Review: A Girl With Sun In Her Eyes (Red Line Productions)

redlineVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Oct 27 – Nov 14, 2015
Playwright: Joshua Rollins
Director: Andrew Henry
Cast: Martin Crewes, Kai Paynter, Gabrielle Rogers, Jeremy Waters, Kate Williams, Ezekiel Simat
Image by Vanessa Wright

Theatre review
Life is not a bed of roses. It is a hard fact to come to terms with, but we live with evil around us, and people make decisions everyday that cause harm to others. In Joshua Rollins’ A Girl With Sun In Her Eyes, we see law enforcers at work, and as they confront the darkest sides of human nature, what they reveal are some of the worst that we are capable of. The filmic script jumps between short scenes to concoct a sense of intrigue and to manufacture a plot that can be placed squarely in the suspense genre. Characters are not created with great complexity, but their narratives are strong. There are sequences that aim to shock, and even though they border on the exploitative, their effects are unquestionably powerful.

Director Andrew Henry focuses on bringing intensity to individual performances, but chemistry between actors is lacking. Leading man is the magnetic Jeremy Waters who puts on a very high energy show, but counterparts do not often meet on his level. The staging and interpretation of scenes are straightforward, with little theatricality involved. The choice for a naturalistic approach is logical, but it seems to prevent the exploration of its quite brutal themes to extend beyond the surface. The production’s literal spacial configurations also create issues with scene transitions requiring an excessive number of blackouts that inevitably cause dramatic tension to dissipate repeatedly. Sound and lights help with a sense of continuity, but the piece struggles to find a coherent and sophisticated theatrical realisation of the episodic writing.

A Girl With Sun In Her Eyes is deeply pessimistic, but its ugliness is recognisable. It exposes the duplicity that we all share, of the possibilities for good and bad that reside in all our decisions. We may not wish to acknowledge personal intentions as ever being purposely harmful, but there is no doubt that people around us act with less than honourable motives, and one can never be too careful about becoming entangled. Innocence is a beautiful thing, especially when out of reach.

Review: Hamlet (Bell Shakespeare)

Venue: Sydney Opera House (Sydney NSW), Oct 27 – Dec 6, 2015
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Director: Damien Ryan
Cast: Philip Dodd, Ivan Donato, Robin Goldsworthy, Josh McConville, Julia Ohannessian, Sean O’Shea, Matilda Ridgway, Catherine Terracini, Michael Wahr, Doris Younane
Images by Daniel Boud

Theatre review
Director Damien Ryan’s rendition of Hamlet takes place in mid-20th century Denmark, with surveillance technology, airport last call announcements, and broadcasts of royal weddings. The prince is deeply upset by the death of his father, and by his mother’s very quick remarriage, but within this modern context, his very well known nervous breakdown seems to also involve the pressures of nobility as we understand them today. Our memory of Diana, Princess of Wales persevere, and the way she had been spoken off as having gone out of control, serves as a parallel to this Hamlet.

Ryan’s ideas are refreshing and plentiful. They can be meaningful, or merely ornamental, but his work is invariably engaging. In our age of collective attention deficit disorder, the production’s ability to retain our interest for over 3 hours is remarkable. Every scene is energetic, whether poignant, comedic, or transitory, Ryan finds a way to deliver entertainment and a quality of intrigue regardless of the text’s intentions. This is excellent directing, that has given rise to a show that can captivate even the most cursory of Shakespeare’s fans. Visual design contributes significantly to its pleasures. Alicia Clements’ versatile set produces dimensions on the stage with minimal fuss, and lighting designer Matt Cox’s nightmarish atmosphere administers a mesmerising effect that takes charge of our gaze.

In its efforts at bringing a newness to Hamlet, it might be argued that some dramatic tensions are unfortunately lost from the plot. The significant subdual of King Claudius’ villainy, along with the decision to play Queen Gertrude as an innocent, might be politically correct moves, but they take away from the power struggles that provide a certain spiciness to the admittedly clichéd foundations, especially in its first half. Nevertheless, the sophisticated and measured performances of the entire cast are enjoyable, and thankfully, easy to follow.

