Review: All Good Things (ATYP)

atypVenue: ATYP (Walsh Bay NSW), Feb 3 – 20, 2016
Playwrights: Michael J Cornford, Alberto Di Troia, Piri Eddy, Georgia Goode, Kirby Medway, Callum McLean, Gemma Neall, Rachel O’Regan, Morgan St. Clair, Ciella William
Director: Iain Sinclair
Cast: Simone Cheuanghane, Simon Croker, Martin Hoggart, Poppy Lynch, Moreblessing Maturure, Sarah Meacham, Alex Packard, Jonas Thompson, May Tran, Darius Williams
Image by Tracey Schramm

Theatre review (of a preview performance)
Ten short monologues are interwoven on an intimate stage, with ten young actors presenting a new generation’s perspective of where we are and where we are approaching. Through stories about adolescence, identity, sexuality and desire, we observe in All Good Things, the world’s evolution and we wonder about the things that change and those that remain the same. We conceive of the future as a time that will bear differences, yet human nature seems to be fundamentally immovable. The linearity of time misleads us into thinking that we leave everything behind, yet the truth seems to be that although we are ever-changing, we will never be anything other than human.

There is wonderful and starkly inspired writing to be found in this collection of plays. Each one individualistic, offering a wild range of styles and tones, from simple narratives that pack a punch, to poetic abstractions that affect with beguiling efficacy. Iain Sinclair’s direction provides an almost miraculous cohesion that allows us to absorb the fragments as a whole, manipulating our senses and emotions as though following a conventional theatrical plot. The format he creates attempts to bring an evenness to the disparate source material, but the more anecdotal pieces leave a greater impression. Callum Mclean’s Changing Room, Gemma Neall’s Jailbait and Morgan St. Clair’s Possession in particular, involving gender and strong sexuality, are captivating tales told intelligently.

The show features a talented and vibrant cast of youngsters from diverse ethnic backgrounds; a rainbow of skin and hair colours but all sharing a singular Australian-accented voice. Darius Williams is charming, confident and effortlessly engaging in the role of David in Piri Eddy’s Teeth. The wide range of emotion he portrays so convincingly, and his infectious humour make his performance a highlight of the production. In Rachel O’Regan’s Red Bull, May Tran depicts a girl cracking under the pressure of an examination, with marvellous precision and clarity. Poppy Lynch in Bright by Ciella William is daring, energetic and charismatic, and Jonas Thompson in Kirby Medway’s The Fuzz is a keen comedian with beautifully timed punchlines that any audience would find irresistible.

Through the wealth of talent on show here, we catch a glimpse of the things that really matter to our young artists. Not every work is deep or serious, but even when encountering moments of frivolity, we see honesty and commitment to their craft. The value of innocence has always been important in art, and on this occasion, we connect with that special quality that will always be rare in the oft too clever art form of theatre. Together with an excellent and thoughtful team of designers (Michael Toisuta’s sound design is stunning), Iain Sinclair has introduced a great deal of sophistication to the production, but the youthful effervescence of every artist is never subdued, and it is their idealism and their hopes that stay with us the strongest.

Review: Jack Of Hearts (Ensemble Theatre)

ensembleVenue: Ensemble Theatre (Kirribilli NSW), Jan 29 – Apr 2, 2016
Playwright: David Williamson
Director: David Williamson
Cast: Paige Gardiner, Christa Nicola, Peter Mochrie, Brooke Satchwell, Craig Reucassel, Isabella Tannock, Chris Taylor
Image by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
It is probably a common fantasy to have multiple lovers vying for one’s attention, so it is understandable that David Williamson would use the idea to spark his new play Jack Of Hearts. The quirk is that lead character Jack is a thoroughly ordinary man, with no substantial talents, wealth or looks to speak of. He is not a particularly kind or caring man, and as a middle-aged divorcee, it is quite a mystery that he thinks that three very attractive women would be desperate for his affections. Except, the play is not a mystery at all, not in the conventional sense at least. It is a straightforward and very old-fashioned comedy about Jack’s ridiculous delusions. Often unintentionally laughable, and frequently offensive to audiences with even the slightest of feminist sensibilities, this is certainly not a show for everyone.

