Review: Legend! (Decorum / Sydney Independent Theatre Company)

legend1Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jan 28 – Feb 15, 2014
Playwright: Pat Sheil
Director: Lex Marinos
Actor: John Derum
Image by Katy Green Loughrey

Theatre review
‘Slips’ Cordon is in his home, reminiscing. We don’t know why, or who it is he speaks to, but there is certainly no shortage of tall tales to share. Pat Sheil toys with our “European history” in his script, re-writing events involving our iconic war heroes, legendary sporting personalities, celebrated performers, and various significant political figures of times past. These revisions are amusing, and depending on your level of affinity with the “source material”, possibly even hilarious.

Cordon is played by the effortlessly charming John Derum, who carves out a character that is immediately endearing. This is an actor who revels in spinning yarns, and his enjoyment of the limelight is infectious. We are drawn in and are glad to be his captive audience. Derum is excellent at punchlines. Indeed, the show does at times, feel like a stand up comedy routine, where a comedian simply tells jokes, without much concern for context or character development. We do not learn very much about Cordon, but he does make us laugh.

This is a clever script that could work well in the form of a novella, but Derum’s interpretation adds a dimension of time and place that is strangely (and ironically) authentic, even though we are free to imagine where and when the action before our eyes actually takes place. Legend! is only mildly iconoclastic. In fact there is an air of reverence for these legends that hangs heavily over the production. Rest assured that our sacred cows are left unscathed.

5 Questions with Ben Hall

benhallWhat is your favourite swear word?
Oh! Fuck wank bugger shitting arse head and hole! Courtesy of Bill Nighy.

What are you wearing?
A smile. Because I worked out how to avoid answering this question.

What is love?
A decision.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Cyrano De Bergerac by the Sport for Jove Theatre Company out in the Blue Mountains. Five Stars. I have two methods for a good show 1. when I’m not critiquing every scene and 2. I don’t check my phone. Didn’t do either. Was easily one of the funniest plays I have seen in years and set that against the mountain backdrop, you don’t even notice that the sun has set behind you.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Put it this way it has a cast including Katrina Retallick and Margi Diferranti (that alone should get you in the door), a lyric that will have you laughing hysterically and crying in the same number, plus Tamlyn Henderson and I boxing half naked which then turns into passionate lovemaking… and that’s just the 3rd number.

Ben Hall is appearing in Falsettos, from Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s 2014 season and part of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2014 festival.
Show dates: 7 Feb – 16 Mar, 2014
Show venue: Eternity Playhouse

5 Questions with David Ouch

davidouchWhat is your favourite swear word?
Stupid B!*ch – when you make it roll into one word. Hah! It just so plosive, aggressive and feels good in the mouth.

What are you wearing?
Right now I am in my undies and a t-shirt. I was getting undressed but got side tracked.

What is love?
I believe love is the human thread that bonds us all together.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The last show I saw was Grease the musical. It was such a fun, playful show and very audience interactive. I was very proud to see a couple of my friends up there making their debut. I gave it a 4.5 out of 5.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Privates On Parade is a part of the Mardi Gras festival for 2014. It is full of fun, flamboyance and has a strong heart. If you like a bit of drag, a bit of skin and hot guys singing then you’ll love the PRIVATES on parade.

David Ouch is appearing in Privates On Parade, from New Theatre’s 2014 season and part of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2014 festival.
Show dates: 11 Feb – 8 Mar, 2014
Show venue: New Theatre

Review: Hotel Sorrento (The Genesian Theatre)

rsz_sorrento3Venue: The Genesian Theatre (Sydney NSW), Jan 18 – Feb 22, 2014
Playwright: Hannie Rayson
Director: Shane Bates
Actors: Sarah Purdue, Melanie Robinson, Gemma Munro, Barry Moray, Martin Bell, Oliver Beard, Lyn Turnbull Rose, Rob White
Image by Mark Banks

Theatre review
One of the key functions of art (if art has any function at all), is to express and represent concepts of identity. In the case of the Australian identity, the discussion is always a fascinating, and complex one. We are intrinsically invested in the issue, and the diversity of perspectives makes for effortlessly dynamic discourse. Hotel Sorrento was written in 1990 and talks a lot about who we are, who we like to think we are, what others think of us, and why we care. It presents a view of Australia as a nation trying to find its feet, almost like an awkward teenager in the later stages of puberty, unsure of itself but determined to establish something substantial and defined.

This production features a committed cast, including Oliver Beard who plays Troy, an awkward teenager just beginning to understand the mechanisms at play in his family that give meaning to his very being. Sarah Purdue is the strongest actor on this stage, creating a Hilary that is tender and moving despite her parochialism. Purdue’s knack for naturalism provides the perfect tone for the production and she successfully shows us the depths of her character even when the details are not all spelt out in the script. Lyn Turbull Rose is delightful and infectious in a scene talking about yearning and passion as Marge, and Martin Bell injects much needed humour in a show that tends to be overly serious at times.

