5 Questions with Harry Milas and Jordan Shea

Harry Milas

Jordan Shea: What makes Cascadia different to all your other work?
Harry Milas: It’s surreal and it’s got a narrative. It’s also got a director (who I adore and deeply respect) and he’s keeping me focused on what’s important, what’s real and what’s valuable. Orson Wells said that the problem with magicians is they try to do everything alone. I can count on one hand magic shows that have had a director. Also I hate magic shows that are just “Look how clever I am” or god forbid making birds appear to music. There’s no connection to the audience at all. No contact. Cascadia follows a journey I took with a fascination for making things vanish from childhood to present day and the audience feature heavily in that every step of the way.

What animal would you like to study in depth if you had the money and time?
That is a very difficult question and I really had to think about it, and I think my answer is the Bonobo. They are incredibly good at forward rolls, and general movement. They’re also our closest living relative and are deeply interesting. They also need help as their numbers are dwindling. I’ve been to The Democratic Republic of the Congo briefly and I’d love to go back and really soak it up. 

Magic is timeless. It’s been around or thought about since people have co-existed. This new show, how does it appeal to a theatre-going audience?
Because it’s theatre. It’s theatre that happens to be a magic show. Magic seems steeped in tradition and stuffed with clichés but there are always new ideas and breakthroughs coming to the surface. People who call themselves magicians comprise a wide range of styles and personalities. I’ve written the show from the perspective of a writer and performer who happens to be a magician. But let’s be honest the appeal is mostly going to be people wanting to see how I’m going to make a volunteer vanish in that dark basement of a theatre.

What was the first piece of music you ever heard that really said something to you?
I remember my brother giving me a copy of Boards Of Canada’s Music Has The Right To Children when I was about 11, and the track “Telephasic Workshop” just kinda fucked me up in the best way. I remember I got so excited when I listened to that song for the first time that I did a forward roll and my headphones came off! That is an incredible album that’s overflowing with wildly creative and brilliant electronic music. 

Have you ever met Don Rickles? If so, give me a brief run down of how it happened? 
So strange you ask me that. I have met Don Rickles, yes. On my first trip to New York I went to see the debut production of A Behanding In Spokane, then Martin McDonagh’s newest work. It had Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken in the two main roles. It was my first broadway play and I was very excited. The play was fantastic and the production was amazing (Walken did some of the best non-acting acting I’ve ever seen) and after it finished I was expecting everyone to run out to the stage door, but instead they were all milling around in the stalls talking to someone. Turns out it was Don Rickles, who I have loved since I was a little kid. He was a total mensch and was shaking everyone’s hands. I managed to have a quick interaction with him as he left the theatre, and the most amazing part was instead of getting in a car he just did a forward roll and was somehow really far away at the end of it. I’ve never seen anyone move that quickly and he was really old at the time!!

Jordan Shea

Harry Milas: Do you know how Harry is going to make the audience member disappear?
Jordan Shea: I don’t. But that might be a lie. Harry’s practice, to me, is about the possibility he might be making all of this up. I won’t know until we’re there, present, in the moment, as to how he will make this person disappear. All I know is he will do it, and probably make you have a good laugh and maybe be a little scared doing it. I don’t think a lot of conventional plays or performances can do that-but Harry and his magic can.

Cascadia is a wildly different direction for you. What drew you to the work and why is it important?
Because it’s a challenge. I don’t know if I’ll ever do something like this again. As a director and maker, it’s important to challenge yourself and just do different things. It’s weird. It’s important because it is in no way preachy but at least it’ll make you think for a while after. I like one man shows as well, I think if you can find someone who can intimately hold an audience for 30 plus minutes, you should collaborate with them-because you can learn a lot.

What is a film you think is massively overlooked?
The Swedish film As It Is In Heaven. We saw it around my 12th birthday at the Orpheum and it is a film of such nuance. Go download/buy/google it. 

What do you reckon about… I don’t know…the lockout laws?
I think most decisions by NSW Liberals since their election in 2011 (including the lockout laws) are the most poorly thought out pieces of legislation in the history of our state. I don’t understand the government’s tact or ethos because they don’t really have any at all, and I think they are just blindly ruining this state year by year.

When was the last time you actually took a break pal? You’ve been working real hard for a long time now.
I went on extended holidays in June/July and it made me realise I need to do that more. I’m training as a school teacher next year, and hopefully I can afford to take at least two weeks somewhere. I try to go once a year, somewhere. I think everyone working should. No matter where you are, there’s more to see. 

