to cause him to abandon easily, ruthlessly, all his good sense and life balance for us to suspect that it was always a veneer that cloaked a cruel streak of cold-hearted selfishness cured in misogyny. Beside him, Ms Bell radiates a woman of much hidden strength and ultimate goodness as she navigates the wreckage of her life to arrive at an end that is independent and heading for blossoming fulfilment. It is a warmly intelligent reading of the role. Too, Sophie, has cause to grow up swiftly in a tempestuous sea of moral challenges, that are wonderfully juggled by Ms Lynch in scenes that are mostly of a fragile delicacy of uncharted discovery.
Higginson, Bell and Lynch, are marvellous, attractive to observe.
The set by Simone Romanuik does not serve the actors comfortably on its different levels that are sharp edged and squashed, nor does it successfully convey a metaphor to enlarge the content or environments of the play with its Ikea-like unfinished chipboard colours, despite the gesture of the tower of shelves of books (that, with thought during the night, appear to be mostly inaccessible). Damien Cooper lights this space as empathetically as this design allows. While the composition of the music and structure of the Sound Design by Nate Edmondson is sensitive and resonant.
HONOUR, at the Ensemble was an okay night, rescued by wonderful acting by Higginson, Bell and Lynch, and despite the weakness in the casting of Claudia the catalyst of the play's raison d'etre.
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
|Photo by Brett Boardman|
Belvoir present STOP GIRL, by Sally Sara in the Belvoir Street Theatre Upstairs. 20th March - 25th April, 2021.
STOP GIRL, is a new Australian play, by a Wakley-award winning journalist for the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC), Sally Sara. It is her first play and it tackles the story of Suzie who is a journalist working in the world conflict hot spots of Afghanistan, Iraq etc. Suzie could be a doppelgänger of the writer.
On a Set by Robert Cousins, that is virtually an open space with 'symbolic' objects that serve the utilitarian requirements of the action of the 90-minute play without interval, has on the back wall a large screen that facilitates video support for showing images of suffering and the atrocities of war, of the ordinary people of those war torn locations. The images display action that Suzie (Sheridan Harbridge) and a friend and fellow journalist Bec (Amber Mc Mahon), experience while preparing a story on Suzie's career for a Sydney magazine, together - Suzie responds to the present dangers of war shown in images accompanied by a penetrating soundscape, with the coolness of the oblivion of the familiar whilst Bec, in her virgin state, responds with horror and true fear.
Both women return to Australia to live their lives in the safety of that country. Images continue to appear on the screen accompanied by the sound intrusions, but now they are exclusively those of memory for Suzie (and a storytelling gesture for us, the audience). Bec is in contrast divorced from her solo experience of being in a war zone, comfortable with the environs of Sydney, home, and becomes puzzled by Suzie's disintegrating behaviour.
Other contrasting reactions are given via Atal (Mansoor Noor), an aide of Suzie's in war, who now has, as a refugee, brought his family to Australia and reflects, gratefully, the 'oddness' and stress of accommodating to that, in contrast to Suzie's carefree responses to the same familiar Australian occurrences; and, more significantly, the personal dialogues between Suzie and her Mother, Marg (Toni Scanlon). This relationship becomes is the pivot of the play and gradually blends the traumas of war with the traumas of ordinary family life, with Suzie's accumulating paralyzing sense of guilt at her absence of presence during the family's crises, culminating with her sense of guilt over the death of her father and her inability, so far, in dealing with his wishes, his ashes. The play suggests that her father's ashes spread will unblock some of Suzie's mental health issues.
This play brings to the audience a confronting case of Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder (PTSD), made all the more confronting because it is written by a well-acknowledged 'daughter' of our community who has served us as a television journalist in places of conflict around the world over a long career. Sally Sara, has become a member of all our 'families'. This play is stressful in its distant war revelations, but becomes a truly poignant piece of common grief when Suzie's story touches the personal element of what it is to be human, with the death of her father and the dealing with his wishes. It is something which we all must go through.
For me, this production was pleasing especially because most of the actors featured in the event of telling the story are actors who have worked regularly and consistently of quality in the outer fringe of the Sydney acting scene, and I was grateful to see Deborah Galanos (psychiartrist) on a main stage; Mansoor Noor in his usual intelligent, flawless and engaging reveal of the Afghan, Atal; and Toni Scanlon giving a great support with both true comic and dramatic sensibilities as the mother, Marg to the protagonist of the play. All three of these actors are deserving of this opportunity given by the Belvoir Company and Anne-Lousie Sarks, the Director. These actors are welcome on this main stage and have, honestly, earned their 'stripes' to be there. Amber McMahon is a regular on this stage and gives sterling support to the play's dramaturgical responsibilities demanded of her.