Nevertheless, it is without question that there are those who will enjoy the confident and energetic rhythm of the production’s humour. Its thorough and determined need to entertain will be pleasing to some, especially those who are able to leave political correctness and intellect outside of the auditorium. Theatre should have no rules. It can be frivolous, shallow and rude if it chooses to be, and in fact, millions have been made from entertainment of this description. Jack Of Hearts is the kind of work that will have many detractors, but also many fans. It can be described in many words, but boring is not one of them.

The cast of comedians is well-rehearsed and spirited. Characters do not make much psychological sense, but the actors are able to convey a good level of authenticity in individual scenes to keep us engaged. Jack is played by Chris Taylor, whose energy sustains the surprisingly lengthy show. His charisma shines through in sections in which he performs stand-up comedy (to adversaries who attend on multiple nights, voluntarily subjecting themselves to humiliation for no good reason). It is a very animated performance by Taylor, and although a healthy dose of naturalism would help us identify better with his story, there is a remarkable clarity achieved in his quite nonsensical circumstances. Craig Reucassel is similarly vivid in his portrayal of Stu, the stereotypical Sydney cad who also finds himself in the middle of two women with mystifyingly low levels of self-esteem. Reucassel is naturally charming, with a quality of mischief that makes Stu as engrossing as he is intolerable. Brooke Satchwell does her best with the role of Denys, almost disregarding the complete illogic of all the character’s decisions, to deliver a performance that is consistently funny and very amusing. The actor’s irresistible flair is one of the show’s few highlights.

There are no likeable personalities in the play. These Australians are at worst repugnant, and at best, banal. Theatre is often a reflection of real life, but on this occasion, it is fortunate that nothing seems believable, and we can allow ourselves to think of the people in Jack Of Hearts as entirely fictitious and thus form a disassociation. It however, cannot be overlooked that women continue to be accessories in many of our stories about men, even very unremarkable men. The women here exist only in relation to their husbands and lovers, but incredulous as it might seen to some, this is not how we are in reality, and the reflections offered here are profoundly stupid.

Review: The Poor Kitchen (Subtlenuance / The Old 505 Theatre)

subtlenuanceVenue: Old 505 Theatre @ 5 Eliza St (Newtown NSW), Feb 2 – 6, 2016
Playwright: Daniela Giorgi
Director: Paul Gilchrist
Cast: Mark Langham, Samantha Meisner, Katrina Rautenberg, Randa Sayed, Benjamin Winckle

Theatre review (of a preview performance)
Elle inherits a farm in Italy, so she flies there with plans to sell up and return with cash for a piece of the Sydney property market. To our Australian sensibilities, the proposition is straightforward, but what Elle experiences is a set of unforeseen and complicated circumstances involving a foreign culture, to which she is intrinsically entwined, by blood and history. Modern life for most of us holds a strange and contradictory duality. We identify with the place and culture that we immediately belong, but are aware also of ties to other faraway places. We think of ourselves as one thing, but are really much more internationally connected than we care to admit. Geographical boundaries are real, but also arbitrary. This is an inconvenient and problematic truth that challenges our inevitably parochial ways of living, one that confronts how we think about migration, ecology and politics, all topics that The Poor Kitchen is keen to tackle. It shatters the “us and them” oppositions set up to justify our capitalism, so we keep it under wraps, choosing to subscribe instead to nationalistic notions of being that our small minds find manageable.

Daniela Giorgi’s script is both thoughtful and insightful. Its narrative can be structured more engagingly, but its attempts at bringing big ideas into a realm of domesticity, and hence intelligibility, are successful. There are colourful characters that keep us entertained, and even though performances are of a good standard, chemistry between actors is sometimes lacking, causing the show to lose tension at various points. Randa Sayed is thoroughly charming as Anna, with an energy and dynamism that light up the stage each time she makes an appearance. In the role of Carlo is Benjamin Winckle, who impresses with a consistent and precise approach in his creation of what is perhaps the most convincing character in the production. Leading lady Katrina Rautenberg is strong when emotions gets intense, but is less effective in portraying the more light-hearted parts of Elle. We take some time to warm up to her, so the events surrounding our protagonist can feel slightly distanced in earlier scenes.

The production’s minimal design is appropriate for the rustic quality it depicts, but sections that take us through dramatic shifts in time require greater atmospheric support from the team of creatives. Paul Gilchrist’s direction makes excellent use of space, and he often finds the best to showcase in each performer, allowing individuals to find their own captivating moments and to deliver a certain level of depth from each personality. The story of The Poor Kitchen is an interesting one, but in its resistance of conventional melodrama, our emotions are kept in check. It is true that family matters can easily cause aggravation, and soap operas all over the world exploit that indulgence, but level-headedness is probably the only means to rid us of those heartaches, so that we may begin to see the bigger picture.