Harry Milas and Jordan Shea collaborate in Cascadia: A Magic Show.
Dates: 23 – 25 November, 2018
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre

5 Questions with Emily Dreyer and Grace Driscoll

Emily Dreyer

Grace Driscoll: What drew you to working on a show as iconic as Company?
Emily Dreyer: The music! Stephen Sondheim is an absolute genius and the score is just incredible. Every musical number in the show is catchy and innately engaging… as well as challenging at times for singers which makes it just as much fun to rehearse as it is to watch being performed. Also, some of the cast and production team I have worked with before so it’s always a pleasure working with them again!

Why do you believe audiences should come see this show?
It’s so relatable, the music is outstanding, it’s hilarious and it will overall be a fantastic night out… to be honest I wouldn’t want to miss it!

What first ignited your passion for dancing/musical theatre?
I grew up training in ballet at the Elizabeth McGirr School of Ballet doing one big concert every two years! One year we did a version of Mary Poppins and I got the chance to be Jane (one of the children), after our one show was over, 11 year old me was so depressed for about two weeks… that’s when I knew I needed more. I then moved into other styles of dance and seriously started musical theatre training two years ago when I started at ED5International.

Where do you hope to see yourself professionally in 5 years time?
In a touring company for a musical but if we are really reaching for the stars Broadway!

Who is your musical theatre inspiration?
It changes all the time but at the moment it would have to be Donna McKechnie and Charlotte D’Amboise. Donna McKechnie was the original Kathy in Company and then went on to be the original Cassie in A Chorus Line. Watching footage of her performing is just so inspiring and to be able to do a solo dance number in a musical is so rare and Donna McKechnie is just incredible. I feel so lucky to be playing the same role of Kathy and being able to dance “Tick-Tock”, which is often left out of productions of Company. Charlotte D’Amboise played Kathy and Cassie too, but many years later in revivals and she is just as inspiring but reminds me of how it’s important to put yourself and your strengths into the role. I have so many people that are always inspiring me from my teachers, my dance students and of course the cast and production team of Company at Limelight on Oxford.

Grace Driscoll

Emily Dreyer: What about your character Marta is similar to you?
Grace Driscoll: I love playing Marta, as I feel like she is a very heightened version of myself. I think we share the same passion and thirst for life, and that even the smallest things excite us. We both love experiencing new things, and are open to learning from every person we meet. I am however, without a doubt, a self-professed dork- which isn’t what most people necessarily think of cool, trendy Marta. In order to find my way into her, I tried to channel my natural weirdness but in a way where she is 100% unapologetic about it. Embracing herself, her ideas and her opinions wholeheartedly and boldly, is what I believe makes her so confident and so effortlessly cool.

What is your favourite part about being in Company?
My favourite part about being in Company is working with such an incredible team and just doing a musical. Because I’ve only just completed studying, it has been such a long time since I’ve done a musical, and to get the opportunity to now do it, with material as rich as this, in a brand new theatre and with a company this talented, feels like an absolute dream! Being the baby of the cast, I am constantly in awe of everyone’s talent, experience and expertise in their craft and have learnt so much from every single person.

If anyone could come and see the show who would it be and why?
I think this show is perfect for… everyone! The story is so real and so accessible for anyone who has ever been in a relationship. I think Sydney audiences young and ‘older-than-young’ will enjoy what this musical has to give, so I encourage everyone to book tickets and have a night out at the theatre. Also, come and checkout the incredible new venue that is Limelight! I anticipate it will soon be a prime theatre-goers hot spot.

What brings you to musical theatre?
I was first introduced to musicals by my grandfather’s collection of old movie musicals that I would play, entranced and on repeat whenever I visited, including The Sound Of Music and The King And I. It wasn’t until I was 10 where I saw a community production of Guys And Dolls that I became hooked on musicals and performing. This passion has since taken me through two training courses, 800km away from home, and given me many lifelong friends. There’s something so special about combining the elements of song, music and dance in order to tell a story. I love reading a script or a score that is rich with good writing and detail, and wanting nothing more than to share it with audiences.

Dream musical role and why?
Too many to list! My number one role would definitely be Natasha in Dave Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre And The Great Comet 1812. Similar to Sondheim’s Company, Malloy’s writing is so detailed and intricate which makes for some stunningly beautiful songs. I also love the fact that the show promotes diversity in its casting, despite the setting being 19th century Russia.