Josh McConville’s interpretation of the title role is a dynamically ranging one that exhibits a daring freedom eager to explore and experiment. McConville is powerful with all that he presents, playing comedy and tragedy equally well, but the distinction between both can appear too drastic. We understand the subject of madness involved, but it is debatable whether consistency of character can be improved in his expression of Hamlet’s state of mind. Ophelia is played by Matilda Ridgway, who shakes off the personality’s obligatory tweeness over the course of the play and puts on an impressive display of sorrow and rage in her concluding moments, for some of the most passionate and compelling scenes of the production. Philip Dodd is memorable and disarmingly funny in his parts as Polonius and Gravedigger. The actor’s confident and nuanced comic timing is a necessary element that helps with the show’s buoyancy, effectively preventing any monotony from setting in.

Revenge speaks to our base desires. A hallmark of advanced societies is the rejection of capital punishment, yet stories about vengeance resonate with no trouble at all. In Hamlet, revenge is a cancer that destroys from within. Its effects are contrary to the emotions that guide it. When enacted, the only ones who win are those from the outside, uninvolved in the eye for eye narrative. It is a profound lesson, one that is deeply, and appropriately for this text, Christian. To forgive and forget is an ideal that is unthinkable for many, but probably the only alternative to our prince’s tragic demise.

5 Questions with Georgia Woodward and Bob Deacon

Georgia Woodward

Georgia Woodward

Bob Deacon: Would you rather have two mouths or four hands and why?
Georgia Woodward: Definitely four hands. There are many occasions in my life where I wish I was able to carry more.

Rove McManus is just about to interview you on Rove Live. He would tell the audience as your introduction “My next guest…”
If fresh off the plane from the US where she was working on the New NBC TV Show “The Waiting Room” with co-star, Amy Poehler.

What’s the best piece of acting or life advice you have received? (please use rhyming couplets where possible)
To define what success means to you. That’s how you will get through. Being true to you.
Don’t change to fit the game. Then if you don’t get the part, you have only yourself to blame.
Accept that the industry is tough and won’t stroke your hair and tell you your good enough.
Accept that you are an actor, with no money, but you are surrounded by art (I want more money) and that’s good enough.

If your co-star, your director and yourself were starving escaped convicts in the Tasmanian wilderness, who would you eat first and why?
I would like them both to eat me first. One, because I would not survive in those conditions and two, they’re better people.

What will the audience enjoy most about this show?
I think the audience will love watching these characters sit in their living room and solve all world problems. Spoiler alert! Alex and I do get pretty down and dirty. We may sing and plan for our future.

Bob Deacon

Bob Deacon

Georgia Woodward: What’s the rehearsal process for Last Drinks been like so far?
Bob Deacon: We have been holding our rehearsals in a pub which is very inspiring for a play set in a pub. We sometimes drink beer in the pub after rehearsals, usually a local draft beer. Sometimes we eat some pub grub. Our director Luke has been strong in resisting urges to turn the play into a pub rock musical. The other actors are Chris whose hobbies include entertaining/creeping us out with his The Joker monologues, and Steve who unfortunately had his script stolen after the first rehearsal.

Who is your character in the show and what qualities do you like about him?
As an acrostic poem… sure!
Daniel runs his suburban family pub ‘The Avalon’
Ask him how it’s going?
No good, he’d probably say
It’s only customers are his two larrikin mates
Everything he does is for those mates and his old man
Last drinks may be called soon

Brave New Word is a theatre company dedicated to new writing, how are you finding working with them?
The team is super! They are very supportive of emerging artists and committed to putting on truthful and thought-provoking local productions. I feel very lucky to be working with them and expect to see big things from them in the future. Before I started working with Brave New Word I used to sit in my room for hours listening to ABBA songs, but since then I haven’t listened to one ABBA song. That’s because working with them is as good as an ABBA song. It’s as good as “Dancing Queen” (please watch Muriel’s Wedding if you missed this reference).

What do you eat for breakfast?
I am ridiculously rigid in my eating habits. Breakfast is two pieces of toast heavily spread with Australia’s favourite yeast extract. If I have no bread in the house, I duck up to the local convenience store and scoff into a blueberry muffin. Breakfast during special occasions like Christmas and birthdays is always enough chocolate to make me feel ill and regret my actions.