5 Questions with Prudence Holloway and Billie Scott

Prudence Holloway

Prudence Holloway

Billie Scott: What drew you to ‘The Girlie Show’?
Prudence Holloway: Definitely the subject matter, my character (Natalie) goes through such a universal journey to find out how much she’s willing to compromise her integrity for her dreams.

Do you believe there is still an element of homophobia in the performing arts?
Yes, I do think there is but the more characters like these that are portrayed on the stage and screen the more we widen the breadth of representation of sexuality out there to relate to.

How has working with this cast been?
The cast have been great; it’s been so much fun working on such an ensemble piece and getting re-obsessed with Madonna together. Also, who doesn’t love an opportunity to rock out in 90’s fashion!

In terms of the show, what has been the biggest challenge?
I got the opportunity to co-write a song for my character to sing in the show, which is something I’d never done before or thought I would be able to do. I’m also accompanying myself on guitar, which is a new thing for me, so not shaking whilst
playing is the biggest challenge.

Which three people (dead or alive) would you invite to a dinner party?
Bette Midler, Madonna (obviously) and Wayne Tunks(the director), because he would probably kill me if I didn’t.

Billie Scott

Billie Scott

Prudence Holloway: Why do you think people should see this show?
The universal feelings of rebellion and acceptance in our formative years most definitely but there is something quite fun in looking at those who we idolize while growing up and impact they have on us.

Favourite Madonna song and why.
Like A Prayer. No question. It’s one of my motivation songs, whether going to an audition, out, gym, whatever it is Like A Prayer will take you there.

Do you think we still have a problem with homophobia and accepting diversity in today’s society?
I definitely think we still have a problem, massively. However I believe the focus has changed, people are too concerned with calling out political correctness to see the actual harmful issues.

What do you do to relax?
To relax I watch films. I’m a massive film fanatic and nothing relaxes me more than cinema. That or I can be found sipping on a Prosecco in a linen shirt somewhere.

This show deals will some sensitive issues surrounding coming out. What advice would you give to someone struggling with that?
That’s a hard question to answer I think because every story is different. However I’ll say that I think unfortunately we live in a society that places so much judgement and expectation on who you are so early, based purely off ones nature or behaviour,
particularly on young effeminate males. So my advice would be to wait until you can make a decision yourself and try not to listen to how other people perceive your sexuality.

Prudence Holloway and Billie Scott can be seen in The Girlie Show by Wayne Tunks, part of Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2016 Festival.
Dates: 8 – 20 February, 2016
Venue: The Old 505 Theatre (Newtown)

5 Questions with Kyle Kazmarzik and Matt Minto

Kyle Kazmarzik

Kyle Kazmarzik

Matt Minto: If you could sit down with anyone in history and have a good chat, who would that be?
Kyle Kazmarzik: Fairly recently in history, but Robin Williams. A legend, my idol, a beautiful soul and bloody hilarious. A chat would be difficult from the laughing but I just would have loved to meet him.

Has it been difficult juggling multiple roles?
Not really. Each has their own difficulties and distinctive characteristics which make it easier to flip between them.

What is the one role you are dying to play in your career?
It changes from time to time. Maybe Macbeth. Or Jim Carey in a biopic. But I’d kill to play a role in Star Wars, a dark jedi like Darth Vader or Kylo Ren.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would that be?
New York City.

Name 3 of your favourite actors?
I’ve already mentioned Robin Williams. And Jim Carey. I mean the list goes on and on. But to name a third, I absolutely adore Amy Adams. And a sneaky fourth: Kristen Wiig.

Matt Minto

Matt Minto

Kyle Kazmarzik: If you weren’t an actor, what would you be doing?
Matt Minto: I’m quite interested in psychology, so something in that field.

What’s your favourite play that you reckon you’ll NEVER be in?
A Streetcar Named Desire.

Half the show is in 1958. If you could travel back in time, when would you go?
Late 1960’s, London.

Have you ever ‘corpsed’, or almost ‘corpsed’ during a show?
Yep, I’ve corpsed way too many times. The worst was in a production of Macbeth where I spent, what felt like 10 minutes, shaking with suppressed laughter.

