5 Questions with Emily Elise

emilyeliseWhat is your favourite swear word?
Fuck. Perfect for any kind of emotion; good, bad, happy, sad!

What are you wearing?
It’s Monday. I’m wearing a brave face.

What is love?
Love is a many splendid thing! Love lifts us up where we belong, all you need is love! But seriously, love is like that dream where you’re falling and you jolt yourself awake.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The last show I saw was A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Genesian I think? 3/5 stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
When else do you get to see theatre in a glass box in the middle of Parramatta? With an incredible cast, live music and a site specific devised performance, it’s going to be something you won’t want to miss.

Emily Elise is appearing in Zeroville, part of Anywhere Festival Parramatta.
Show dates: 8 – 16 May, 2015
Show venue: Glass Pavilion, Heritage Courtyard @ the Parramatta Justice Precinct

Review: Storm Boy (Barking Gecko / Sydney Theatre Company)

Venue: Wharf 1 Sydney Theatre Company (Walsh Bay NSW), Apr 24 – May 17, 2015
Playwright: Tom Holloway (based on the book by Colin Thiele)
Director: John Sheedy
Cast: Jimi Bani, Julian Garner, Kai Lewins, Rory Potter, Phil Dean Walford, Anthony Mayor
Images by Brett Boardman

Theatre review
Christians believe that “Man is more valuable to God than animals,” and “men were created in the image of God”. Indeed, humankind often thinks of itself as separate from nature, and superior to it. We then give ourselves permission to devour and ravage the planet as though a commodity at our disposal, without its own rights and destinies. Colin Thiele’s book Storm Boy was published in 1964, and in 1976, its film version was released. Theatre productions are staged regularly to introduce new generations of children to the story, and its lessons, not only of environment conservation, but also of death, grief, and for Australian audiences, the relationship between Aboriginal and European cultures on our land.

John Sheedy’s direction of the piece is intelligent, creative and tender. It is a soulful rendition of an innocent tale that can touch the hardest of hearts. The expert level of stagecraft being incorporated is sophisticated and dynamic, with its puppetry elements a breathtaking stand out. Phil Dean Walford and Anthony Mayor are dancers who provide an indigenous omnipresence to the show, while simultaneously, and marvellously, operating the pelicans that share centre stage with its protagonist. Peter Wilson is Puppetry Director, and along with Michael Scott-Mitchell who is designer for set, costumes and the puppets, their artful vision is successfully translated to convey Thiele’s magical tale with great poignancy. Lighting Designer Damien Cooper and Sound Designer Kingsley Reeve both contribute extraordinarily inventive work that help form a fantastical experience that is truly amazing.

The lead role of Storm Boy is played by Rory Potter who impresses with an almighty focus and a deep understanding of his character’s journey. We see him completely absorbed, and believe unreservedly in all that he portrays. His father Tom is performed with subtle complexity by Julian Garner, an efficient and restrained actor who manages to reveal a world of emotion with a beautifully minimal approach. Jimi Bani is the boy’s mentor and friend, Fingerbone, an animated and passionate personality manifested by Bani’s excellent use of gesture and movement. Chemistry between the cast is natural, strong and joyful. Together, their work is consistently engaging, in a show that speaks intimately to our humanity and remarkable in its capacity to move us. Theatre can do many things, but one of its greatest accomplishments is to remind us of the enormity and largesse of the universe, beyond our selfish daily concerns. Life is meaningless when we refuse to look at the big picture, and that is exactly what Storm Boy wants us to see.


