5 Questions with Justin Cotta

justincottaWhat is your favourite swear word?
“Fuck Me In The Face With A Chainsaw Gently”.
It’s not a singular swear word, as per the question, yet run together at a rate of knots… Actually, wait.. no… that just ends up sounding like an in-flight announcement on Aerolineas Argentinas… Say it slow to medium fast depending on the context. And don’t just say it when you’re angry. Try mixing it up a little. Use it in a moment of quietly suspended disbelief. Or, here’s a good one; when you run into someone unexpectedly like an old friend, you can go with..
“Well fuck me in the face with a chainsaw gently!!! If it isn’t Such ‘n Such from Such ‘n Such!?!”
Follow your gut and play with it. And don’t be harsh on yourself if you mess it up the first few times. Like anything, it’s a process. Trust me, you’ll start to dig it.

What are you wearing?
My skin.

What is love?
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. Franz Liszt’s Consolation #6. My sweetheart asleep on my chest. Creating the space for someone to be exactly who they are without judgement. The Collingwood Football Club. Curry. My Ducati. My family and My friends.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The Motherfucker With The Hat at Eternity Playhouse. Rating: 6 out of 5. Absolutely brilliant. Adam Cook is such a magnificent director. The entire cast blew me away. Our Sweeney Todd will be richer for having seen this show.

Is your new show going to be any good?
I said yes to this role because it feels almost insurmountable. I honestly don’t know if I can pull it off Suzy. At times the demands of Sweeney have left me quivering in my boots. Sondheim is mocking me and bullying me as an actor and as a singer and as a musician. I am scared. To the core. I am filled with doubt. I am questioning myself and my choices in the rehearsal room. I want to run away. Particular songs break my heart. The story breaks my heart. No one wants to have their heart broken. That’s terrifying enough in and of itself… And yes of course, as actors we would be lying if we didn’t say that some of the discomfort is about the ego not wanting to be adjudged to be the giver of a poor/average performance. Aah those reductive and selfish thoughts! However, the fact that I am experiencing so much fear is a positive sign that I am invested in and care deeply about this production. I care deeply for the characters. I care for and respect the team that I am working with. Our wonderful director Giles Gartrell-Mills has assembled a stellar cast. And our MD, Liam Kemp, is a supremely talented musician/pianist. And so, to the question! Will it be any good? I can only guarantee you our passion and commitment. But as a cheeky indulgence, let me also answer you this way… If I weren’t pervaded by undercurrents of fear and doubt in week 3 of rehearsals for a production of Sweeney Todd, I would say, “Don’t bother going. The guy playing Sweeney doesn’t get it.”

Justin Cotta is starring in Sweeney Todd, at the New Theatre in Newtown.
Show dates: 18 Nov – 20 Dec, 2014
Show venue: New Theatre

5 Questions with Phil Rouse

philrouseWhat is your favourite swear word?
OhForFucksake.

What are you wearing?
Topman top and YD Jeans. Second hand, op-shop styling.

What is love?
Branson Coach House Barossa Valley Rare Single Vineyard Shiraz 2005, shared with good friends.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The Complexity Of Belonging at Melbourne Festival. I give it an OK out of 5.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Well, it kicked arse in Melbourne. Only makes sense it will kick arse in Sydney.

Phil Rouse, artistic director of Don’t Look Away, is directing The Legend Of King O’Malley by Bob Ellis and Michael Boddy.
Show dates: 26 Nov – 13 Dec, 2014
Show venue: Seymour Centre

Review: Anyone Can Whistle (Sydney University Musical Theatre Ensemble)

museVenue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Oct 15 – 25, 2014
Book: Arthurs Laurents
Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Director: Olivia Aleksoski, Alexander Andrews
Cast: Dani El-Rassi, Sarah Gaul, Curtis Gooding, Jordan Shea, William Wally Allington
Image by nick&nick Photography

Theatre review
Stephen Sondheim’s 50 year-old musical still works. Its themes of corrupt governments and the gullibility of humankind remain relevant, and the farce constructed around those societal issues make for scenarios that are amusing yet meaningful. Sydney University Musical Theatre Ensemble’s production might be an amateur one, but it features the vibrancy and enthusiasm of its young members that impress despite inadequate training and an overall lack of sophistication. The five-piece band headed by Music Director Douglas Emery delivers scaled down but punchy accompaniment that delights us with a sparkling joyousness, even if accuracy and cohesion can be improved.

Choreography by the ambitious Louise Flynn is loud and exciting, with the cast’s varying levels of dance ability utilised intelligently. Flynn has a keenness for theatricality and a lot of fun, which manifests effectively on a stage that is consistently colourful and dynamic. India Cordony as Police Chief Magruder takes every opportunity to inject comedy into her dance, and the results are outrageously memorable. Aidan Kane’s physical discipline pays off with a polish and professionalism that helps him stand out from the chorus line.

Dani El-Rassi and Jordy Shea are fiercely committed in their roles, and both present moments of brilliance that will further improve with greater confidence. William Allington as Treasurer Cooley is also engaging, with an effortless charm that keeps his performance buoyant. The show’s biggest parts are demanding, and not satisfactorily created on this occasion. Their love story is a substantial piece of the plot but the desperate shortage of chemistry between actors is quite painful to watch.

