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.


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

oldfitzVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Apr 14 – May 9, 2015
Playwright: Lyle Kessler
Director: Anthony Gooley
Cast: Danny Adcock, Aaron Glenane, Andrew Henry
Image by Rupert Reid

Theatre review
Many have likened love to air, associating both with an absolute necessity for survival. Unlike air however, love can manifest in many unpredictable ways, and in Orphans, we see how the best of intentions can become cruel behaviour responsible for untold suffering. Phillip and Treat are brothers who have grown up without parents. They share a close mutual reliance, but without any guidance, their instincts have created young men who are dysfunctional together and apart. Beneath the boisterous tone of Lyle Kessler’s writing, is a tender depiction of relationships that has the potential to move and to connect with every person’s experiences of difficult family dynamics. We all have an understanding of the imperfections that exist in our homes, and the accuracy at which the brothers’ problematic and insular world is explored, allows for thorough identification and empathy.

The production is directed well by Anthony Gooley, who ensures that characters are complex and fascinating, with an amplified realism that provides a sense of familiarity even though the circumstances being staged are fairly extreme. It is an unusual and unpredictable story, relayed with vigour and heightened drama, but we do not perceive a great sense of purpose to the director’s work, other than to establish an atmosphere of enthrallment for the duration of the play. We are gripped for its entirety but leave without discovering great insight that matches the gravity of what is seen. The character of Harold is a father figure who destabilises the brothers’ cozy dwelling, performed by Danny Adcock with excellent conviction and strength, but the role is positioned neither enigmatic enough nor believable enough. Harold’s presence does not always make sense in the narrative, and our questioning of his authenticity is an unfortunate dissuasion.

Aaron Glenane turns in a magnificent performance as the younger brother, Phillip. The actor is marvelously nuanced in his intensity, expressing with great efficacy an exhaustive range of psychological possibilities and physical attributes, completely captivating in a beautifully embellished characterisation of damaged innocence. Glenane’s approach is adventurous and playful, but also sensitive and studied. He understands chemistry instinctively, and fosters a strong bond with colleagues and audience that keeps us invested in Phillip’s plight. Offering a macho and manic counterbalance is Treat, the older brother played by Andrew Henry with a threatening and exuberant energy that keeps us anxiously seduced. The largeness of his personality keeps us on the edge, tense in anticipation of his next outburst of trespass or feelings. It is a powerful performance, but Henry’s final scene requires further finessing. A transition of emotion occurs too suddenly and unexpectedly, taking lustre away from the Orphans‘ concluding moment of piquancy.

We encounter strangers every day, but letting new people into our lives is a rare occurrence. The desire for a sense of permanence and security means that we prevent new influences from infiltrating, whether positive or negative. Phillip and Treat had made a habit of their suffering, unaware that a better way of life was within their grasp. Inspiration resides everywhere, and we must be able to welcome it in when the right ones present themselves, so that life can be lived to the fullest, and with any luck, be survived by a legacy of something good.


Review: Rocky Horror Show (Lyric Theatre)

rockyhorrorVenue: Lyric Theatre (Sydney NSW), from Apr 11, 2015
Music, lyrics and book: Richard O’Brien
Director: Chris Luscombe
Choreographer: Nathan Wright
Cast: Angelique Cassimatis, Nicholas Christo, Brendan Irving, Kristian Lavercombe, Amy Lehpamer, Stephen Mahy, Craig McLachlan, Bert Newton, Jayde Westaby

Theatre review
The Rocky Horror musical and its Australian star are icons within their own realms. They have their loyal followings, all coming with fixed expectations that have been cultivated from years of interaction and fandom. There is nothing at all that is unpredictable in this particular incarnation. Richard O’Brien’s material has dated and Craig McLachlan is no shinier a star than he was thirty years ago, but no ticket holder anticipates seeing anything out of the ordinary, other than a very well iterated version of the usual fare.

The production provides as much colour and fun as a dvd viewing of the 1975 film could deliver. Things feel old-fashioned but charming, and while we no longer respond to the show’s shock factor, its kitsch value is still unique and remarkable. The gender and sexual subversion that is fundamental to Rocky Horror‘s success is now passé and much too mild to resonate with the same sense of danger experienced four decades ago, but it provides context for very blue comedy, which this particular Dr. Frank N. Furter does not shy away from. McLachlan’s comic timing is not the key to his enduring popularity, but his determination and exceptional commitment to the stage carries an infectious joy that allows the two hour show to occur in the blink of an eye. The performer leads the cast with an exuberant and playful energy, but lacks the elegance of Tim Curry’s legendary rendition on celluloid. McLachlan’s singing is surprisingly strong, but the more memorable numbers are presented by Amy Lehpamer (Janet Weiss) and Kristian Lavercombe (Riff Raff), who impress with a kind of polish specific to stars of musical theatre, complete with piercing, unwavering vocals and irresistible pizzazz that entertains all from front row up to the nosebleeds.

