5 Questions with Kyle Stephens

kylestephensWhat is your favourite swear word?
It’s a kids’ show. Sugar Honey Ice Tea.

What are you wearing?
Well this is embarrassing but I’m wearing a tiger onesie.

What is love?
Love is what I share with my lovely girlfriend Amy Fisher. It’s like a sore tummy except with joy on top of it… and hugs haha.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The last thing I saw that wasn’t what I was working on was Ruthless at the Seymour Centre. It was 10 out of 10.

Is your new show going to be any good?
It’s going to be amazing.

Kyle Stephens is in Mother Goose by Emu Productions.
Show dates: 8 -23 Dec, 2014
Show venue: King Street Theatre

Review: Cinderella (Belvoir St Theatre)

Venue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Nov 13 – Dec 14, 2014
Playwright: Matthew Whittet (based on an original concept by Anthea Williams)
Director: Anthea Williams
Cast: Mandy McElhinney, Matthew Whittet
Images by Brett Boardman

Theatre review
Fairy tales appeal to our basic desires. They address our need to be acknowledged and exalted, which is probably why they so often take the form of love stories. Matthew Whittet and Anthea Williams’s Cinderella is about our need for love, but it seeks to transform the fantasies and lies of Disney world, relocating it to a space of truth, lived experience, and disappointment. Its characters Ashley and Ash, are thoroughly familiar beings who remind us of ourselves and of people we meet everyday. They are strangers in the night who reach out to each other, hoping for a connection, and it is that possibility of a soul finding its other half that touches and engages us.

When both Ashleys meet, their accidental encounter is an awkward one. They are not brassy personalities, and their attempts at stretching beyond their individual comfort zones in the act of seduction becomes the comedic core of the production. The actors are brilliant comics who deliver laughs with precision, but the plot feels repetitive in its emphasis on creating jokes from that incessant awkwardness that subsumes the otherwise interesting development of character and relationship that takes place under the surface. A major tonal shift finally occurs in the last quarter of the show, bringing a breath of fresh air along with immense poignancy. The conclusion is beautifully crafted, although the depth that is eventually exposed feels sadly momentary.

The charismatic Whittet plays Ash with an attractive ease, consistently amusing his audience with a quirky instinctual approach. The actor has a slight physique and his countenance is plain, but the magnetic presence he adds to the stage assertively demands our attention, determined to entertain at every opportunity. Also enjoyable is Mandy McElhinney, who presents herself as a committed comedian, always sensitive to punchlines and timing. Her enthusiasm for creating laughter is infectious, but it also alienates us from the emotional arc of her character’s journey. We wish to dive into Ashley’s experience, but often find ourselves pushed out to observe only the funny side of scenarios. It is noteworthy that McElhinney and Whittet perform the final dark scenes with excellent and surprising intensity, leaving us wishing for more of their serious sides.

This Cinderella is an accurate and timely representation of romance in the digital age. Technology and commerce have penetrated every aspect of our lives, yet some of our notions of love and relationships are adamantly traditional and wholesome. The show looks at how we survive loneliness, and the meaning of sex and relationships in the era of dating apps and casual hook ups. The reality is unbearably grim, but it is human to shield our vulnerability with dreams. In affairs of the heart, delusions and hope are two sides of the same coin, and only the ones looking at the stars will stand a chance of fleeing the gutter.


Review: Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful? (Fernerkle / Jordy Shea Theatrical)

jordysheaVenue: Sydney Theatre School (Chippendale NSW), Dec 3 – 14, 2014
Writer: Malcolm Frawley
Director: Malcolm Frawley
Cast: Josephine Waller, Stephen Bracken, Sarah Westhoff, Lauren Maddever, Genevieve Jarrett, Eleni Panayi, Emma Medbury, Demitra Sealy, Benjamin Hanly, Bass Hathaway, Claire Gandy, Ellis Neil, Nick Logan, Robert Carne

Theatre review
The play begins the day before Tegan and Silas are to wed, but Tegan quickly initiates a flashback to show us how the young couple had met and their subsequent journey towards matrimony. There is nothing extraordinary about their love story, in fact things are astonishingly plain. In an early scene, maid of honour Chloe mentions taking ecstasy in a club, but Tegan promptly reminds her that this version of events is to be revised for polite public consumption, indicating a tale that might be embellished and imaginary, but is sorely lacking in authenticity and truth.

Malcolm Frawley’s script and direction is strangely reminiscent of pantomime, yet it attempts to deal with adult subject matter. There is a lot of interest in sexuality and fidelity, although those themes are never explored with any depth or originality, and words like “slut” are used liberally presumable to criticize female sexual behaviour (or maybe just for comic effect). The lovebirds go through some incredibly trivial tensions in their relationship, but we are never too concerned because their story’s happy ending had already been revealed in the play’s introduction.

Leading lady Josie Waller holds the production together with excellent conviction, but is unable to elevate the role beyond something quite surface and disappointingly unintelligent. Stephen Bracken is the handsome Silas, but the play presents him with no challenge and few lines, often requiring him only to look bewildered and worried. Lauren Maddever has the unenviable task of playing Sophie, a young woman who has to subject herself to a series of makeovers in order to rid herself of her idiosyncratic appearance, as though turning into one of the crowd would deliver her from unhappiness. Bass Hathaway plays a series of characters, leaving a strong impression with his comedic abilities. In the role of Kelvin, he is genuinely funny playing a love struck young man hypnotised by the woman of his dreams.

It is disconcerting that Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful?‘s archaic notions of gender roles are central to its plot and narratives. There is also an immaturity on many fronts that makes the production feel underdeveloped and unstudied, even though it is obviously put together with earnestness. Like Sophie, artists can sometimes be derivative in their approach. The show takes the form of something familiar, and while it is not realistic to expect everything in the theatre to be original, it does not offer anything fresh or amusing. It has an adventurous spirit, but it needs to find greater inventiveness, to say something that had not already been said too many times before.