Review: Antigone (Théâtre Excentrique)

theatreexcentriqueVenue: PACT Theatre (Erskineville NSW), Apr 23 – May 2, 2015
Playwright: Jean Anouilh (translated by Kris Shalvey and Anna Jahjah)
Director: Anna Jahjah
Cast: Roslyn Blake, Kate Fraser, Kirsty Jordan, Aurora Kinsella, Karl Kinsella, Philippe Klaus, Neil Modra, Gerry Sont, Ellen Williams, and students from Blacktown Girls High

Theatre review
The word “wilful” is usually applied to the young, along with connotations of idealism and immaturity. We think of them as “not knowing any better” to explain away their inconvenient behaviour. The lead character in Jean Anouilh’s Antigone is all of the above, but she is also virtuous. Like us, her world is one that has too many things gone awry, yet everyone is required to stick to its rules in order that an illusory sense of order can be preserved. Anarchic activity is often classed criminal, regardless of intentions good, bad or ugly. This twenty year-old woman knows the dire consequences that await but she is fearless, and proceeds to do what she believes to be right. Anouilh’s version of the Greek tragedy is passionate, philosophical and political. It is a stirring piece of writing that provides inspiration for the way we make choices, and the way we create theatre. Its incorporation of a chorus and narrator allows for ideas to be articulated directly, while sequences of realism (beautifully preserved in this English language translation by Kris Shalvey and Anna Jahjah) puts us in scenarios that feel familiar in spite of their contextual distance.

Direction of the piece by Jahjah is energetic and suitably expressive. The use of a chorus comprising only of young girls, puts focus on the dimension of gender in the play’s arguments. All dressed in white, their innocence and purity of spirit are the physical embodiment of the text’s key motifs. Use of space is inventive and thoughtful. Characters are positioned freely within the dynamically designed space, and their movements contribute to the depiction of emotional states and of narratives unfolding. Jahjah’s work may not always be affecting, but her production is a surprisingly entertaining one.

Ellen Williams is impressive as our heroine, with a deeply authentic fury and righteousness that gives the show its poignant foundations. We share Antigone’s beliefs, and are thrilled to see her fighting with conviction and wild abandon. Williams shows glimpses of tenderness and sadness that helps us connect with her role’s humanity, but these do not surface often enough. The cast works well to keep us amused and engaged, but many of the key roles are not explored with enough complexity and nuance. Creon is Antigone’s uncle and adversary, whose strong oppositional points of view raise the stakes and add to the drama, but Neil Modra’s work, while exuberant and charmingly idiosyncratic, does not convey his character’s beliefs with sufficient clarity. The central struggle of the show then becomes unbalanced and disappointingly, weakened.

There are many things we want for our children, but courage is not always at the top of lists. We are afraid of what might result, and prefer instead for them to grow up cautious, sensible and safe. It is our responsibility after all, to be their shelter from harm. In Antigone, honour comes at a price, although glory is nowhere to be found. In a tragedy where nobody wins, the moral of the story can be ambiguous. The value of a life is usually determined by how well we live it, and how long we are able to experience it. Only in rare cases are we able to judge a life by the legacy it leaves behind.


Review: Ali McGregor’s Alchemy (Hayes Theatre Co)

alimcgregorVenue: Hayes Theatre Co (Potts Point NSW), Apr 21 – 26, 2014
Musical Director: Sam Keevers
Cast: Ali McGregor

Theatre review
Ali McGregor has the kind of talent that we all wish to have. She is a singer who can sing anything across every genre, and she does them all incredibly well. In Alchemy, she showcases her frankly amazing ability at opera, rap, pop, rock, and all shades of jazz. There is nothing her voice is incapable of, and everything sounds authentic. Switching from musical theatre torch songs to hip hop à la Salt-N-Pepa is entirely effortless for McGregor. We never feel that the performer is more comfortable in one style than another, and the confidence she presents with each number is thoroughly enthralling and quite overwhelming.