Emily Dreyer and Grace Driscoll can be seen in Company by Stephen Sondheim.
Dates: 14 November – 1 December, 2018
Venue: Limelight On Oxford

Review: Eurydice (Mad March Hare Theatre Company)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Nov 14 – Dec 15, 2018
Playwright: Sarah Ruhl
Director: Claudia Barrie
Cast: Alex Malone, Jamie Oxenbould, Nicholas Papademetriou, Ariadne Sgouros, Ebony Vagulans, Lincoln Vickery, Megan Wilding
Images by Marnya Rothe

Theatre review
In the afterlife, Eurydice is reunited first with her dead father, before briefly seeing her husband Orpheus come to rescue her. Having crossed over from one realm to another, things can no longer be the same, and in Sarah Ruhl’s version of Eurydice, we observe human consciousness undergo celestial transformations when the body fails, in a fantastical speculation of how it might be.

Mournful but awash with beauty, the play is deeply romantic, as it vacillates between optimism and hopelessness, for a theatrical experience that fills us with a sensation of melancholic longing. Claudia Barrie’s direction take us on a rocky ride, through sequences that vary in levels of efficacy. Although not always sufficiently compelling, Barrie’s work is consistently delicate, with ethereal atmospherics removing us temporarily from the unrefined tedium of our daily existences. Set design by Isabel Hudson provides the humble auditorium with a transfigured grandeur, along with the marvellous scent of fresh cut wood that dominates the space. Benjamin Brockman’s lights are relied upon for a lot of the heavy lifting. His meticulous imagination is determined to place us in one dream state after another, resulting in an impressive delivery of arresting imagery for every scene. Sounds by Ben Pierpoint are the soul of the event, precise in its calibrations of mood and impact.

Ebony Vagulans takes on the eponymous role with palpable conviction, slightly lacking in complexity with her renderings, but an endearing presence nonetheless. The three Stones, mystical ghost-like creatures, are played by Alex Malone, Ariadne Sgouros and Megan Wilding, who introduce a splendid sense of mischief to proceedings, refreshing at every appearance. Jamie Oxenbould and Lincoln Vickery play father and husband respectively, both actors finding moments of pathos that reveal the emotional investment we hold, perhaps surprisingly, for the story. A campy Nicholas Papademetriou offers valuable comedic balance to a show that can get very gloomy.

Nobody knows what the hereafter is, but our conjectures about it are crucial to the way we are. It is that sense of eternity that concerns us. Even the slightest chance of having to exist in an unrelenting permanency for all of tomorrow, is enough to terrify, so we occupy ourselves with fabrications of what could be, using instinct, desire and fear, to concoct visions that help provide semblances of assurance. There is a need to satisfy questions about the self, and about loved ones we have lost. Anxiety is a sensation that requires release, and grief is an emotion that must be eradicated. When we worry, and when we mourn, our capacity to see meaning in darkness becomes paramount.

www.madmarchtheatreco.com

Review: The Overcoat (Belvoir St Theatre)

Venue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Nov 15 – Dec 1, 2018
Book & Lyrics: Michael Costi (based on the short story by Nikolai Gogol)
Music: Rosemarie Costi
Director: Constantine Costi
Cast: Laura Bunting, Kate Cheel, Aaron Tsindos, Charles Wu
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
Nikolai is an unremarkable man, an ordinary citizen of Russia, who lives and works in St Petersburg, not unlike the faceless millions in any of the world’s cities. He is unambitious, able to be content with a simple life, but the most basic of human requirements, dignity, eludes him. He is sold a luxurious coat, one he is unable to afford, with the promise that the new garment would finally help him gain the respect of people he sees every day at work. Based on Nikolai Gogol’s short novel of the same name, The Overcoat is about injustice, and the sacrifices some have to make, just to attain a level of subsistence.

Adapted by Michael Costi, whose book and lyrics retain the poignancy of the original, this musical version is an understated but thoroughly moving work of theatre. Rosemarie Costi’s music is consistently gripping, and delightfully idiosyncratic, incorporating shades of Kurt Weill and Stephen Sondheim to find exquisite balance in this sophisticated take on the genre. Director Constantine Costi exhibits great style, alongside a sensitive understanding of drama, for a production that lulls us gently to some very deep places in our hearts and minds.