Why should we come and see the show?
Audience member 1: “Remember that time we went and watched a double bill of new Australian plays, and one was about a pub that was actually set in a pub, in a pub? Like, literally, the theatre was in a pub?”

Audience member 2: “Yeah that was mad! I loved it! The acting, the story, the whole production… all of it was fantastic!”

Audience member 1: “And remember I found $50 in that bush on the way home?”

Audience member 2: “Yeah, good times!”

Georgia Woodward and Bob Deacon will be appearing in Last Drinks & Two Mouths Four Hands, with Brave New Word Theatre Company.
Dates: 17 – 26 November, 2015
Venue: Exchange Hotel Balmain

Review: Project #Oüahn (Baühs)

bauhsVenue: 46 Foveaux Street (Surry Hills NSW), Oct 21 – 26, 2015
Playwrights: Gabriella Imrich, Christina Marks, Eliza Scott
Director: Christina Marks
Cast: Gabriella Imrich, Eliza Scott
Image by Diana Popovska

Theatre review
On stage are two young women, best described as anxious and frustrated. They speak in symbols, and their art is abstract. What they do is rarely explicitly named, perhaps to avoid things becoming undermined by convenient labels that can never completely address their thoughts. Instead, what we have is a series of physical and verbal enunciations that provide unmistakeable visceral sensations and clear indications about the way we experience our bodies, the construction of identities, and the political forces that dominate and disenfranchise. Project #Oüahn is a subversive work about subversion. The work aims to challenge, and because of our inevitable participation in prevalent ideologies, we do find ourselves in uncomfortable spaces in its 60-minute duration. It is hard to tell if the piece communicates universally, but its intention is not to create an “us and them” dynamic with its microcosm. There are moments of division, but its interest is ultimately about self-determination and self-empowerment. Its message is one of independence, but also of love, even if much of its language is militant and tough.

We do not find a conventional narrative structure, but the two actors Gabriella Imrich and Eliza Scott begin by setting up a visual reference to the madonna-whore complex. Their surfaces appear to be different as day and night, but as they wage war and undertake torment on each other, we soon discover that they are two of the same. It is a representation of the internal dialogues that we have and the socially complicit nature of how we monitor and police our own thoughts and behaviour. There is a precision to the performers’ motivations, that makes sense of the work’s abstractions in spite of their deliberate ambiguity. Chemistry between Imrich and Scott is flawless, and the production forges ahead with a confidence that is assertive and powerfully convincing. Christina Marks’ direction balances mystery and revelation, for a show that intrigues at every point, but is satisfying throughout. Sound design by Enola Gay is to be noted for adding a sophisticated yet dramatic dimension to proceedings.

The final section of the production is as memorable as any theatrical moment can hope to be. A mesmerising sequence that expresses divine beauty and tranquil strength, embodying an affirmation of life, lived with wisdom and courage. The art that we make is never worth more than when it is progressive. Project #Oüahn is a selfless exploration into the meaning of freedom that will touch anyone whom it is able to connect with, but freedom, like all that is worthwhile, will only discharge its magical prowess for those who know to receive it.

Review: Nine (Sydney University Musical Theatre Ensemble)

museVenue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Oct 21 – 24, 2015
Book: Arthur Kopit (based on the Italian by Mario Fratti, after Federico Fellini’s )
Music & Lyrics: Maury Yeston
Director: Jonathan Rush
Cast: Mikhaila Chaplin, Anna Colless, Hannah Cox, Genevieve de Souza, Rielly Dickson, Doug Emery, Jacinta Gregory, Bridget Haberecht, Bronwyn Hicks, Jane Hughes, Gabi Kelland, Lisa-Marie Long, Jos Markerink, Rose McClelland, Olga Solar, Nicole Toum, Stephanie Troost, Sam Wood

Theatre review
Based on Federico Fellini’s 1963 semi-autobiographical film , this is a musical about a man’s passion for life, work and women. The central character in Nine is Guido Contini, the superstar director under pressure to create a new work. He escapes, procrastinates and reminisces, but we do not see the film being made. His artistic process is not a straightforward one, and we learn that genius manifests itself in unexpected ways.

