Mrs Warren’s Profession (Sydney Theatre Company)

STC_MrsWarrensProfession_HelenLizzie_AM18323.jpg  788×1181Venue: Wharf 1 Sydney Theatre Company (Walsh Bay NSW), Jul 4 – 20, 2013
Playwright: George Bernard Shaw
Director: Sarah Giles
Actors: Helen Thomson, Lizzie Schebesta, Eamon Farren, Drew Forsythe, Martin Jacobs, David Whitney

Theatre review
This cast of six in Shaw’s late 19th century work is truly remarkable. All players are convincing, nuanced and colourful, and their chemistry with each other is frequently breathtaking. The two female leads are particularly enthralling, both effortless with their magnetic charisma. It is important that this mother-daughter pairing appeals to the audience symmetrically in order for the philosophical ideas in Shaw’s work to be effective, and in the case of this production, this balance is indeed one of its great strengths.

Ms Helen Thomson plays Mrs. Kitty Warren, and her performance is astoundingly brilliant. With every entrance, the stage is lit by her luminous presence, which is entirely appropriate and necessary for such a grandiose and controversial character. Thomson’s every calculated variation in her voice and perfectly designed physical gestures create not only the most alluring and commanding character onstage, but also presents a vigorous philosophical argument to the central theme of morality that could have easily collapsed at the hands of a lesser actor.

While it is easy to be lost in the actors’ magnificence, this production of Mrs Warren’s Profession explores morals, money and motherhood both effectively and intriguingly. It is a testament to the strength of Giles’ direction that the themes in this 120 year-old play still come across contentious and fascinating.

Special mention must be made of the beautiful costume and hair design, which are effectively transformative for the players, and help to create a sense of time and space within the minimal set design. The backdrop, also visually stunning, works effectively in conjuring up visions of splendid English gardens within the confines of a modern black box theatre. Music between scenes sets the tone perfectly for the action that is about to begin again.

Mrs Warren’s Profession by the Sydney Theatre Company is quite simply unmissable.

Rocket Man (Subtlenuance)

Rocket_Man_Hero_Shot_low_res.jpg  902×586Venue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Jul 4 – 14, 2013
Playwright: Paul Gilchrist
Director: Paul Gilchrist
Actors: Daniel Hunter, Sylvia Keays, Alyssan Russell, Stephen Wilkinson
Photo Credit: Zorica Purlija

Theatre review
There’s something charming about a play that transports you from the real world, and into a world of theatrical hyperrealism. The actors’ performances, the uncomplicated set, the lack of lighting and audio effects, the language and structure of the script, all contribute to creating an unabridged, uncondensed fly-on-the-wall glimpse into a single hour inside one small bedroom.

Director and playwright Paul Gilchrist begins with several interesting self-referential elements that help connect with and acknowledge the audience, but mostly, his script seems to be concerned only with developing four characters’ journeys within that one hour. This allows a wealth of scope for the actors to explore and actualise their individual roles; and it is indeed their performances that are the most gratifying about this production. There is however, a fragmentation that exists from a lack of chemistry between certain characters, and prevents the story from being even more compelling. The actors have developed their own characters thoroughly and convincingly but they do seem to require a greater understanding of what the other players are trying to achieve, in order to incorporate those other perspectives and tell a more authentic story.

Stephen Wilkinson plays a supporting role in terms of stage time, but gives a wonderfully honest performance, creating a Justin that is truly touching in his vulnerability (even though his spectacles and hairstyle suggests that Justin should probably be an accountant, rather than a house painter). Daniel Hunter is central to the story and lives up to the challenge. His transformation from adorable man in underwear, to violent freaked out monster during the course of the play, without a moment spent offstage, is impressive. If only his leading lady would be more responsive when he does all he can to antagonise her.