The work is directed by Olivia Aleksoski and Alexander Andrews who have used their wonderful troop of stars cleverly. Each personality is given room to shine, and although the show’s plot is not always clear or affecting, the energy that bubbles on stage is always refreshing. The miracles that happen in the story might have been fabricated, but it should be remembered that most artists are also faking it… until they make it someday.

www.museatusyd.com

5 Questions with Garry Stewart

garrystewartWhat is your favourite swear word?
Gosh!

What are you wearing?
Billions of bacteria and a few grams of body hair.

What is love?
A complex neurochemical and hormonal process.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Hofesh Shechter’s Sun. I don’t believe in a rating system for art.

Is your new show going to be any good?
You be the judge.

 

 

Garry Stewart’s new work Choreography, presented as part of NIDA Student Productions.
Show dates: 21 – 28 Oct, 2014
Show venue: Carriageworks

5 Questions with Gerry Sont

gerrysontWhat is your favourite swear word?
Bugger.

What are you wearing?
Blue sweat shirt, jeans and sneakers.

What is love?
My wife! (I have to say that or she’ll kill me…)

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The Maids at the STC, 4 stars, mainly for Elizabeth Debicki’s outstanding performance.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Does a bear shit in the woods? (Yes)

 
 
 
 

Gerry Sont is appearing in Leaves by Théâtre Excentrique and Emu Productions.
Show dates: 18 -29 Nov, 2014
Show venue: King Street Theatre

In Rehearsal: 1790: A Tale Not Often Told

Rehearsal images above from 1790: A Tale Not Often Told by Founding Modern Australia.
At Darling Quarter Theatre, from Nov 13 – 15, 2014.
More info at www.foundingmodernaustralia.com.au

Review: Kryptonite (Sydney Theatre Company)

sydneytheatrecoVenue: Wharf 1 Sydney Theatre Company (Walsh Bay NSW), Sep 11 – Oct 18, 2014
Playwright: Sue Smith
Director: Geordie Brookman
Cast: Ursula Mills, Tim Walter
Image by Lisa Tomasetti

Theatre review
Through an international love story, Sue Smith’s Kryptonite examines the relationship between the personal realm and our wider circumstances. When Lian first met Dylan at an Australian University in pre-Tiananmen 1989, she was a new immigrant from China and Dylan had looked every bit the quintessential middle class Australian preoccupied with surfing and student protests. Over the years, Lian returns to Dylan for a series of brief but dramatic encounters, and by 2014, they are almost entirely different people, and we question if the countries from which they emerge, have evolved correspondingly, into virtually unrecognisable entities.

Freedom, idealism and innocence are put through the wringer in Smith’s play, in which we witness the ravages of time on the beauty of youth. Growing old is a tragedy, but not because of the inevitable deterioration of flesh. It is what happens to the heart and soul as time wears on, not just for each person, but also for the worlds in which we dwell. We cannot travel back in time, and our nations will never revert to a purer state. Indeed, the past is painted as though through rose-coloured glasses, but it is a persuasive picture that Smith creates. In Kryptonite, the loss of our innocence is certain, and sad. Smith’s work is emotional and powerful, with a perspective of our recent histories that feels accurate and is deeply perceptive.

The character Lian is particularly well-written, with an authenticity in speech and sense of humour that is quite outstanding. Performed by the brilliantly astute Ursula Mills, the role becomes thoroughly familiar, even though realistic Chinese women are rarely seen on our stages. She is surprisingly funny, and her motivations in each sequence are concise, keeping us engaged with her storytelling in a plot that can be a little convoluted at times. Mills is required to speak and sing in Chinese languages over the course of the show, but proficiency is lacking although her conviction remains strong. There is an oversimplification in some of Lian’s darker moments, but the actor never fails to bring a delicious fire to the drama when required. Also captivating is Tim Walter who is yin to Mills’ yang. Chemistry between the two are not quite exceptional, but they find a harmonious balance that brings great elucidation to the play’s themes and concepts. Walter’s work is thoughtful and confident, but the lightness in his presence, while delightful for the younger Dylan, is a hindrance in several of his graver moments. His depiction of a jaded politician in his late forties is not entirely convincing, but as a young man confused and enchanted by the object of his affections, Walter is charmingly captivating.

Geordie Brookman’s direction retains the challenging nature of the plot’s non-chronological timeline, but provides a good sense of clarity to the narrative. He succeeds in manufacturing a believable romance out of a complex framework of dramatic shifts in time and spaces, but some of the script’s political details are subsumed by his emphasis on pace and rhythms. The show is an enjoyable one. Its scenes are dynamic and unpredictable, always introducing fresh elements to ensure a gripping experience. Design aspects are not greatly ambitious, but they help tell the story with efficiency and elegance.

Kryptonite talks about how we have changed as nations of people, but its views of China are more exacting than how it sees its own country. The Australian play shows the evolution of a foreign land through its distinct junctures of transformation, but it is less brutal with its self-reflection. Yet again, we find meaning through the definition of an other, but this time, we move focus from our perverse European obsession to a place closer to home. China is a significant trading partner, with an astronomical rise in recent times that sees its influence spread across the world, not only in monetary terms, but also cultural and social. The first officially recorded Chinese migrant arrived in 1818 and today, Australians with Asian heritage number at 2.4 million. While we still seem to avoid it like a comic hero avoids a mythical adversary, the importance of finding a way to articulate that experience and relationship is impossible to overstate.

www.sydneytheatre.com.au