The songs in Nine are melodic and extravagant, powerfully orchestrated by ten musicians under the supervision of Alexander Norden, who breathes life into Maury Yeston’s 42-year-old compositions. The show is directed with flair and energy by Jonathan Rush, and choreographed intelligently by Natasha Heyward. It is a production that successfully expresses the exuberance of Fellini’s Italy, with all elements finding cohesion in the decadence and wildness of that romanticised world.

There are accomplished performances in the show, most notably Hannah Cox’s turn as Liliane La Fleur, completely stealing the show in her sensational Folies Bergère number, with perfectly pitched humour, rambunctious sex appeal, and a stunning sense of joy. There are major problems with sound in the production, but stronger singers, including Anna Colless and Bronwyn Hicks do manage to overcome them with sheer vocal power. Less fortunate are the show’s leads Doug Emery and Bridget Haberecht, the Continis who find themselves consistently drowned out by musical accompaniment. Nevertheless, their committed and eloquent performances leave a strong impression, and help to deliver a fascinating narrative that is ultimately very satisfying.

This might be a minimal staging, but its imperfections are few. Nine stands the test of time, and this small revival demonstrates the potentialities and pleasures it contains. Inspiration is invaluable, and artists especially must be able to identify them. Fellini’s magnificence is emulated in Yeston’s musical, and this production is clearly touched by the muses, but we do not have to wait for the calling of divinity to be spurred on to create something special; as we see in Guido’s story, greatness is to be found in la dolce vita.

Review: Dead Centre | Sea Wall (Red Stitch Actors Theatre)

redstitchVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Oct 20 – Nov 14, 2015
Playwrights: Tom Holloway, Simon Stephens
Director: Julian Meyrick
Cast: Rosie Lockhart, Ben Prendergast
Image by Jodie Hutchinson

Theatre review
The more we hurt, the more difficult it is to find expression for our internal struggles. We compartmentalise pain, and with time, become more adept at denying their existence, but their effects do not fade. Tom Holloway’s Dead Centre and Simon Stephens’ Sea Wall are two half hour monologues that deal with sorrow and depression. We encounter the protagonists in traumatic states, and see them fumbling through life trying to find a way out of their anguish. Holloway’s piece is vividly descriptive, with evocative fragments that softly, but actively, fire up our imagination. Stephens’ work is equally poetic, but takes a completely different tone. Focussing on the grieving process, he uses the difficulties in articulating painful experiences as a basis for the text, and creates a quiet work that escalates suddenly at the end to deliver a powerful revelation.

The two pieces are presented one after another, but visual elements suggest an entwinement between both stories. Design of the production is understated, but elegant and sensual. Matthew Adey’s lights and Katie Cavanagh’s video projections, along with Ian Moorhead’s sound design, establish an understated but concentrated atmosphere in which the actors offer their very delicate tales. Direction by Julian Meyrick gives a beautiful cohesiveness to the two halves, with a sensitive approach that highlights the similarities between each character’s experiences. We witness the fragility in our humanity, and realise the importance of accepting and understanding the weaker moments of our personal lives.

Rosie Lockhart plays Helen in Dead Centre, fleeing England for Uluru, in search of an answer to her indescribable troubles. The actor’s engaging presence grips us from the start, but it is her ability to communicate a wealth of emotion with a seemingly minimal mode of performance that truly impresses. Helen never tells us what her problems are, but Lockhart leaves us in no doubt about the depth of her torment. Also remarkable are the flashes of humour that emerge, brief but effective, and key to installing a solid connection between actor and audience. Alex in Sea Wall is played by Ben Prendergast, whose portrayal of loss and bewilderment resonates with an intimate familiarity. The evasiveness and fear of sentimentality that he exhibits is a perceptive interpretation of how we deal (or do not deal) with immense emotions, but concluding moments see outbursts of intensity that appear too suddenly, and we question the accuracy of those dramatics.

Catharsis frequently occurs through the artistic process, but not usually at the same degree for all involved. Artists can indulge boundlessly in their excavations of private feelings, but the inspiration brought to their audience must not be ignored. In Dead Centre | Sea Wall, emotions run high, but they tend to stay safely on stage. The poignancies that it imparts are muted, but they are also real. We do not get embroiled too closely with Helen or Alex, but we study them intently and learn about the nature of suffering. The stories are theirs, but the way they help us explain and comprehend life, becomes universal.