Performer Charles Wu is an enchanting presence, vulnerable yet confident as Nikolai. Not only does he earn our empathy for the pitiful character, Wu elevates our experience of the sad story with his capacity to inspire our intellect. Aaron Tsindos’ booming voice thrills and satisfies, as do his extravagant depictions of several unforgettable supporting roles. Laura Bunting and Kate Cheel create a range of ebullient personalities, both actors proving themselves to be as commanding as they are charming.

Our protagonist procures his coat, with money that should have gone to food and rent. Before society can provide him with a feeling of belonging, Nikolai must give up more than all he has; we come to the cruel realisation that the real world does not offer unconditional love. When we participate in the labour force, we go to work for survival and for salvation, but there is never any guarantee that the exchange can be a fair one. In fact, we see in The Overcoat, that when the marketplace is left to its own devices, many of us are put in positions where we have to give more than we can ever receive in return. The unfairness is ubiquitous, and without intervention, disparities can only widen.

www.belvoir.com.au

Review: The Wild Party (Seymour Centre)

Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Nov 15 – 24, 2018
Book: Michael J. Lachiusa, George C. Wolfe
Music & Lyrics: Michael J. Lachiusa
Director: Alexander Andrews
Cast: Michael Boulus, Jack Dawson, Nick Errol, Emily Hart, Prudence Holloway, Matthew Hyde, Tayla Jarrett, Katelin Koprivec, Victoria Luxton, Matilda Moran, Rosalie Neumair, Sophie Perkins, Olivier Rahmé, Zach Selmes, Samuel Skuthorp, Georgina Walker, Simon Ward, Jordan Warren, Madeleine Wighton, Victoria Zerbst
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
It is New York City in the 1920s, and the party is lit. Bohemian types gather at the behest of volatile lovers Queenie and Burrs; not a single introvert in sight, all thirsty for a good time, ready to make the drama happen. Michael J. Lachiusa and George C. Wolfe’s 2000 musical The Wild Party is a rollicking ride with colourful characters taking us through a succession of exuberant numbers, celebrating life in the most exciting of cities.

Under Alexander Andrews’ direction, The Wild Party is a dazzling, fun-filled romp. Even though its narrative becomes somewhat vague, the production’s relentless vibrancy keeps us engaged and uplifted. Music direction by Conrad Hamill is lush and decadent, a wonderfully evocative element. Outstanding choreography by Madison Lee brings unexpected sophistication. Imaginative and adventurous, Lee’s work is thoroughly compelling, and along with dance captain Sophie Perkins’ efforts, it is the way bodies move through every second in this staging, that proves truly splendid. A group of 5 chorines, Victoria Luxton, Matilda Moran, Rosalie Neumair, Jordan Warren and the aforementioned Perkins, are the stars, brilliant with their spirit and charm, extraordinarily cohesive with all that they present.

Georgina Walker plays a very alluring Queenie, with an attitude and physical gestures that are flawlessly reminiscent of that bygone era. Sound engineering is often deficient, and Walker’s voice suffers as a result, but the intricacy of her performance is no less impressive. Prudence Holloway and Victoria Zerbst take on flamboyant roles with extravagant aplomb, both actors fierce and fabulous.

Parties are worth little when participants are unable to let their hair down, but as we see in The Wild Party, things can go too far. Art however, plays by different rules, and social transgressions are often an important part of how it can create impact. Considering the context, this staging is perhaps slightly polite, so it is never really able to provide much more than entertainment. To be wild, is to explore boundaries and question the rules. Little Miss Goody Two-Shoes may well be liked by everyone, but she is unlikely to have left an indelible mark anywhere.

www.littletriangle.com.au

Review: Blame Traffic (The Old 505 Theatre)

Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Nov 13 – 24, 2018
Playwright: Michael Andrew Collins
Director: Michael Andrew Collins
Cast: Violette Ayad, Nic English, Emma O’Sullivan, Mary Soudi, Alex Stylianou
Theatre review
Insurance investigator Lilian’s frustrating encounters with a blue Mercedes, over several days on the streets of Sydney, has stoked her occupational resolve. She finds herself secretly trailing the mystery man, trying to formulate an explanation for the latter’s shockingly poor driving etiquette. Blame Traffic by Michael Andrew Collins features a series of fractured scenes that gradually merge into an integrated, and satisfying, narrative. Collins’ playful dialogue ensures that each sequence is full of amusement, and the intrigue that he constructs, is a consistent pleasure, and the play’s strongest quality.

