5 Questions with Rhys Keir

Rhys Keir HeadshotWhat is your favourite swear word?
Is this going to come back to haunt me when I audition for Playschool or run for Mayor? Well… it’s Motherfucker. I’ve always loved the way that word feels to say and it’s the only swear word that my Dad really, really hates. Plus when I’m freestyle rapping, which I do frequently and terribly, it’s a good filler word while I’m trying to think of what to say.

What are you wearing?
No word of a lie… I’m currently in my backyard pool wearing green underpants (please excuse the graphic imagery).

What is love?
Seeing the best of someone and the worst of someone, and choosing both (stole that from a poem).

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
I saw Sport For Jove put on The Crucible at Bella Vista Farm. I’ve been going to that festival every year since it started and it’s one of my favourite parts of the year. An amazing show. 4.5 stars. That deduction of 0.5 stars comes from pure jealously and envy that I wasn’t in it.

Is your new show going to be any good?
I have every reason to think so! It contributes towards a very important discussion and there are some very talented people involved.

Rhys Keir is appearing in Gaybies, part of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras festival programme.
Show dates: 6 Feb – 8 Mar, 2015
Show venue: Eternity Playhouse

Review: The Winslow Boy (The Genesian Theatre)

genesianVenue: The Genesian Theatre (Sydney NSW), Jan 17 – Feb 14, 2015
Playwright: Terence Rattigan
Director: Nanette Frew
Cast: Matthew Balkus, Meg Mooney, Lois Marsh, David Stewart-Hunter, Sonya Kerr, Lachlan McNab, David Prickett, Tom Massey, Jane Thorpe, Mehran Mortezaei, Roger Gimblett

Theatre review
Terence Rattigan’s 1946 work The Winslow Boy centres around the theme, “let right be done”, and its distinction from the concept of attaining justice. Not a great deal is made of this intellectual dissection in Nanette Frew’s direction, but in place of philosophical depth is quaint nostalgia and lighthearted entertainment. The interpretation is anti-naturalistic, with more than a hint of stylistic emulation of English theatre and life in the 1910s, resulting in a production that is staid and distant to begin with, but slowly warms up to something that is ultimately quite delightful.

There are good performances in the piece, including Sonya Kerr who plays Catherine Winslow, a suffragette finding her way through a changing world for women. Kerr is vibrant and playful, bringing a fun liveliness to the space. Her enthusiasm is not always matched by colleagues, but her persistence pays off and she creates the most engaging character of the show. In the role of Sir Robert Morton is Roger Gimblett whose chemistry with Kerr is a highlight. Gimblett is a dynamic actor who delivers effective drama, but would benefit with greater familiarity with his lines. The master of the house Arthur Winslow is performed with elegant gravity by David Stewart-Hunter who is a convincing patriarch, if a little oversubtle in approach.

Many audiences love a period piece, and Genesian’s The Winslow Boy satisfies on some levels. Cosmetically, it is well put together (especially Sandra Bass’ hats and Sharon Case’s wigs), but much of the execution feels surface, with characterisations and storytelling requiring further development. The production gives its creators much to be pleased about, but bars can always be raised higher in artistic expression, even when tackling a century old tale.


Review: Short+Sweet Theatre 2015 Top 80 Week 2 (Short+Sweet)

shortsweetVenue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Jan 14 – 18, 2015
Festival Director: Pete Malicki
Image by Sylvi Soe

Theatre review
Week two of 2015 Short+Sweet Theatre features a wealth of talent. There is exciting writing, clever direction, inspired acting, and sharp costuming to be found peppered through the night. Although no single work is able to be outstanding in every creative capacity, memorable moments are many, and the event continues to be an important one for Sydney artists and audiences alike.