Sheridan Harbridge after many years of hard quality work in the fringes of the Sydney Theatre has begun to emerge into focus on our main stages after many years. On the Belvoir stage, THE SUGAR HOUSE*** and the musical CALAMITY JANE***, demonstrating her talented range of versatility in Dramatic work and Comic, which was significantly brought into devastating focus in the recent Griffin production of Suzie Miller's one person play PRIME FACIE*** (which will be reprised at the Seymour Centre, later this year - not to be missed). As in PRIME FACIE, Ms Harbridge takes on a confrontational journey of character as Suzie in STOP GIRL, one that demands an incredible emotional commitment that in actor's parlance and knowledge is a 'risky' and 'scary' one. The performance that Ms Harbridge gave here (at my sitting) was powerful but lacked a consistent depth of 'risk', there were times when one felt that the actor was skimming over the top of the need of the characterisation and so, was 'in and out' of the depth of the demands of the writer. The performance work was impressive but sometimes, relatively, shallow, a 'cheat' of the depth of emotional need. The tragedy of the play 'glowed' rather than 'glowered'.
The audience I was with were generously affected and gave warm applause at the curtain call.
STOP GIRL is an arresting first play dealing with an issue that needs urgent social and political attention .
N.B. Check out MUM, ME AND THE I.E.D*** another devastating account of PTSD in our returning warriors of war.
Saturday, April 17, 2021
|Photo by Brett Boardman|
Griffin Theatre Company present, IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THAT LADY? Created and Performed by Debra Oswald, at the SBW Stables Theatre, Darlinghurst. 13th - 24th April.
IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THAT LADY? is a single person, 90 minute monologue. Debra Oswald an Australian writer of 'plays' for the Theatre, Television, Film and Radio. She is also a Novelist. Born in 1959.
In a funny and excruciatingly honest one-woman show, Debra tells stories about her neurotic childhood, clumsy romantic history, and the anxieties and joys of the writer's life - all in the hope that the audience can help her work out that ever-important question: what comes next? ... (from the publicity blurb).
This elder Australian writer appears on stage in a simple costume of warm Autumnal colours and takes quiet command of the space of the SBW Stables stage and looking at all of us in the full lighting of the auditorium engages us in a journey through the fantasies and realities of a career as an Australian artist.The lighting arranged by Ben Brockman is the other excellent performer - relatively subtle in influence.
Standing, sitting, wandering around the space, occasionally sipping from a glass of water Ms Oswald entrances you into hearing the incredible journey of her life, the private and the professional. From the hypochondriacal depths of fantasy fed by commercial television as a child - MARCUS WELBY MD - where every week, consequently, she was suffering from some different tragic incurable disease, to the naive pursuits of a romantic and sexual life at University, and her encouragement to consider the life of a writer as the path she should follow at the age of 17 by none other than one of her theatrical heroes : John Bell.
She reminds us of her successes: I claimed DAGS (1987), BANANAS IN PYJAMAS (1992), GARY'S HOUSE (1996) and OFFSPRING (2010 - 2013) as my conscious touch-points with her output. There is much more that has found a life. And during the night she physically produces a tonnage of script, laid out on the floor of the stage, commissioned but never produced - a weight of lifeless paper. She talks of work sent to producers, theatre and otherwise, of characters and stories conjured joyfully from her imagination provoked by her acute observation of the world about her that has never had a life beyond that conception - of work sent and never even acknowledged as received by the gate-keepers to production, a rudeness that is accepted as part of the business etiquette. Ms Oswald shows the tribulation and pain of her striving as an artist. It demonstrates for the audience the reality of the life of a writer, in which the pain of rejection is the most prominent sauce. It may, also, by plain thinking, and comparable referencing present the general familiarity of any person who chooses the ARTS in any of its means of expression as a way of living. Rejection being the most common factor.
There is in the weaving employed by Ms Oswald, some moments of acute politics that protests, gently : e.g. one being of the obsession of our producers who are in pursuit of the emerging artist at the expense, the ignoring, of the experienced, the Elder of the Tribe, who knows that the wheel has been invented and knows how it is constructed and can be construed. Who actually can write plays and who have a track record of doing so. Elders who could, should, mentor the emerging youngster - you know like what used to happen in "the good old days".