When the diva sings, we are captivated and suspended in a timeless space; we lose ourselves and all our cares evaporate. McGregor says that Alchemy is about turning trash to treasure. The set list includes well known chart hits from the 80’s and 90’s, but rearranged to fit a jazz cabaret mode featuring Sam Keevers on the piano, Jonathan Zwartz on double bass and Tim Firth on drums. The programme is beautifully paced and constantly surprising, with an enjoyable juxtaposition of the familiar with the unexpected, providing amusement and delight. McGregor is a keen entertainer who engages her crowd with gestures and glances, and a lot of talking between songs. She is without question, a funny lady, and uses comedy well to create contexts for song choices, but unlike the music, her style and content of her chit-chat can become repetitive. She also shies away from more serious moments, frequently introducing a self-deprecating humour that is sometimes charming, but can also be disruptive. McGregor is capable of a lot of beauty with her presence and performance, and should allow more of her sublime qualities to resonate, instead of reverting to a persistent display of modesty and down-to-earthness.

It must be noted that lighting design for the show is inventive and very dynamic, transforming the simplest of stagings into something quite visually stunning. Sound however, does not show off McGregor’s range with enough effectiveness. The singer sounds impressive through the venue’s speakers for most of the duration but when she belts the bigger notes with her extraordinary power, the technical facilities seems to falter, losing dimension at these crucial points. Fortunately, the star’s determination and infallibility smooths over every flaw, and we cannot help but stay in love with her until the very end.


Review: Vice (Emu Productions)

emuproductionsVenue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Apr 21 – May 9, 2015
Playwright: Melvyn Morrow
Director: Elaine Hudson
Cast: Margi De Ferranti, Jonathan Deves, Roger Gimblett, Christopher Hamilton, Jess Loudon, Benjamin McCann

Theatre review
Writing a play about hot topics of the day is a delicate operation. Reiterating dominant schools of thought without adding new perspectives will make the work seem lightweight and redundant, but proffering alternative ideas can be dangerous, especially when the issue is a sensitive one. Melvyn Morrow’s Vice joins the very contemporary discussion on the sexual assault of children by authority figures in religious institutions. We meet Jasper, a manipulative eighteen year-old who uses his burgeoning sexuality as currency, and the guardians at his affluent high school who exploit their custodial positions over students in their care. The illusion of consent that exists between people in hierarchical organisations become further complicated by the issue of age. Society acknowledges a certain legal age where people become adults, but within the paradigm of school and family, we believe in a sacred sense of protection that must prevail for all our daughters and sons. Morrow writes with an ambiguity that inspires thought, and although unlikely to change anyone’s moral position, his story opens up points in a hackneyed argument that may have been previously overlooked. The play’s structure is engaging and tight, with character transformations and edgy dialogue that provide drama and intellectual stimulation.

Direction by Elaine Hudson is punchy and passionate, and although personalities are not always convincing, their narratives are conveyed with enough clarity so that the plot retains its complexities without losing too much coherence. Morrow’s script is often witty, but comedy is not handled well in the production. The cast is under-rehearsed with an inordinate frequency of actors tripping over lines, and several key roles are approached with insufficient depth, resulting in emotions that lack accuracy. The play is situated in modern day Sydney, but its speech emulates an artificial upper class affectation that seems to have been awkwardly derived from mid twentieth century English film and television, that can occasionally cause a troubling dislocation of space and time. On a brighter note, all performances are energetic, with an enjoyable urgency that holds our attention. Playing Olivia Fox is Jess Loudon who attacks with conviction and a charming boldness. Her part is simpler than the other darker characters, but Loudon brings nuance and texture to create a presence on stage that the audience can relate to.

Societal progression involves the dismantlement of old organisations that have proven themselves contrary to democratic ideologies. The pervasiveness and influence of religion in our lives run thorough and broad. Many profit from archaic power structures, and are determined to sustain them by deceptive and cowardly means. The rich and powerful choose a status quo that requires poverty and powerlessness to exist, so resistance and change can only occur at snail place (if at all). Communities are divided and conquered by a 1% of humanity, that insist we continue to participate, knowingly and unconsciously, in all the rituals of daily life that perpetuate our own oppression, in ignorance and isolation. Only when we find an appetite for destruction big enough and brave enough, that revolution can happen. There is a gentle flame in Vice that can inspire, and perhaps provide a spark that can lead to a solution for these disturbing circumstances that we should all be very concerned about.