Review: Blood Bank (Ensemble Theatre)

ensembleVenue: Ensemble Theatre (Kirribilli NSW), Oct 16 – Nov 22, 2015
Playwright: Christopher Harley
Director: Anthony Skuse
Cast: Meredith Penman, Gabrielle Scawthorn, Tom Stokes
Image by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
At a hospital, death is everywhere, but characters in Christopher Harley’s Blood Bank experience life while the palpable presence of time hangs over each of their heads. The script is tender and sensitive, with humour always close at hand in its explorations into our darkest moments of illness. It is an imperfect script, with dubious relationship dynamics and a plot structure that requires further refinement, but each scene is charming, and beautifully rhythmic. Its themes keep the play firmly in a space that is thoughtful and profound. We can all relate to the narratives that unfold; whether light or heavy, its ideas appeal to our deepest feelings relating to the biggest of concerns, love and death.

Blood Bank is a consistently engaging work, buoyed by strong performances. Gabrielle Scawthorn is powerful at both ends of the emotional spectrum. She is an effective comic who identifies every opportunity for laughter, keen to bring a joyous energy to the stage, and does not hesitate to plunge into her character Abbey’s guilt and grief, with a resonant authenticity that can be quite touching. Her counterpart Tom Stokes takes a more subtle approach, but is no less convincing in his portrayal of psychological truths. The part is a sorrowful one, and it is to the actor’s credit that there is little self-indulgence to be found. Instead, Stokes’ honest interpretation creates moments of poignancy, and establishes a brilliant chemistry in the cast that is often the highlight of the production. Director Anthony Skuse magnifies all the nuances of the script so that our experience of the show is a rich and vibrant one. He holds our attention by tapping into our intimate fears, and makes believable what could have been tenuous at best.

There are things that we sweep under the carpet, so that life can move on. It is true that no matter how much philosophising we put it through, death must be, but it is also the awareness that all things come to an end, that gives us the desire to cherish them. Art about mortality therefore serves an important function. In shining a light on the end, we become acutely mindful of the now. Blood Bank talks about the choices we make, when we have little time left. It also reminds us, that time is always scarce, whether we are living or dying. To quote Kurt Vonnegut, “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘It might have been.'”

5 Questions with Michelle De Rosa and Carlos Sivalingam

Michelle De Rosa

Michelle De Rosa

Carlos Sivalingam: What is your experience of working with Contemporarian and with Shai Alexander and Toby B. Styling in particular?
Michelle De Rosa: I was instantly drawn to the project due to the fresh approach Contemporarian has to theatre. Shai’s focus is theatre and Toby’s is film so together, Contemporarian expertly blends both mediums to create a fantastic experience which is why as audiences, we come to see theatre! Both Shai and Toby are very dedicated. We work hard as an ensemble but that’s what all actors want, to work!

Who is your character on the show?
My character is Elena, an 18 year old foreign student from a small Swiss town on the border with Italy. She is purity and playfulness personified. A very trusting soul who is taking her first independent steps in life on the other side of the world from her home! Craig, our hero, is instantly attracted to her. I don’t want to give anything else away!

Would you say that the process challenged you and that you improved as a performer during the ongoing rehearsal period?
Absolutely! I have had the pleasure of working two shows at once and I have grown phenomenally as an actor. The ongoing rehearsal period for Duck Hunting has given us time as an ensemble to really explore our characters, the play and our work together as a group. Such a rarity and such a gift!

How different is the rehearsal process for Duck Hunting by Contemporarian from anything else you ever worked on?
I love working outside in, on stage; starting with the physical and letting that inform my choices, my character. We have worked this way on Duck Hunting; finding the story on the floor. Again, we come to the theatre for an experience and working this way ensures we create that. Also, having a long rehearsal period give us time for precision: of movement, of voice, of clarity.

Why should we come and see this show?
You still need more convincing after all my previous answers? Duck Hunting is where passion and hard work come together in a sensational symphony! A tantalising transferral of energy if you will, between actors and audience honouring a timeless piece of work. Do come and let us perform for you!