This night at the Griffin, sensibly Directed by Lee Lewis, is so pleasant that I buried my negative prejudice about one person performance. This work, led by a raconteur of such self-deprecating style, is full of seductive humour and the means to have us identify to a point of absolute comfort. We, happily recognising the events where her life and ours have crossed paths (e.g. MARCUS WELBY M.D.), but, as well, her showing us without rancour or angry judgement some of the injustices/outrages of her profession.
Do go. It is a charming opportunity to gather with like-minded people and warm up to some of the reasons that make life worth living and provides some direction as to where to place our own battle fronts with the Artists of our time - with the famous and the occasion famous and those artists that have had no fame (or living) at all, but could make no other choice of career, could not do anything else. Those storytellers who quietly bleed for us - take an artist such as Van Gogh as an instance of suffering.
Ms Oswald has woven a little triumph.
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Disney Theatrical productions under the Direction of Thomas Schumacher present, FROZEN, The Broadway Musical, Music and Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopezz and Robert Lopez; Book by Jennifer Lee, at the Capitol Theatre, Sydney, Australia. 10 December, 2020 - Sunday 23rd May, 2021.
FROZEN, the Touring version of the Broadway Musical opened in Sydney at the Capitol Theatre just after the opening of PIPPIN at the Lyric Theatre. These two big musicals showing the way to the re-opening of the BIG theatres in the time of the Covid 19 Pandemic. Heroic and Hopeful.
The audience I sat with were an excited collection of fans of the Musical primed for the show, armed with their knowledge of the two FROZEN films, I supposed, for, whenever a song came or an interaction between characters, there was a sensation of emotional identification that had a sense of the rapture. Adoration and Devotion. I came to this latest development of the Franchise as a 'virgin' to the event. I knew nothing about FROZEN except, vaguely, the controversy of the possible 'gay' edge to one or two of the relationships in the show. Who knows? I just kept feeling the echoes of the sisterly rivalry between the 'girls' in the musical WICKED - and were they in taboo territory, too?
The content of the story was inspired by THE SNOW QUEEN by Hans Christian Andersen. The story is of two rival but loving sisters: Anna (Courtney Monsma) and Elsa (Jemma Rix) - one 'naughty' and full of tricks, the other subdued and 'majestic', bearing a sense of duty towards their three men Hans (Thomas McGuane), Kristoff (Sean Sinclair) and determined suitor, Weselton (Aljin Abela). There are also two puppet creatures contributing some theatrical 'magic' and the low comedy in the show: Olaf - the Snowman (Matt Lee) and Sven, the reindeer (either, Jonathan MacMillan or Lochie McIntyre).
The opening song heralds the formula of the show : a song boosted with energetic choreography (Rob Ashford) danced with gusto by "boofy" boys in 'hearty' cold climate costume (cuddle up and keep warm, a possible subliminal message) and smiley, robust young women in flaring skirts and ribbons around the maypole (cuddle up and see what can happen?), signalling the production to a be a little bit of a throw-back in time in that the visual offers and technology are kind of the old fashioned type (add the filmic 50's sensibilities and imagine, subversively), except for the lighting effects in the frozen ice imagery throughout the adventure - Lighting by Natasha Katz, Video by Finn Ross, Special effects Design by Jeremy Chernick. Set and Costume Design is by Christopher Oram.
This is a Disney tour re-staging of the original Broadway show and it is mostly a 'cookie-cutter' version of that without much creative input from the performers in this production - which is a fair and a regular carp from the artists here in Australia. There have been some sensational creative production from the Australian teams when they have had some freedom to do their own original version using the talents they have in hand, instead of been tied almost as stringed puppets to replicate the Broadway Show.
It is interesting that the Australian Director of this show Thomas Schumacher has cast young Aljin Abela in the role of the 'nerdy' suitor Weselton and permitted him to conceive his own characterisation from scratch. It comes from their trust that they explored in the creation of Iago in ALADDIN, as Director and Actor, it seems - for Mr Abela's performance was a manifestation remarkably different one from the original. It is a demonstration of Mr Schumacher's quote in the Sydney program notes: "a Broadway opening isn't the end of anything. It's a beginning." More power to that sentiment for the future transfers from Broadway to the Australian stage.
I did enjoy the spunk of Courtney Monsma as Anna and also signal my continued support of Blake Appleqvist as a potential star in his work as Oaken in the opening 'sauna' song of Act Two - his effortless physical and vocal brio was utterly charming.
FROZEN, The Hit Broadway Musical, is a fun, exuberant night in the theatre. One for the adults and especially the children - or, for those children who are now fanatical, nostalgic fans.