Theatre, like life, needs occasional lashings of frivolity to provide some balance to the inevitable gloominess that afflicts everyone from time to time. Janet and Brad go through a profound metamorphosis in the story, having seen things that were previously unimaginable, and come away with lessons that are unfathomable to many. Some of us hope for that kind of poignancy every time we devote time and money to the arts, but others prefer to leave the auditorium with nothing more than a few laughs and several delightful song and dance sequences. Rocky Horror Show is lightweight but it does not pretend to be anything much more, and if Frank N Furter has lost his edge, we should probably be grateful that androgyny and gender fluidity is no longer an effective freak show centrepiece.


5 Questions with Tim Dashwood

timdashwoodWhat is your favourite swear word?
Unfortunately most swear words are a bit too common for me so I think the c-word is the one I turn to when I really want to mean something.

What are you wearing?
Jeans, t-shirt and flanny. The slight change into Autumn scares me. I hate the cold unless I’m with scarf, double layers and a good beanie.

What is love?
Love is many things. It’s openness, honesty, intimacy and thoughtfulness… and probably more. Love is doing things for others to make them happy.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
I think it was Les Mis. With a classic like that, so big and blockbustery gotta give it a big score. Big voices and nice re-imagining. Some killer performances!

Is your new show going to be any good?
Hell yeah. An audience is going to have a hoot. Hopefully they’ll have a giggle, a few screams and fingers crossed we get a few, “what the?”s as well.

Tim Dashwood will be appearing in Darlinghurst Theatre’s Deathtrap, by Ira Levine.
Show dates: 10 Apr – 10 May, 2015
Show venue: Eternity Playhouse

Review: Seeing Unseen (Old 505 Theatre)

old505Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Apr 8 – 26, 2015
Devised by: Gareth Boylan, Michael Cullen, Kerri Glasscock, Michael Pigott
Director: Gareth Boylan
Cast: Michael Cullen, Kerri Glasscock, Michael Pigott

Theatre review
Nature and technology are a convenient dichotomy. We like thinking that they are mutually exclusive, as though nature has no part to play in the advancement of technology, and we imagine an ideal state where the primitive is pure and only good. This romantic notion of a regression of time that could bring us back to some place better, is the catalyst for many of the ideas in Seeing Unseen. The work is surreal and abstract, and slightly science fiction in style, but the universe it depicts is familiar to us. It is concerned with our daily lives, with all our petty interests and preoccupations, except it amplifies and articulates the parts that should be automatic and unheeded, and everything becomes strange. The play is about relationships, human volition, memory and of course, technology. Its narrative is an odd one, and even though we understand all that is happening, the key to its purpose can only be found late into the piece. The mysterious nature of its structure is a hugely satisfying one that keeps us on our toes, and makes our minds work overtime, trying to put pieces together, and to construct meaning out of a deceptive and fractured text.

Performance styles by the outstandingly cohesive yet individually brilliant trio of Michael Cullen, Kerri Glasscock and Michael Pigott, run the gamut from soap opera naturalism to high art avant garde. The fluidity of form, and confidence in composition means that its very original mode of presentation, although unique and deeply interesting, never feels forced or patronising. We know that we are witnessing brave creativity in unorthodox motion, but it is engaging and friendly. Gareth Boylan’s direction is sensitive to his audience’s needs and capacities. He keeps us satisfied by providing our senses with what they crave, but always adds an extra dimension that causes a little disorientation. We are offered more than we bargain for, and it is thrilling. There is however, a sense of repetition in the plot that can outstay its welcome. The premise of the work is basic, and the way it manifests on stage does not vary enough over the hour long duration, and things become predictable towards its end.

Seeing Unseen gives our hearts and brains a good work out, leaving no place for feelings to hide, and no moment for the head to dull. The show is quiet but tense, and it lures you into its unusual explorations, sharing its passionate sense of wonder, but always holding back slightly and never explaining too much. If one is interested only in the moral of the story, there is frankly not a great deal to write home about, but understanding how this small team of artists turn energy, time and inspiration into a magical communal experience in an empty space, is terribly impressive. Art, like technology, is only meaningful when it moves forward, and on this occasion, the search for a new frontier has returned excellent results.