Shane Bates’ direction focuses on storytelling, and the clarity of his plot is a pleasure. The show however, seems to be a bit oversimplified, and the characters seem a little analogous. We are left with a desire for something more colourful, with slightly more complication and inconvenience. Nevertheless, it is exciting to see a great script remembered and revived with such fitting respect and genuine affection.

5 Questions with Matilda Ridgway

matildaridgwayWhat is your favourite swear word?
Cunt burger. It’s evocative.

What are you wearing?
Right now a white regency dress. It’s interval in Sport for Jove’s production of Much Ado About Nothing. I am sweating through.

What is love?
Merely a madness.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
I saw Phil Spencer’s You And Whose Army at the Newsagency in Marrickville. I give it 5 stars. You are welcome Phil.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Good is an understatement. This play is going to buy the audience dinner and call you in the morning.

Matilda Ridgway is starring in Proof.
Show dates: 31 Jan – 8 Mar, 2014
Show venue: Ensemble Theatre

5 Questions with Margie Fischer

margiefischerWhat is your favourite swear word?
I said ‘that’s fucked’ when I didn’t get the funding from ARTS SA (SA’s arts funding body) to tour my show to Mardi Gras. This was followed by ‘fuck you, I’m doing it anyway’.

What are you wearing?
I am wearing a swimming costume and track suit pants. The costume is a few years old and a bit saggy however I haven’t been able to face trying on a new one in a change room as yet. I think I’ll stick to the old one for this summer.

What is love?
Someone seeing me in my current swimming costume and tracksuit pants and adoring me totally.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
I saw Yana Alana’s show Between The Cracks at this years Feast Festival and I loved it. I give it 5 stars. Yana’s show is superb, she sings, talks to the audience and reveals all literally.

Is your new show going to be any good?
My show is excellent. It truly lives up to its publicity. I know this as I have done 3 seasons of it in Adelaide and Melbourne, and many audience members told me so, plus the reviews did as well – a rare combination.

Margie Fischer is presenting The Dead Ones, part of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2014 festival.
Show dates: 18 – 22 Feb, 2014
Show venue: Seymour Centre

Review: Triple Bill (Ockham’s Razor)

ockhamsrazorVenue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Jan 21 – 26, 2014
Directors: Ruth Naylor-Smith, Deb Pope, Meline Danielewicz
Music: Derek Nisbet, Patrick Larley, Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Performers: Alex Harvey, Charlotte Mooney, Grania Pickard, Steve Ryan

Theatre review
Aerial acrobatics can be relied upon to provide exciting thrills, as it easily evokes sensations of tension and vertigo, but to create narratives and imagery that bear strong aesthetic appeal within that framework is a challenging one. Ockham’s Razor succeeds in presenting beautiful imagery and emotionally involving pieces while allowing acrobatics to remain centre stage. Their stylistic choices are always simple, but they are masters at communicating to our eyes. They know exactly what we look at at every point in time, and they feed us everything we need by controlling how our eyes move and what we focus on.

Their show incorporates the art of miming, through which they surreptitiously acquire our empathy and identification. Relationships between characters are established ambiguously, but our connection with them are certain. In Arc, we see a love triangle set against a backdrop reminiscent of a shipwreck. The performance plays with ideas of emotional turbulence, using it to create a sense of breathtaking danger at every turn. Memento Mori presents life and death as a romance, one that is always at the brink of devastation. Their movements in space allegorise our intimate relationships with love and death, with moments of tenderness, and cruelty. The final work Every Action… injects humour into their craft. It is the liveliest section of the triple bill, cleverly applying mischief and playfulness to their acrobatic skills. The team looks especially effortless in their approach here, but are still able to elicit gasps of surprise and pleasure from the crowd.

Opening night saw fairly long intervals between each work. It is understandable that set up has to be completed thoroughly with no room for error, but with each break, the mood in the auditorium slumps down from the fervour we had been left with at the end of the previous piece. It truly does feel like a waste to not pick up from the enthusiasm and keep building up on the energy. Hopefully subsequent performances will see the gaps shortened.

Music and lighting design are thoughtfully created, adding to the ethereal elegance of these works. There is always a stillness that pervades, like an acknowledgement of the things that could go horribly wrong at any time. We are captivated, by the super-human stunts unfolding before us, the sheer beauty of the choreography, and the irresistible urge to imagine all the “what if’s” that could result from playing with gravity.

5 Questions with John Derum

johnderumWhat is your favourite swear word?
Feck! – It took the Irish to come up with a swear more powerful in more combinations than the Anglo Saxons could imagine.

What are you wearing?
Out! There comes a time in longish lives that only just precedes the state of being “worn out”. It is the state of wearing out… fast!