Which do you find more challenging, 1958 Oliver or 2016 Oliver?
They both have their challenges but probably 1958 because of the fact it’s a time period I have no direct experience of.

Kyle Kazmarzik and Matt Minto can be seen in Darlinghurst Theatre’s The Pride by Alexi Kaye Campbell, part of Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2016 Festival.
Dates: 5 February – 6 March, 2016
Venue: Eternity Playhouse

Review: Tender Napalm (Brevity Theatre)

brevityVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jan 19 – 30, 2016
Playwright: Phillip Ridley
Director: Alexander Butt
Cast: Jordan Cowan, Tim Franklin
Image by Andre Vasquez

Theatre review
People who work in theatre know how to tell stories. Whether simple truths or tall tales, their creativity determines how a narrative takes shape. In Phillip Ridley’s Tender Napalm, a pair of lovers recite passages of extravagant fantasy, making sense of their relationship by constructing worlds far from reality, but ones that reveal the struggles they experience. Ridley provides his characters with outlandish words, but little happens in terms of plot. We catch meaningful glimpses of the relationship’s tensions, and fleeting poignancies that allow us to make sense, but the writing is fanciful and deliberately embellished, feeling as though it is more suited for the page than it does on the stage.

The work is demanding of its audience’s imagination. Both actors are presented in the plainest way possible, on a bare stage with ample room to conjure up the wild scenarios of the text. Katelyn Shaw’s sound design and Ben Brockman’s lights help significantly in manipulating ambience and energy, but the effectiveness of the show relies squarely on performances by the young duo of Jordan Cowan and Tim Franklin, both of whom tackle the script with gusto and impressive determination. Cowan has a vibrant theatricality that holds our attention effortlessly, with an endearing warmth in the personalities she inhabits. Equally charming but with a more laid-back approach is Franklin, whose natural sense of humour is omnipresent and delightful.

The performers give their all for a dynamic and engaging performance, but there is a surprising and strange emptiness to be discovered after the curtain call. No matter how accomplished, any hit show will have its detractors, and no matter how obtuse, a presentation can still find an appreciative audience. What makes a theatrical piece connect with its audience can be analysed and deconstructed into a multitude of things, but there is nothing that can guarantee all to be satisfied. It is not the responsibility of artists to please everyone, in fact it is harmful to conceive of one’s career thus. There are many other greater values that can guide one’s art, and as long as those are vested and present, the creation is valid. |

Review: Femme Fatale (Leftofcentre Theatre Co)

leftofcentreVenue: Old 505 Theatre @ 5 Eliza St (Newtown NSW), Jan 19 – 23, 2016
Playwright: Clare Hennessy
Director: Carissa Licciardello
Cast: Rebecca Day, Tiffany Hoy, Henriette Tkalec

Theatre review
The femme fatale is a figure usually conjured up as a source of threat to the masculine of our species. She seems sexual, devious and powerful, but only exists in opposition, having no meaning independent of her male counterparts. In Clare Hennessy’s Femme Fatale, we look at humankind’s first three women according to Western mythology; Eve, Lilith and Pandora, and their conception as originators of evil and sin. Each were made responsible for releasing to the world a perpetuity of harm. Their myths have framed womanhood as initiator in the eradication of purity and goodness, and the feminine is forever tainted with malice.

The writing is unabashedly poetic, and although full of passion, its structure is insufficiently dramatic. Its abstraction has a deliberate and obscure beauty, but is of the sort that can be too alienating for emotional connection. The production’s atmosphere of foreboding is effectively orchestrated, although greater variation in style and tone between scenes could prove to be more rewarding. The cast is well-rehearsed and each actor shows excellent commitment, with Henriette Tkalec’s intense presence leaving the strongest impression.

It is not the most communicative of works, but its intentions are thoughtful and sincere. We can always rely on politics to give theatre its fire, and Femme Fatale is certainly spirited, buoyed by its many exciting, sometimes repetitious, ideas and inspirations. It makes an unambiguous feminist statement with what it attempts to say, but more so in how the show is put together. These young women have pooled their talents in collaboration for a piece that exists against all odds, in a landscape that is tenaciously patriarchal. No matter how we look at it, Australian theatre is still a boys’ club, but the bad girls are here to stay, and their ripple effect has begun.