Carlos Sivalingam

Carlos Sivalingam

Michelle De Rosa: What attracted you to work with Contemporarian Theatre Company on their original adaptation of the Russian classic Duck Hunting?
Carlos Sivalingam: As soon as I realised that Shai Alexander was a Russian trained actor, I wanted to be a part of this project. That was even before I read the play. Few Australians realise, when watching English speaking films, that most of the techniques employed by the actors, have their origins in Russia. For an experienced actor like me who never had a formal training, every rehearsal with Shai is a windfall.

Who is your character on the show?
I have two roles in the production. I am the stage manager and I also have a small role as a courier. The courier’s seemingly mundane job takes quite a turn when he realises that he has delivered a sympathy wreath for the funeral of a man, who is still “…alive and well…”.

How long was the rehearsal process?
I think the rehearsal period will total about 14 weeks. What’s been different though, is the number of hours spent each week on rehearsal. This show far exceeds any independent production that I have been in, for the number of hours of rehearsal. Coming from Russia, where a play like this would be rehearsed for a year before it is performed, Shai seems to have a limitless supply of information and skills, to share with his performers at each rehearsal.

How is this production different from anything else you ever worked on?
As mentioned, the rehearsal period is much longer and more intense, than previous, independent productions that I have been a part of. The show also employs different performance techniques to the “realism” that has dominated film, stage, and TV productions in the English speaking world. This, in particular, is new to me.

Why should we come and see this show?
It’s a Russian classic, virtually unknown to Australian audiences. As I said earlier, some of the performance techniques are also different. Many of these departures from the norm though, will only work on stage. So don’t watch a screen version or something downloaded to your laptop. You really need get down to the King Street theatre.

Michelle De Rosa and Carlos Sivalingam will be appearing in Contemporarian Theatre Company’s Duck Hunting, by Aleksandr Vampilov.
Dates: 4 – 29 November, 2015
Venue: King Street Theatre

5 Questions with Rosie Lockhart and Ben Prendergast

Rosie Lockhart

Rosie Lockhart

Ben Prendergast: What is your earliest memory of performing?
Rosie Lockhart: I have a vague recollection of playing the Virgin Mary at my preschool Christmas concert. I think I was about 2? Or maybe I just remember the photos? I think I was wearing an old blue sheet on my head. Indie theatre needs more funding people!

If you had to karaoke for your life, which song would you choose and why?
“Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. The Wizard Of Oz was one of those films (like Annie, Mary Poppins and The Sound Of Music) I used to watch over and over but fast forwarding through the “scary bit with the monkeys”. As a teen I sang the Judy Garland song at a Tamworth Eisteddfod. I can’t remember but if I won or not. Then at Sydney Uni, I sang the Eva Cassidy version at an inter-college music competition. I came second that year, bummer. I guess you could say that it’s been with me through the ages…

What’s the most memorable piece of advice a parent/mentor has left you with?
“Do what you love. If you stop loving it, do the thing you love.” My parents have always encouraged my creativity and to pursue a life of an artist. They’ve held my hand a lot of the way but I wouldn’t be living this artist life if it wasn’t for them. Legends.

If you could dine with any person living or dead, who would it be and why?
Ooh hard one. Probably Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren. They seem like the kind of woman who’d be up for “pot luck/bring whatever/whoever and a bottle of wine” kinda vibe. No fuss. No expectations. Good chat.

What’s Sydney’s most underrated feature?
Rosso Pomodoro. Ssh it’s Sydney’s best kept secret. A family owned pizzeria down on the docks in White Bay, just next to Rozelle. It’s the only restaurant at the base of an apartment block, BYO, no corkage, no half half toppings, genuine Italian fare. My brother and I inhaled many a margarita (each) when we lived in Lilyfield during my Sydney Uni days. Best. It’s my favourite place to visit whenever I’m in town.

Ben Prendergast

Ben Prendergast

Rosie Lockhart: Would you rather be a) renovating your house b) making personally scented soy candles c) designing websites & software d) acting?
Ben Prendergast: The notion of making personally scented candles appeals, for example you could have a Kanye West or Cathy Freeman or Ryan Gosling and really move some units, but it could be fraught, so I guess I’ll just stick with d) personally scented acting.