Robert Renshaw’s Chat To Death teeters on the precipice of pornography, but the dangerous eroticism he explores is thrilling and beautiful, although quite explicit. The context he builds is not perfectly resolved, but his use of language more than satisfies. In Ryan Pemberton’s Business Meeting, a macabre and very quirky take on what happens in corporate boardrooms is beautifully directed by Pemberton whose sense of humour is odd, unique and very appealing. Direction is also a highlight in Rachel Welch’s So Says The Sea. James Hartley finds nuance in a deceptively simple script, and portrays surprising depth in just ten minutes. His cast is a strong one, especially Petrie Porter and Aleks Mikic who both impress with committed and meaningful interpretations of what could have been quite plain characters.

Other fabulous performances include Matthew Friedman, whose own piece The Least Impossible Thing That Happened This Evening opens the programme with vibrant energy and genuine enthusiasm. Equally buoyant is Jo Ford’s Chance You Can Dance, whose outrageously camp actors Hilary Park and Drew Holmes deliver irresistible laugh out loud sequences with their charming references to familiar cultural archetypes. Gavin Vance’s Screamers! The Wizard Of Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! (pictured above) stars the unforgettable Joseph Chetty who plays an Australian version of Dorothy Gale, blending drag comedy with a bawdy cabaret approach to present a scathing critique of the Abbott government, culminating in a live rendition of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ that is thoroughly and utterly electrifying. Dorothy’s call for a better national leader is a convincing one, and for a quick minute, she makes us believe in the pot of gold that lies at the end.


Review: Bad (Old Fitz Theatre / Red Line Productions)

redline2Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jan 14 – 31, 2015
Director: Scott Witt
Cast: Penny Greenhalgh, Kate Walder
Image by Yael Stempler

Theatre review
Bad is a show performed by clowns about acting (amongst other things). Along with director Scott Witt, performers Penny Greenhalgh and Kate Walder have devised a work that uses clowning traditions and influences from Commedia dell’arte, to deliver a theatrical experience that is slightly left of centre. Their show is more amusing than it is funny, and their ideas are familiar rather than original, but there is an earnestness and purity to their approach that can be quite charming.

Walder is the “stunt woman” clown who speaks with a French accent, toddling around in a pair of tap shoes. Insisting that she is Cate Blanchett, the Hollywood and theatre star, she goes on to present a show entitled ‘Where’s My Bucket, Mom?’, enlisting the help of Greenhalgh, “philosopher” clown who gradually warms to the idea of being Geoffrey Rush (another star of stage and screen). The plot and story are chaotic and random, but we are always brought back to the theme of performance. Walder and Greenhalgh explore the nature of the theatrical space and the experience of acting using their unconventional methods, with mixed results. The pair is well rehearsed, but the play’s frenzied style and structure require more intense energy levels to provide a sense of abandonment and absurdity to match its concepts. Both actors seem fairly cautious, creating a space that feels safe, where we would prefer a sense of danger and unpredictability.

Not every actor is a clown, but all clowns act. They give us something unique, that can be found in their license to transgress. Clowns do not speak much, because they communicate in better ways. They reach out to us in realms that are beyond words, so that we understand the world from a different perspective. When done right, they impart a kind of wisdom that brings unexpected enlightenment. Bad is not always good, but what’s worse is doing things the same way over and over again. There is a courage at play here, and we need more of it.


Review: Masterclass (Old Fitz Theatre / Red Line Productions)

redlineVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jan 14 – 31, 2015
Playwrights: Gareth Davies, Charlie Garber
Directors: Gareth Davies, Charlie Garber
Cast: Gareth Davies, Charlie Garber
Image by Marnya Rothe

Theatre review
Two actors collaborate on a work for the stage, talking about what they know best. Gareth Davies and Charlie Garber’s Masterclass is about the craft and experience of acting, and all the anxieties associated with it. They take the art of self-mockery to great heights by depicting versions of themselves that are flamboyantly theatrical and deeply cynical, to interrogate the nature of their creative beast. An extreme self-consciousness manifests itself in a persistent need to make light of their art form, which delivers gales of laughter effectively, but its attempts to demystify and deconstruct the psychology and process of the actor takes irreverence to a sometimes uncomfortable place, and one begins to question the exasperating disquiet that Davies and Garber seem to feel about their profession. We see their resistance against taking any of their craft seriously, but we see them exploring this iconoclasm, with impressive commitment and skill.