In lieu of realistic settings for many of Blame Traffic‘s on-road scenarios, the production takes a minimal but effective approach, with chairs and three sliding monitors, to convey its oscillating range of times and spaces. Designer Patrick James Howe keeps things slick and restrained, for unobtrusive solutions that provide surprising impact. Collins’ direction of the piece is taut, with an air of urgency that has us absorbed for its entire hour.

An energetic and rigorous ensemble takes us through the fast-paced action. Emma O’Sullivan shines in both her roles; she turns a very strange Jacquie convincing, whilst endearing us with her quirky characteristics, and as Dion, the actor’s interpretation of a young Italian-Australian is simply hilarious. Dion’s uncle Zio is played by Nic English, whose honest impulses make him a riveting presence. Violette Ayad and Alex Stylianou provide the fireworks with their partnership, in a segment memorable for its scintillating chemistry, both performers taking the opportunity to demonstrate their impressive skill and natural talent. Also wonderful is Mary Soudi who brings a thoughtful complexity to her part of Sarah.

Although not particularly provocative, Blame Traffic is an entertaining work of theatre, that uses the bane of our city’s daily existence as catalyst for its storytelling. We see people interspersed but connected, each heading in their own obstinate directions, occasionally stopping to think of others. Individualism and independence are highly valued in our metropolis; we believe in the freedom that allows people to live to their full personal potentials, regardless of tradition and conventions. It is also clear that Sydney is not an entirely selfish city, even if we do feel like we dwell inside bubbles that only seem to ever grow smaller. Our roads converge every day, allowing our trajectories to meet, at places like the theatre, where we congregate as one, to figure out the people we are, and the people we want to be.

www.facebook.com/twentysevensix

Review: The Dance Of Death (Belvoir St Theatre)

Venue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Nov 10 – Dec 23, 2018
Playwright: August Strindberg (literal translation, May-Brit Akerholt)
Director: Judy Davis
Cast: Giorgia Avery, Colin Friels, Pamela Rabe, Toby Schmitz
Images by Lisa Tomasetti

Theatre review
Alice and Edgar live secluded on an island, married to each other but full of hate, in a state of constant exhaustion from having spent every waking moment bitter, and berating all that they come in contact with. When relative Kurt arrives for a brief visit, the antagonism escalates, as we observe the vitriol begin to infect their unsuspecting guest. From 1900, August Strindberg’s The Dance Of Death is characteristically expressionist, with the writer’s socialist attitudes perceptible in the play, although its criticisms of class are somewhat benign by today’s standards.

Its comedy is dark and caustic, and Judy Davis’ direction certainly conveys that subversive quality well, for a show that is consistently amusing, if not quite laugh out loud funny. Strindberg’s absurd and surreal dimensions are embraced by designers, who deliver a production many will find stimulating with its declarative flamboyance. Paul Charlier’s music is libidinous but disturbing, and extraordinarily theatrical in its effect. The stage floats on a pool of blood, with a backdrop proclaiming “hell on earth”; Brian Thomson’s set design and Matthew Scott’s lights conspire in a visual tango that intrigues and mystifies. Costumes and wigs by Judy Tanner are wonderfully evocative, with an exquisite red gown late in the piece, proving to be particularly memorable.

Pamela Rabe cuts a striking figure as the decadent former actress Alice, operatic in style and thoroughly entertaining, if slightly deficient with her character’s emotional authenticity. Edgar is played by Colin Friels, similarly heightened in his approach, for a beguiling study of narcissistic machismo at its ugliest. Cousin Kurt is taken through drastic transformations by Toby Schmitz, whose cheeky humour reinvigorates the action with each of his entrances.

The Dance Of Death succeeds at keeping us engaged, but we wait for poignancy that never arrives. It inspires us to think about marriage, about the way we deal with this thing called love, and how hate only exists in response to something unequivocally cherished, but the show keeps distant, as though aloof, unwilling to be touched, unable to move. Emotions can be frightening, so we go to art to better witness its machinations. Alice and Edgar share a love, but their vulnerabilities are all but calloused by the time we meet them at their twenty-fifth year of entanglement, and it is as though they no longer feel anything. They know only to make demands, and are incapable of giving anything, yet this dynamic is set on a perpetual loop, sustained by the ever surprising human capacity to withstand debasement. From the outside however, it is always easier to perceive with clarity, and we know that walking away from someone who has overstayed their welcome, is the simplest solution.

www.belvoir.com.au