5 Questions with Chelsea Ingram and Luke Edward Smith

Chelsea Ingram

Chelsea Ingram

Luke Edward Smith: What inspires you?
Chelsea Ingram: I am inspired by life. I am an extremely sensitive person and embrace the crazy energies that are constantly surrounding us. I guess I am inspired by others stories, most people in this world underestimate their strength and tales and I have always wanted to express their stories and triumphs through my art.

What advice would you give to other young female actresses and writers?
Learn to hussle. Have your mum on speed dial. Be strong, humble and most importantly love and embrace yourself. Geoffrey Horne my teacher at Strasberg and a gifted actor once wrote “I’ve lived my life expecting things to take care of themselves. I told myself that all I had to do was be a good actor. Believe me, that’s not the way it works.” – I kind of live by this.

Do you have a method to prepare for your roles?
After studying at The Lee Strasberg theatre and film Institute for 2 years, I am a huge believer in the method. I personalize my characters emotions by using my personal experiences to embody and find the truth of the characters journey. To prepare I will study their lives, loves, woes and highs to understand and fully embrace their stories.

How was working in the big apple?
Incredible and unbelievable. Actors in New York are so giving and have immense respect for the art and its craft. I can’t really put into words how magnificent life is as a actor in NYC, but it’s like nothing I had ever experienced. I worked on the stage, feature and short films and web series – every project was amazing. New York is a hard city, most months it’s a struggle to even pay rent. I can’t help but respect every actor who throws themselves into the NYC world of arts and embraces that extreme and yet amazing life style.

Do you have any upcoming projects to watch out for?
Currently I am working on an upcoming film. My play Keep Calling plans to move over to NYC in later 2017. I am connected to an unbelievable theatre company in NYC, Primitive Grace, directed by Paul Calderon and David Zayaz, with shows coming out soon. I have a few other projects that I am unable to speak about but please keep an eye out on social media.

Luke Edward Smith

Luke Edward Smith

Chelsea Ingram: What made you come back from NYC to do Keep Calling as part of the Sydney Fringe?
Apart from the convenient excuse to visit friends and family? It was the punch in the guts the script gave me. I read it and was still thinking about it a few days later. Always a good sign. I’m always looking for that element of fear in bringing something to life in a performance and this role left me thinking, “can I pull this off?” I wasn’t sure, but I knew I’d like to give it a red hot go.

How did you approach working on the role?
It wasn’t too different an approach from any other. I always start with what about them is similar to me. It’s much easier to work from those similarities and then layer in those things that make us different. It helps me ground the performance and hopefully it makes it all the more believable when an audience comes to see it.

Did you find much that was similar between you and Sam?
I recognised that attraction to something you know isn’t good for you. I’ve never been in the same shoes exactly (thank God), but I saw the behaviour, the longing, the need to belong and that I think is universal. It’s something anyone can identify with, being attracted to or trying to please someone or something that can’t or won’t be pleased. That coupled with the huge regret and confusion and anger that comes with not being strong enough to give it up. I like to work very personally so I’ve gone back to moments in my life where I’ve felt the same way as Sam.

What do you do to come down from working on something that intense and personal?
I go home and do the complete opposite of what I’ve been doing in the rehearsal room that day! I listen to upbeat music, I watch TV, lots of comedies, or curl up with a trashy novel. And tea. Tea makes everything better. Anything that puts the balance back into life. Everything I put into that day’s work I try to leave in the room. It’ll be there tomorrow.

When you’re in New York, what do you miss most about Australia?
Tim Tams. I’ve eaten way too many packs since I got back. I always take two big jars of Vegemite with me when I go back, so I’ve got that covered. But Tim Tams? You can get them but they go for about $7 a pack in the States, and if any other Australian knows you’ve got them…

Chelsea Ingram and Luke Edward Smith can both be seen in Keep Calling in the Sydney Fringe Festival.
Dates: 13 – 17 September, 2016
Venue: PACT, Erskineville

Review: Alex & Eve – The Complete Story (Bulldog Theatre Company)

bulldogVenue: Factory Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Aug 25 – 28, 2016
Playwright: Alex Lykos
Director: Alex Lykos
Cast: Chris Argirousis, Anne Marie Cavaco, Sylvia Dritsakis, Michael Kazonis, Janette La Kiss, Alex Lykos, Paul Miskimmon, Jadah Quinn, Kate Ryerson, Sal Sharah

Theatre review
There are many among us who are conservative and traditional, but in multicultural places like Australia, their tendency to be inflexible with visions of how we live together can be problematic. Salwa is Lebanese Muslim, and George is Greek Orthodox, both insular and intolerant of other cultures, refusing to accept the validity of other ways of life, until their offspring force them into a confrontation of wills through the classic contrivance of a mixed marriage. Alex Lykos’ Alex & Eve: The Complete Story combines three episodic plays to tell the couple’s story from their first meeting to the birth of their first child. Its duration is inevitably long, but the script is a tight concoction of high jinks and social commentary that although entirely predictable, is endlessly amusing with its host of vibrant, irresistible archetypes.