There is a distinct, almost stubborn sense of humour at play, but the pair manipulates pace, rhythm, and plot dynamics to give the work variations in tone that keep us engaged, despite its very simple premise. Garber has a quiet confidence that allows him to portray the wild comedy of Masterclass with relative restraint. His style is often deadpan, but the clarity of intent he brings to every moment gives a surprising coherence to his unorthodox part, and a convincing strength to his punchlines. Davies’ approach is wider in range, and his comedic choices are decidedly riskier. The man’s energy is the foundation of the piece, and his control over spatial atmosphere and his audience’s responses is quite marvellous. We do not necessarily empathise with every idea Davies expresses, but there is certainly a lot to be admired of his ability to entertain, while conveying concepts that can be quite obscure.

Technical design is a crucial element to the structure and timing of this comedy production. Uncredited work on sound and Benjamin Brockman’s lights add much needed sophistication to an otherwise aesthetically challenged show. The play’s context allows for imaginative use of sets, props and costumes, but no investment is placed on those areas, and Brockman is called upon to provide all visual embellishment in the black box to admittedly satisfying results. Also noteworthy is stage manager Nick Foustellis’ precise and elegant execution of cues and changes.

The play concludes with a hint of poignancy that arrives after a long wait. The two young men prove themselves to be brilliant at light entertainment, but they seem to shy away from the inevitable gravitas that any theatrical piece requires. Not every story needs to give you something to think about, but when careless, jokes can leave you feeling empty. The sweet taste of success is for delighting in, and young talent should learn to embrace their gifts, even in the land of tall poppies.


5 Questions with Haiha Le

haihaleWhat is your favourite swear word?
I’m not discerning. I love them all, swearing is shitfuckincuntty rad! I started timidly, a late bloomer at 16, but once the floodgates opened I became a veritable gutter mouth.

What are you wearing?
Nothing but the blood of a virgin coconut (organic & cold pressed).

What is love?
A four letter English word worth seven points in scrabble. In Vietnamese it’s Yêu, which sounds like ‘Ewww’ when pronounced in English.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Cyrano de Bergerac at Sydney Theatre Company. I give it 3 gold stickers. Props to the actors though, they get 5 gold stickers.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Hells yeh, hi five!

Haiha Le is starring in Dream Home by David Williamson.
Show dates: 31 Jan – 28 Mar, 2015
Show venue: Ensemble Theatre

5 Questions with Shane Bosher

shanebosherWhat is your favourite swear word?
There are three that regularly vie for #1 spot: bullcrap, fuckpuppet and cunting. All almost unspeakable.

What are you wearing?
I go for a simple look: black t, classic blue jeans, black Nike trainers. Consider it my contemporary take on the classic 1970s director garb: black skivvy, leather jacket, cigarette.

What is love?
Love is a wonderful predicament which has been destroying and enriching people’s lives since forever. It’s simplicity, it’s courage, it’s vulnerability, it’s difficulty, it’s joy – it is all of the things. Without it, stories would be rubbish and I’d be out of a job.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
A touring version of The Sound Of Music in New Zealand. I left after the Mother Superior had climbed every mountain. A gruelling trip up into the Alps with wobbly vibrato and wobblier sets. 2 stars. Am seeing Tabac Rouge tomorrow, so am holding out all hope for that to restore the faith.

Is your new show going to be any good?
It’s a whole lot of crash bang love. Great play, top notch cast, stellar production team and the Old Fitz as you’ve never seen it before. I reckon so.

Shane Bosher is directing Cock by Mike Bartlett.
Show dates: 3 Feb – 6 Mar, 2015
Show venue: The Old Fitzroy Hotel