What is love?
It is cruelly ironic that in the scorebook of this sporting life, love is what you get when you fail to score.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
You mean, all the way through?!!! Penelope was top draw! Always good to see a strong silent woman discombobulate ambitious men! They were all stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
When an unreliable irascible know-all decides to tell-all and destroy the reputations of a nation’s heroes – be afraid, be very afraid. Some insensitive people will laugh uproariously throughout. More sensitive folk will groan and wince and wish they were watching someone more emotionally nurturing like Ricky Gervais, or Larry David. Legend! is an outrage. A disgrace. ‘Slips’ Cordon must be stopped!

John Derum stars in Legend!, from Sydney Independent Theatre Co’s 2014 season.
Show dates: 28 Jan – 15 Feb, 2014
Show venue: The Old Fitzroy Hotel

5 Questions with Stephen Anderson

stephenandersonWhat is your favourite swear word?
Flip. I’m currently rehearsing with two brilliant twelve year old actors, so I’ve really tried to cut down on swearing in front of them. It’s been fucking difficult.

What are you wearing?
A black latex catsuit. I’m on my way to rehearse with the twelve year olds.

What is love?
According to a lyric from Falsettos, “Love is crazy. Love is often boring. Love stinks. Love is pretty often debris. Love reads like a bad biography. Love is blind.” So there’s that question answered.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter by Kneehigh. 4 stars. I left in awe of the wit, charm, heart and theatricality.

Is your new show going to be any good?
I certainly think so. It’s beautiful, poignant and deeply funny. It’s a family drama about love, forgiveness and negotiating adulthood. It’s about relationships – gay, straight and in-between. Full of brilliant songs, it’s also performed by a talented, delightful and almost shockingly attractive cast. And me.

Stephen Anderson is appearing in Falsettos, from Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s 2014 season and part of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2014 festival.
Show dates: 7 Feb – 16 Mar, 2014
Show venue: Eternity Playhouse

Review: Short+Sweet Cabaret 2014 (Short+Sweet)

sscabaretVenue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Jan 8 – 19, 2014
Festival Director: Kate Gaul
Musical Director: Daryl Wallis
Image by David Paul Jobling

Theatre review
Featuring a diverse selection from the Sydney cabaret scene, Short+Sweet encapsulates the best of our weird and whacky performers, all of whom are idiosyncratic and many, talented and original. The inaugural event concluded with an awards night where winners were announced (list below), based on votes from a judging panel, as well as audience selections. It is noteworthy that among the 40+ acts, a vast majority of participants were female, even though the winners list reads to be fairly gender balanced. This is a space that attracts female artists, and Short+Sweet should be lauded for its establishment.

Highlights include Thomas Albert and Samuel Valentine, two ridiculously talented young men who wrote several original songs and the script for Dirty Sexy Politics, which showcases their skills in comedy and musical performance. Theirs is unquestionably one of the most substantial and confident compositions in the festival, and are greatly deserving of both their award wins.

Harry & Liv is a sibling pairing, by real-life siblings Charlotte and Evan Kerr. Their musical talents and chemistry as a duo are outstanding, leaving an indelible impression and winning them two awards. The brother’s performance of “I Go To Rio” is a particularly effervescent moment in the festival. There are a few pieces in the festival that would benefit from extended renditions (they are only allowed 10 minutes each), and this is one of them.

Another duo Jacqui Dark and Kanen Breen wow’d the audience with their vocal abilities in Strange Bedfellows, a piece about twisted friendships that features unrelenting camp humour. Camp features heavily in the festival. In Dance With De Vil, Brendan Hay plays Cruello de Vill (Cruella’s son) with enough flamboyance and vitriol to make his mother beam with pride, and to win Best Male Cabaret artist.

Other memorable performers include Anne Wilson who presented two creations including the hilarious Pastor Dorcas who very excitedly warns her congregation about Judas who is known for “back-stabbing” (that’s a paraphrase). Great work also, from Irene Nicola who starts off with a nerdy striptease and ends with some unexpectedly beautiful singing, but not before providing a very dense lecture on performance theory and psychoanalysis.

Musical director of the festival is Daryl Wallis, who must be congratulated for the brilliant accompaniment he provided to more than half the acts. He has had to perform a very wide range of styles for performers from all kinds of backgrounds, and on many occasions, supply crucial dramatic or comedic accents. Wallis’ contribution to the festival’s success cannot be understated.

Peoples Choice for Best Cabaret Dirty Sexy Politics

Judges Choice for Best Cabaret Harry & Liv

Best Original Music Thomas Albert and Samuel Valentine Dirty Sexy Politics

Best Script Cienda McNamara Hardly the Portrait of a Lady

Best Comedy Hardly the Portrait of a Lady

Best Burlesque The Good The Bad and the Fugly

Best Newcomers Charlotte and Evan Kerr Harry & Liv

Best Female Cabaret Artist Cienda McNamara Hardly the Portrait of a Lady

Best Male Cabaret Artist Brendan Hay Dance With De Vil