What are you reading at the moment?
I have about 20 books on the go at once, piled next to my bed. The one on the top of that pile at the moment is the Laurence Olivier biography by Philip Ziegler, and I’ve also just started The Moth by Catherine Burns; 50 true stories captured from the famous storytelling event where guests from Bill Clinton to the Sultan of Brunei’s concubine give an impromptu speech.

What do you love about being in the Red Stitch ensemble?
For as long as I can remember I’ve been a creative fella, and being creative sucks in a vacuum (see what I did there?), so it really feels for the first time that I’ve found a group of creatives who are all as driven as I am to make something and shine a light on things that matter. So whether we’re slugging it out on a Tuesday night to decide which of the 50 plays we’ve read should make it into next season, or we’re cutting a rug together during a launch event, or sharing anecdotes of an audience member touched by one or our shows, it’s like a family. A big, incestuous, somewhat creepy, but ultimately good looking and wholesome acting family.

What excites you most about Sydney?
An unexpected vista of the water, the shiny people, not so shiny bridge, colonial flashes, the one way streets. Any city I’ve ever spent time in I’ve always brought my runners and explored. We’re staying with a friend who lucked out buying a Penthouse Bondi apartment a number of years ago, so we’re living large. So I have a month to explore the city by day, and put up a wonderful show at night. Maybe we shouldn’t leave?

If you could invite 5 people to dinner, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
I was going to say the Beatles and George Martin, but then I realised that I’d be missing a huge opportunity to understand something about everything. So firstly I’d like to stipulate that each of these guests must be alive (you could get me on a technicality and then I’m having dinner with four dead people and the Dalai Lama), but they would be: John Lennon, Albert Einstein, The Dalai Lama, Adolf Hitler, and My Nanna Betty. Music, science, religion, and stupidity, and my Nanna Betty (who would hold her own).

Rosie Lockhart will be appearing in Dead Centre by Tom Holloway and Ben Prendergast in Sea Wall by Simon Stephens, a double bill presentation by Red Stitch Actors Theatre.
Dates: 20 October – 14 November, 2015
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre

Review: Three Sisters (The Genesian Theatre)

genesianVenue: The Genesian Theatre (Sydney NSW), Oct 16 – Sep 14, 2015
Playwright: Anton Chekhov (translated by Brian Friel)
Director: Timothy Bennett
Cast: Priscilla Bonham-Carter, Martin Bell, Nick Carter, Ted Crosby, Rob Drew, Susan Farrell, Kathryn Hutchins, Lana Kershaw, Elizabeth MacGregor, Tom Marwick, Tom Massey, James Moir, Dominique Nesbitt, Martin Searles, Darien Williams

Theatre review
In Chekhov’s Three Sisters, time moves past its characters to show us the stasis and passivity of their pessimistic lives. The play runs for almost three hours, but few things change for the Prozorovas over the course of its 5-year plot. There is always a sense that things are better elsewhere, but the women never venture very far away. Whether it is circumstance that keeps them bound to their family home, or their lack of resolve that prevents them from finding greener pastures, is ambiguous. Brian Friel’s 1981 translation is a vibrant one, with a subtle humour accompanying the despondency of its scenarios, but Chekhov’s incessant lamenting is certainly left unscathed.

This staging, directed by Timothy Bennett, attempts to be a faithful rendering of the piece. Design aspects are effectively executed, with attention spent on ensuring a period depiction that appears accurate. Correspondingly, performances seem to resist any modernisation. The cast’s preference for a stylistically nostalgic tone is charming, but can also feel stilted and staid. Finding enough depth to express the complexities of Chekhov’s writing is challenging, and on this occasion, the actors’ emphasis on establishing accuracy in affectation and manner, come in sacrifice of character studies that portray psychological and behavioural authenticity. The production provides an impressionistic account of events and personalities, but we desire something more substantial beyond its pleasant surface.

At the play’s end, the sisters once again talk about the future. It is a mixture of hope and hopelessness, and as we ponder their story from a distance of over a century, we wonder if their longing for better days has come to pass. It is important that we understand the shackles that keep the women bound in the play, and the dysfunctions in societies that stand in the way of progress. What prevents the Three Sisters from finding happiness is open to interpretation, and like the introspection required for our own lives to improve, an exercise that will prove to be rewarding.