Sunday, March 21, 2021
|Photo by Kate Williams|
The Rogues Projects present, YOU'RE NOT SPECIAL, by Sam O'Sullivan, at the Kings Cross Theatre (KXT), with the bAKEHOUSE THEATRE. 5th March - 20th March.
YOU'RE NOT SPECIAL, is a new Australian work by Sam O'Sullivan, Directed by Samantha Young. This play follows up from Mr O'Sullivan's play THE BLOCK UNIVERSE. Both these plays have proved to be very interesting experiences and are exciting as Mr O'Sullivan's playwriting skills have grown promisingly from exposure to exposure.
YOU'RE NOT SPECIAL, introduces us to a couple Dan (Akira Ashraf) and Ellie (Kate Skinner), who have set up an apartment. Ellie has found a client who has her working digitally on-line, which gathers a demand with increasing pressure as the play moves through time. Dan, in the meantime, is spending his time on-line and becomes obsessed with a woman he has met called April-May (Ariadne Sgouros) - he stalks the April-May persona on-line, until he discovers her creator's real identity and goes so far as to coerce an actual live meet up with her.
The play takes us into a weird world where Dan has neglected his 'face-to face' partnership with Ellie, who genuinely needs his advice and care, whilst falling possessed by a digital identity that is an invention - a fiction - he goes so far as to propose marriage to the business woman behind the 'game' figure April-May at the expense to his relationship with Ellie. On meeting the inventor of April-May, Dan is confronted by the business woman, the owner of the April-May franchise, and is informed of all the 'contractual' legal issues surrounding the internet and the dangerous ludicrousness of his barrier intrusions - he is devastated.
Both Dan and Ellie are left bereft, her job lost, his fantasy exploded. YOU'RE NOT SPECIAL is an urgently cautionary tale for the present times. The play, however - despite the different ending - reminded me of the story, of the character of Theodore Twomby (Joaquin Phoenix), a writer who falls in love with his Artificial Intelligence avatar, Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), in the Spike Jonze 2014 film: HER.
The major problem with this production of this interesting play lies with Samantha Young's casting choices. Kate Skinner, one of the three 'pillars' of the work, gives an impassioned and empathetic life for Ellie as her world collapses about her under the pressure of the client she is working for. Ms Skinner serves Mr O'Sullivan's play well - emotionally and with intelligence to Ellie's arc of action and its consequences.
The problem for this production is in Ms Young's casting of the two other 'pillars' in this three handed work. Ariadne Sgouros gives an explosive and convincing life to her responsibilities in the last scene of the play. Unfortunately, she seems to have regarded her earlier opportunities as April-May cursorily - the second pillar of the work is therefore faulty - she is not a consistently visible presence or constructor of the narrative of Mr O'Sullivan's dramaturgy. It is an odd experience for the audience, for one has virtually switched off her offers only to be jolted to an attendance to the power of the character's closure through the actor's sudden commitment - it is too late. The acting demonstrates the skill of the actor in that last episode but she has undermined the play and its structure by the casualness of action in the earlier part of the play. Ms Sgouros' storytelling responsibilities to the writer are neglectful.
Akira Ashraf, a recent graduate from Acting School, at the performance I attended, had no physical life beyond a dexterity in the lower arm, wrist and hands - his body had no flexibility and no communicative instrumentality - he was, as my companion observed: "as stiff as a board " - his tall narrow back, which was positioned often in our seating eye line told nothing of his contribution as a storyteller. As well, he delivered his text on one high vocal note that was varied only by volume - loud or soft. This third pillar of YOU'RE NOT SPECIAL was nearly non-existent. And if two of the three 'pillars' of the work are not succeeding in telling the story, the play is damaged. The strength of the writing was obscured and the experience diminished.
The production was supported by Anna Gardiner with her Set and Costume Design. Lighting Designed by Martin Kinnane and the Sound Design by Kaitlyn Crocker.
YOU'RE NOT SPECIAL is an interesting play by Sam O'Sullivan damaged in this production experience by the lack of skills of two of the performers, under the direction of Samantha Young.
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
Flight Path present, WILD THINGS, by Suzanne Hawley, at the Flight Path Theatre, Addison Rd Marrickville, 3rd March - 20th March.
WILD THINGS, is a new Australian play by veteran writer Suzanne Hawley. It is a story of four female friends in their sixties. They are war babies that aren't boring old farts wearing twin-sets or pearls. Think Mick Jagger, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Janis intruding into a time of innocence of no sex education and where the rest of the world was filtered through the lens of Empire Day and the singing of the rousing "There'll always be an England". Where the life choices for the working class girls at school were deemed either Domestic or Commercial - for the University track was only for the boys - and the women's was to train to cook and clean for your man and have his babies.