5 Questions with Brendon Taylor

brendontaylorWhat is your favourite swear word?
“Godverdomme”. Or “klootzak”. Anything in a foreign language sounds much better than English and the Dutch have some great sounding swears.

What are you wearing?
An excellent, full and glossy beard thanks to Captain Fawcett’s Beard Oil (private stock).

What is love?
Love is all around me. Love is in the air. Love is a battlefield. What’s love got to do with it?

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Sparrow Folk, a glam/folk duo comprised of 2 girls and their ukeleles. Check them out at www.sparrow-folk.com, they deserve all of the stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Definitely. Although don’t come and see it if you don’t support independent theatre, if you don’t like comedy, puns, wordplay, Oscar Wilde, enjoying yourself, or if you’re a klootzak.

Brendon Taylor is appearing in The Importance Of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde.
Show dates: 5 – 17 May, 2015
Show venue: Exchange Hotel Balmain

5 Questions with Sage Godrei

sagegodreiWhat is your favourite swear word?
TIT. Depending on how much impact is required it can be used with a pre-fix or suffix. Examples are skittle-TIT or TITed.

What are you wearing?
Wide leg brown men’s trousers with sage coloured floral embossed shirt.

What is love?
For me Love is the most fun you can have with your pants on. I LOVE to let my hormones and imagination run wild… or maybe that’s infatuation.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
David Williamson’s Dream Home at Ensemble Theatre. I was still laughing two hours in, that’s worth a fist full of stars to me.

Is your new show going to be any good?
My show will be symbolic of regenerative ideas. It aims to please, surprise and entertain good and proper.

Sage Godrei’s new work Burning Angel is presented as part of the Anywhere Theatre Festival.
Show dates: 8 – 14 May, 2015
Show venue: Shh Centre 4 Hybrid Arts

5 Questions with Janine Watson

janinewatsonWhat is your favourite swear word?
I don’t use swear words. I use swear sentences, so that would be “BLEEPS BLEEPING sake BLEEP BLURP my BLEEEPIING case BLEEPING BLEEEEEEPP of a BLEEPED up BLEEPING smelly BLEEP covered BLEEP RAG.”

What are you wearing?
A lovely biscuit coloured tan. That’s a lie – I’m as pale as death. I’m wearing navy trackies and a striped french-boulevard style t-shirt… so lock up your sons and daughters.

What is love?
A ride to or from the airport. From anyone. Anyone who offers that is the embodiment of love. Except taxi drivers because as we all know if you have to pay for it it ain’t love, now is it?!

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Riverrun at STC. It was a torrent of gorgeousness. Olwen Fouéré – her very name speaks to the lyricism of this work. Words she was born to speak.

Is your new show going to be any good?
What show? Pretty sure I’m just meeting Kate at the pub every night for two weeks for a natter. So people are very welcome to come along and eavesdrop. Truthfully though, Dolores will be rad. It’s a rare joy to work on. I haven’t been this excited to perform a show since I cast myself as the Jodie Foster character in my self-penned stage adaptation of The Accused for the 1993 Deloraine Drama Festival Secondary School division in Tasmania garnering the Best Actress award.

PS We are also speaking in accents.

PPS Kate Box is the cat’s pyjamas!!!

Janine Watson is appearing in Dolores by Edward Allan Baker.
Show dates: 28 Apr – 9 May, 2015
Show venue: The Old Fitzroy Hotel

Review: Deathtrap (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

darlinghursttheatreVenue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Apr 10 – May 10, 2015
Playwright: Ira Levin
Director: Jo Turner
Cast: Timothy Dashwood, Drew Fairley, Sophie Gregg, Andrew McFarlane, Georgina Symes
Image by Helen White

Theatre review
In Ira Levin’s Deathtrap, the chief ingredient for a hit theatre show is thought to be the script on which a production is based. The characters scheme and struggle to find a golden ticket that would lead to fame and fortune on Broadway, believing that nothing is out of bounds in that pursuit. Murder and betrayal are but part of the process in their creation of a smash manuscript. Levin’s own writing is witty and wild. His comedy is derived from an enthusiasm for irony, which finds its way through the entire text. Nothing can be taken seriously, yet everything rings with a hint of truth.