The production is a visually basic one that would benefit greatly from more ambitious efforts in set and costume design, but Lykos’ own direction of the work is effectively comedic and fast-paced. There is no attempt at a naturalistic mode of presentation, which can make for an excessively farcical show, but its slapstick is unquestionably charming and proves very appealing to its target audience. Janette La Kiss as Salwa and Michael Kazonis as George are both strikingly present, with flamboyant approaches to performance that captivate and entertain. Both are able to find nuance with their roles, thereby delivering more than stereotypical interpretations of minority elders.

Not being dominant cultures in Australia, the Greek and Lebanese characters have a greater freedom to portray the nature of prejudice in our communities. Some of what they say is objectionable, but their statements are tempered with good humour, and those who speak indiscreetly are exposed for their ignorance. Not one person can be excluded from the world’s politics, but how individuals participate in it, is infinitely variable. Alex & Eve does not talk about terrorism or immigration, but its feuding families are involved in a war that serves to remind us of how we must value peace, no matter how big or small a perspective we may have of the world.

www.bulldogtheatre.com

5 Questions with Giles Gartrell-Mills and Bishanyia Vincent

Giles Gartrell-Mills

Giles Gartrell-Mills

Bishanyia Vincent: What can Sydney audiences expect from you as a director?
Giles Gartrell-Mills: As much as possible I like to put story first. My favourite thing about theatre is that we ask the audience to endow the world they are seeing. We need them to create it for them-selves. I generally like to keep my production simple in terms of design and fit them to the space I’m working in. One of the best things about the late shows at the Old Fitz is that you need to work with what you have. It inspires creativity, which is why we do it in the first place.

What do you love most about Where Do Little Birds Go?
Cheesy as it sounds, I love Lucy! She’s a wonderful character. She sees the best in bad situations and manages to remain somewhat sweet through a very tough and brutal world. I think audiences will love her too.

I’ve heard you really love to know your stuff. Is Wikipedia your greatest addiction?
Possibly. Wikipedia, Jiu Jitsu and coffee are my greatest addictions. I love to learn and these days if I come across something I don’t know or a person I’ve not heard of from any field, I often jump on Wikipedia or Google to get any information I can about them. It’s not work… I just get interested in things I’ve never heard of.

What would you like to see change in the Sydney theatre scene and would you like to keep the same?
The scene in Sydney is great. If anything I would like to see a bit more confidence in it. Since moving here I’ve found everyone to be very open and welcoming. I think there is opportunity for more site specific work too. Last year I saw a show produced by the Kings Collective in an unused floor of a shopping centre. It creates new challenges and is a welcome change for a loyal theatre audience.

Ok so lastly and most importantly, how do you find directing your other half in a one woman show? Is she much of a diva?
Haha! Luckily enough because we trained at the same school we have a lot of common language when it comes to approaching the work. A one woman show is a big undertaking and a bit of that diva confidence can be very helpful sometimes too.

Bishanyia Vincent

Bishanyia Vincent

Giles Gartrell-Mills: As a relative newcomer to the Sydney theatre scene, what do you think makes it different to other cities you have visited?
Bishanyia Vincent: I think the biggest difference I have noticed between here and London is the sense of community within the independent theatre scene. London is such a big city and often you can feel like your tube stop is an island and there’s a giant gulf between you and your creative friends.. In Sydney you can bump into numerous creative souls on jaunts about town and feel a huge sense of belonging and support for one another. I feel very grateful to be a part of it.

What is the biggest difference preparing for a one woman show than preparing for a show with other performers?
Lines…SO MANY BLOODY LINES. Also creating the show with your own energy and sustaining that for an hour with the audience’s attention. We’ll see how that goes next week! Although I do have a lovely handsome pianist on stage with me playing so he’s definitely a reason to come along! *wink*

Who are your greatest influences as a performer and why?
The people around me everyday in my life who are battling the same demons and still get up and try again anyway. Life. Love. Stories. Human beings. People I bump into, happen across and experience in my day to day life. Because that’s where it all begins. Storytelling wouldn’t be storytelling without people and their stories.