Ms Hawley's Wild Things, Jackie (Di Smith), and her friends Frances (Katrina Foster), Elizabeth (Helen O'Connor) and Susan (Di Adams) we meet firstly as schoolgirls on an outdoor drawing class and revel in idealistic dreams for their future; with the blink of a costume change we are then whisked away to a weekend holiday at the near end of their arc of living where they remember their actual individual and collective paths. That cohesion of friendship and loyalty that embraces won and lost dreams is now challenged with the dilemma of the shift of one of them to the oncoming of the demands of dementia and the wish to a termination of life.
It is a real life situation that all of us are participating in, either in the first circle of pain, or in the many other circles of gradual diminishing intensity, where the distance of family origin gives space to experience it from a distance of emotional disruption. The good news is that this play embraces this 'conversation' with wit and, especially, grace. It is not an emotional endurance it is a charming, disarming circumstance.
Grace is the key word of my response. I see so much 'damaged' work on the Sydney Theatre stages - work that is damaged because the writing is not good enough; or of promising plays 'damaged' by bad acting; or 'damaged' by awful casting; by aspirational (incompetent) direction; or, by all of the aforesaid - believe me it is possible to have all of these problems effecting the one work.
This play, WILD THINGS has been nurtured over many years, coddled and cuddled by Di Smith and the late Penny Cook, and others. It appears to be ready to be seen. The subject content is of such a pregnant nerve in our present social discourse and like the 2018 play MUM, ME, AND I.E.D. by Jame Balian and Roger Vickery, dealing with the effect of P.T.S.D. on our men and women in the Armed Services, also nurtured in this theatre space, deserve to be seen on one of our main stages (Sydney Theatre Company or Belvoir).
So, on entering the Flight Path space and have this play so gently and carefully devised and written by Suzanne Hawley, inhabited by confident, grace filled actors of true experience, which they utilise - own - with modest strength, that one can, as an audience member, actually relax, breathe and are able to comfortably 'read' the offers given by the sophisticated actors who have created individual characters in an ensemble that seems to love and respect the play - the story - and the mode of storytelling that they have evolved with their director, Kim Hardwick, in the simple and spacious Design of Tom Bannerman, in Costume that assist character in an almost invisible way by Robert Bayliss. The Lighting Design has all the usual sensitivities that Martin Kinnane blesses every of his productions with - a creative figure under utilised by the major companies. While Patrick Howard creates a Soundscape that calls back the music that makes these women's bodies respond to movement that their body memories have held over decades of living to be summoned for usage in the authentic demands of the story telling of the time and space of these wild things.
These women are aided by 'Legendary' Lewis Fitzgerald (playing smoothly and generously a number of thankless functions and one or two sketches of men in the life of these women) and a new comer, Philip D'Ambrosio. This cast except for Mr D'Ambrosio are actors of much experience. This company is made up of old-school artists.
Do go to see WILD THINGS.
It is a beautiful play by Suzanne Hawley that deals with important contemporary issues with wisdom and true care delivered by a wonderful cast. There is much laughter.
Finishes on Saturday. Go.
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
The Ensemble Theatre present OUTDATED, written and Directed by Mark Kilmurry, at the Ensemble Theatre at Milson's Point. March 19th - 17th April.
OUTDATED is a new Australian work written and directed by the Artistic Director of the Theatre, Mark Kilmurry. It is a simple set of sketches that begin with a middle aged couple meeting to date over the internet.
We follow a 90-minute trajectory of the ups and downs of the relationship. It involves only two characters: Olivia, played competently and breezily by Rachel Gordon and Matt played by Yalin Ozucelik. Mr Ozucelik has a charming grasp of a pencil thin individual and is especially physically dexterous - his acrobatics are well worth enjoying.
Set and Costume Design is by Simon Greer. Lighting by Kelsey Lee. Sound Designer by David Grigg.
There is a sureness of laughter in OUTDATED but the play's structure and content is hardly cutting edge and does feel - I will say it : outdated. Severely outdated. It feels like a pitch for a comfortable waste of time television series, circa 1960-something - it is "ho hum diddly dumb" in 2021 in the atmosphere of a year long pandemic and the sex and corruption scandals surrounding our present governments.
OUTDATED feels like a hermitic bowl bringing us into another time to distract us. The concept and the writing needs more bite and reality.