Jo Turner’s direction of the production is suitably morbid, and in spite of its outlandish contexts, he ensures that the personalities we meet are always believable. The plot makes good sense under his guidance, but tension never quite reaches a feverish pitch, and the humour is oddly subtle. Mystery and thriller elements are more effectively manufactured, with substantial assistance from composer and sound designer Marty Jamieson whose work here is unquestionably outstanding. Also delightful is Michael Hankin’s set, which introduces a sophisticated aesthetic to the stage, and establishes a very elegant solution to the show’s many entrances and exits.

Leading man Andrew McFarlane owns the stage with a larger than life presence as the conceited celebrity playwright, Sidney Bruhl. McFarlane works beautifully with the cynical tone of Levin’s writing to acknowledge the theatrical self-awareness of the play and to invite us along to its in-joke style of presentation. He is ably supported by Timothy Dashwood who brings energy and conviction to his role as the young apprentice writer, Clifford Anderson. The cast connects on a level of narrative accuracy, but there is little comic chemistry to be found. There is a flamboyant spirit at the heart of the material that its actual execution does not always live up to.

Scripts are often the starting point of a show, but no amount of genius writing can guarantee an impressive live experience. Deathtrap seems to have all the qualities of a gripping and intelligent comedy/thriller, but what actually happens on stage, although amusing, is not very powerful. The play talks a lot about ambition, and the team that has put this version together is clearly aiming at something quite spectacular, but its landing spot is not quite as planned.


Review: Haircuts (Mantouridion Theatre)

haircutsVenue: Mantouridion Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Apr 15 – 26, 2015
Playwright: Con Nats
Director: Lex Marinos
Cast: Demitra Alexandria, Valentino Arico, John Derum, Barbara Gouskos, Adam Hatzimanolis, Richard Hilliar, Tim Ressos

Theatre review
Successful plays encapsulate a slice of life and represent to its audience something meaningful. Con Nats’ Haircuts is an ambitious work that tries to bring many different threads together, revealing a hunger to tell many stories and an urgency for committing a wealth of ideas to the stage. Its narrative style is conventional, but its structure is less so. Focus shifts regularly, and subplots become overwhelming, resulting in a disorienting uncertainty about the show’s main plot and its centre. There is a big emphasis on multiculturalism, which although interesting, does not contribute directly to the way key narratives unfold. Machismo is also explored thoroughly, and frequently used for laughs, but it contributes to an uncomfortable gender imbalance where all the women in the play are constantly defined against their husbands, fathers and sons.

Direction of the work by Lex Marinos is a passionate effort, and individual scenes are carefully explored, but the production does not assemble into a cohesive whole. The awkward imbalances between amusing asides that take up too much time, and poignant character developments that go past too gently, cause important elements to lose clarity and the play can often seem undecided about what it intends to convey. Performances are uneven but strong players include Barbara Gouskos who brings a beautiful gravity to the role of Angela, delivering a convincing, albeit brief, portrayal of a woman who has experienced very dark days. Her measured approach is authentically emotional and with it, she introduces to us a special and resonant moment of shared humanity. Richard Hilliar’s Stanley is a quiet and tender contrast to the clamorous goings-on, and offers up the only well-rounded personality in a throng of unoriginal stereotypes. His chemistry with co-actors can be improved, but the actor does his best to anchor the show in a position of subtlety that helps us relate to the world being depicted.

The production requires distillation, but even in its imperfect form, it is not without strengths. Some of the dialogue is beautifully deep, and much of the acting is energetic and earnest, in fact it might be said that there is often too much of a good thing, which could only lead to the ridiculously obvious conclusion that Haircuts needs a bit of shearing.