Why do you think Sydney should meet Lucy Fuller (from Where Do Little Birds Go?)
Because it’s a true story. Because the real Lucy (Lisa Prescott) never got to share her story and Camilla Whitehill read a little bit about her in a novel about the Kray’s and took the time to write her story and give her a voice and that is a beautiful gift to give to the world.

If you could travel to any time in history when would it be and what would you want to do when you got there?
I can barely even decide what to choose on a dinner menu without getting FOMO when I order the wrong thing and someone else’s looks better and you ask me THIS? No comment. I plead the fifth.

God there are so many amazing time periods. I can only hope to be lucky enough throughout my career I get to experience ALL OF THEM in some capacity.

Giles Gartrell-Mills and Bishanyia Vincent are working on Where Do Little Birds Go by Camilla Whitehill.
Dates: 30 August – 10 September, 2016
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre

Review: Before The Water Gets Cold (Smoking Gum Theatre)

smokinggumVenue: Sydney Theatre School (Chippendale NSW), Aug 23 – 27, 2016
Playwright: Charles O’Grady
Director: Lucinda Vitek
Cast: Samuel Beazley, Robin Chen, Julia Robertson, Amy Zhang

Theatre review
Part poetry, part dance and part play, Before The Water Gets Cold is a multidisciplinary exploration into the nature of artistic expression. With themes of love and loneliness providing its main threads of inspiration, what we see on stage are four performers inhabiting a range of personalities, not to convey a narrative, but to evoke sensations and emotions that we are all familiar with.

The work is guided by an innovative spirit, and is often a refreshing experience, although significant portions can seem clichéd, due to its inability to transcend the derivative. Writing, direction and choreography exhibit moments of beauty through their various modes of experimentation, but a greater sense of originality, or perhaps boldness, is missing in the production.

Performer Julia Robertson is memorable for her captivating presence, and a surprising authenticity that she brings, even to the more absurdist sequences of the show. Her work with Robin Chen in a montage composed of romantic movie quotations is particularly delightful. Composer Josephine Gibson and sound designer Jeaux Pfeffer contribute proficiently to this collaboration, both sensitive and understated in style, for a delicate air that envelopes the auditorium.

Before The Water Gets Cold wishes to marry logic with something more ephemeral, but a greater trust in the visceral instance would allow us to dive in deeper into its artistry. The mind gets in the way of much of life’s pleasures, and at the theatre, an opportunity for us to be in touch with the magic of the here and now is always present, if only we resist the temptation to analyse everything even before it begins to happen.

www.smokinggumtheatre.com

5 Questions with Lulu Howes and Caitlin West

Lulu Howes

Lulu Howes

Caitlin West: So you’re condensing 15 books and 250 stories down to a single show. Is there a theme or set of themes that have guided and tied together your telling of these stories?
Lulu Howes: I’d say our approach to adapting such a large body of work was inspired by the vastness of Ovid’s original text. Metamorphoses is such a sprawling book, it picks up threads of myths and then drops them, tells half stories, revisits characters sporadically. Ovid really seems to pick and choose what he’s interested in, then loosely ties everything up in the theme of ‘metamorphoses’. So the myths we’ve chosen to work with and the way we’ve decided to adapt them is pretty eclectic. We were all drawn to different stories for different reasons, and I think this boundlessness is what binds them together, embracing that vastness rather than running away from it. That being said, there are definitely some themes that have continued to crop up. If I had to pick, the big three would probably be gender, politics and power.

How closely has the language of the original text shaped your telling of these stories?
I’m not even sure how many translations of Metamorphoses we now have between us – probably too many. Trying to find the right mode of expression to represent a myth has been half the battle of adaptation, so language has definitely played a massive part. Sometimes we’ll quote directly from a translation, or use the Elizabethan adaptation, or delve into how Ovid has presented a particular idea. More than anything else I think the comedy of the original text has worked its way into a lot of the play. There’s a lot of satire and a lot of silliness.

Saro has directed you in a few shows in the past. How have you found working with him as an actor?
The same but different. It’s been a very collaborative process – everyone’s open to each other’s ideas and feedback so in that regard it feels very familiar. Having done shows together in the past we went into Metamorphoses with a great friendship to work off and a good idea of what it might be like devising together. I think it’s been a really natural transition, especially with Imogen stepping into a more directorial role and just generally being amazing. Saro’s got great comic timing and likes improvisation more than I do, which is good because it keeps me on my toes and terrible because I can’t always keep a straight face.

Can you tell me a bit about how you’re approaching the task of characterisation in a show that presumably is dealing with multiple character voices?
There’s such a huge array of characters in the show, there hasn’t been a set approach. As almost none of the characters reappear in more than one scene, it’s been about establishing really strong voices or images in a short amount of time. Different methods have worked for different scenes, whether we’re improvising and working off each other in the room, or painstakingly going through the script to create these really defined voices for a two-minute scene. We’ve both been able to pick and choose who might play which character, with no expectation that if the character is a man it should be played by Saro or vice versa. In general there’s been a lot of freedom with how we tackle these characters, and way, way too many costume changes.

Seriously, will there be Kanye West references?
There are already too many, we need to be stopped.

Caitlin West

Caitlin West

Lulu Howes: Tammy & Kite is delving into the world of children and the things they ‘do or don’t see.’ What first drew you to this idea?
When Hannah and I first came together to make this show, we both knew that we wanted to talk about children, siblings and the imagination. As someone with a much younger sister, and with a personal interest in child play therapy, I was keen to look at how children process and express difficult emotions. This was complemented by Hannah, who came at this as an artist, and as someone with an incredible visual imagination. She had a million ideas for how we could translate those concepts into something really beautiful and tangible. So I guess it was kind of a crossover of our own personal interests and skills, and a shared desire to try to communicate and think about the way a child sees the world.

I am so excited to see you and Hannah (Cox) onstage together; you’re both such energetic, engaging performers. What does the inside of your rehearsal room look like at the moment?
Well, at the moment, I’m sitting here writing this, while Hannah plays a pretty intense game of handball with herself against the wall. There’s a pile of discarded toys and books on the floor, a half-finished Lego spaceship on the bed, and Phillip the duck is sitting next to me. We’ve just finished rehearsing a scene where Kite saves Tammy from a monster armed only with a light sabre, so we’re taking a break before we move on to some of the more tightly choreographed puppet scenes.

A ten year old wants to come see Tammy & Kite. How do you describe the play to them?
In this show we’re trying to use a language that will be accessible to both young people and adults (although perhaps for different reasons and in different ways) so to be honest, I think I’d tell them the same thing I’d tell an adult. In a nutshell in Tammy & Kite we’re taking the best and the worst parts about being a kid, and trying to translate them into something that grown-ups can understand.

What’s the scariest/hardest/most challenging part of devising your own show?
I think the scariest thing, when creating a show from scratch with another person, is knowing how to trust that person enough to fail. When you’re rehearsing a show with a bunch of other actors, or with a pre-written script, or with a director who’s always in the room with you, it can be easier in a sense to hide behind those things or to use them to fall back on when you get it wrong. Hannah and I were already great friends before we started working on this show, which was a big help, but over the rehearsal process I think we’ve both gotten a lot better at trying out new things, and not being afraid to do that. I think once you let go of the fear of trying something that might not work, that’s when you end up finding the seeds of the best stuff.

If you could go back in time and give kid Caitlin one piece of advice, what would it be?
When the ice cream truck plays “Greensleeves” that does not mean it has run out of ice cream and don’t let anyone tell you that it does.

Lulu Howes and Caitlin West can both be seen in Sydney Fringe Festival shows by Montague Basement.

Tammy & Kite
Dates: 13 – 17 September, 2016 at 8pm
Venue: Erskineville Town Hall

Metamorphoses
Dates: 13 – 17 September, 2016 at 10pm
Venue: Erskineville Town Hall

Review: Look Back In Anger (Red Line Productions)

redlineVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Aug 16 – Sep 10, 2016 | Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Sep 13 – 17, 2016
Playwright: John Osborne
Directors: Damien Ryan, Lizzie Schebesta
Cast: Robin Goldsworthy, Andrew Henry, Melissa Bonne, Chantelle Jamieson
Image by John Marmaras

Theatre review
Jimmy is a very angry young man, and in Look Back In Anger, we are subjected to a series of his incessant, long and very tedious rants that prove themselves to be ultimately ineffectual, and highly irritating. At one point, he insists “that voice that cries out doesn’t have to be a weakling’s does it?”

1956 it seems, was a completely different time. Today, a white man with youth and a university education, living in a Western society, is considered to be in possession of the greatest of privileges, and we have no patience for their complaints about their perceived (and possibly, imagined) injustices of life. Of course, residing in positions of advantage does not automatically absolve a person of angst and self-proclaimed victimhood. Jimmy’s grief with our troubled existence is valid, and it is his right to refuse to suck it up, grin and bear it, but like all the furious white male voices that rule the talk-back radio waves, we can choose to ignore their shrill babble. John Osborne’s play is well structured, but its themes and concerns could not be more dated, and for many feminists, not much is lost if Look Back In Anger, along with its overt misogyny, is left dead, buried and cremated.

From a technical perspective however, co-directors Damien Ryan and Lizzie Schebesta have revived the play with admirable accuracy and nuance, delivering powerful drama, especially to those more welcoming of its ethos. Also accomplished are its designers; Jonathan Hindmarsh’s set and Anna Gardiner’s costumes add meaningful, dynamic touches to the look of the piece, thoughtfully utilising the space’s intimacy to provide a vibrant immediacy to the experience.

The cast is uniformly strong, with each actor contributing impressive depth in their characterisations of less than inspiring personalities. Osborne’s dialogue is provocative (to say the least), and his lines are given tremendous fervour by an ensemble insistent on winning us over. Andrew Henry is at his bombastic best as Jimmy, with a portrayal so passionate and convincing that we struggle to detach our dislike for the character from what is actually an excellent performance by the leading man. Henry finds scintillating chemistry with each of his co-stars, and it must be said that every scene is captivating, but also undeniably excruciating for audiences less tolerant of its turgid drivel.

Like many works of art (good or bad) that cause exasperation, Look Back In Anger will spark discussion. In its time, the work was relevant for its interest in class consciousness and issues of poverty, but these ideas have evolved into something that is now inseparable from contexts of race and gender. In the past, audiences were able to understand the world from Jimmy’s perspective, but today, the world turns the tables and puts him under scrutiny. We are made to look at anxieties of the white man, but his anger scarcely raises a brow. Perhaps it is only himself who could possibly benefit from wallowing in that distorted and narcissistic reflection.

www.oldfitztheatre.com

Review: Orpheus (Lies, Lies And Propaganda / Suspicious Woman Productions)

liesliesVenue: Blood Moon Theatre (Potts Point NSW), Aug 18 – 27, 2016
Director: Michael Dean
Dramaturg: Jasper Garner Gore
Cast: Dymphna Carew, Curly Fernandez, Victoria Greiner, Lana Kershaw, Daniel Monks, Bodelle de Ronde, Michael Yore
Image by Sasha Cohen

Theatre review
Orpheus’ story is often told with emphasis on a husband’s drudgery in trying to rescue his wife from the mouths of danger, but in Michael Dean’s revision, we explore the possibility of Eurydice being a more provocative character, whose own desires are more complicated and less convenient for her husband’s legend. Hell is an Australian outback hick town, from which Eurydice finds herself unable to leave, but Orpheus is determined to bring her back to their life in the city, where a previously shared reality seems to be fading with the passage of time.

Similarities with David Lynch’s surrealism where “this whole world is wild at heart and weird on top” can be observed in Dean’s portrayal of an ugly yet seductive foreboding, set within a seedy bar where the drawing of raffle tickets is “the moment we’ve all been waiting for.” Michael Yore’s music and Liam O’Keefe’s lights provide splendid transportative atmospherics for an operatic expression of an ancient mystery suited to contemporary times, and Rachel Weiner’s illuminative choreography, although excessively demanding at certain points, demonstrates a healthy instinct for space as a fundamental device of communication.

With little in terms of dialogue that could be employed, the depiction of characters relies heavily on movement and presence, which the cast accomplishes with dexterity, but there is a gentleness to the overall approach that contradicts some of the darker elements in the piece. A greater sense of gravity and perhaps bigger personalities would generate a more sinister edge to fortify its enigmatic tone. Daniel Monks leaves a strong impression in the title role, authentic and captivating with his ability to meaningfully embody Orpheus’ sentimental qualities. The actor’s unequivocal focus and connection with all who are on and off stage, is the basis on which the production addresses its emotional dimensions.

Michael Dean’s vision of theatre as a dynamic and unpredictable art form is marvellously realised in Orpheus. Adventurous, playful and iconoclastic, Dean’s presentation is a surprising and delightful show that challenges not only notions of storytelling, but also conventions of our cultural endeavours. It is a virtuous exercise, made even more wonderful by sheer, undeniable talent and exquisite taste. There is exceptional work to be found here, the kind that makes us want more of the same from every stage, but it is the utter unorthodoxy and subversive nature of its appeal that provides its avant-garde lustre.

www.liesliesandpropaganda.com | www.suspiciouswomanproductions.com