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.

www.genesiantheatre.com.au

Review: We, The Lost Company‏ (Clockfire Theatre Company)

clockfireVenue: Old 505 Theatre @ 5 Eliza St (Newtown NSW), Oct 13 – 31, 2015
Devisors: Emily Ayoub, Madeline Baghurst, Alicia González, Kate Worsley, Arisa Yura
Director: Emily Ayoub
Cast: Madeline Baghurst, Alicia González, Arisa Yura
Image by Geoff Magee Photography

Theatre review
Since time immemorial, we have danced in honour of the gods that watch over us. It is an acknowledgement of our vulnerabilities and reflects our hopes for better days during this time on earth. We, The Lost Company is an intertextual exploration into our relationship with water, finding inspiration from the paintings of Brett Whiteley to create a work of physical theatre informed by the disciplines of mime and dance. It is gently humorous but wildly imaginative. It touches on subjects of migration, ecology, community and ageing, revelling in the beauty of abstraction but powerfully connecting with its audience, if not in terms of meaning, then certainly with the level of engagement it manages to instil into what is usually a challenging form of performance art.

Music and sound by Ben Pierpoint is complex, evocative and spirited. His work controls our imagination, and leads us to grand and eccentric spaces within our minds that provide a context for the three dancers on stage. Charming anecdotes about water obtained from interviews with mature members of Sydney communities are woven into the soundtrack to anchor the production with a warm authenticity that keeps our shared humanity firmly inside what is being developed.

The dancers’ weird and wonderful physical language is a thoroughly amusing one that sustains a sense of intrigue and holds our attention for its entire fifty-minute duration. Their poetry is whimsical but ruggedly sincere, allowing us to understand its intentions from a drastically unconventional kind of theatrical expression. Arisa Yura’s very memorable but very short monologue in Japanese about childhood, the forces of nature, ice cream and beach balls, extends the theme of memory from the audio recordings, and touches us unexpectedly with its dramatically emotive and nostalgic pseudo drama. The production is full of adventure and sensitive innovation, but its lighting feels inadequate within the extravagance of its multi-disciplinary articulations. The space requires greater depth and colour to achieve a stronger sense of visceral lift off that is always just within reach.

To know something, does not necessitate the ability to put it into words. Call it a feeling, intuition, or a soul thing, art is fundamentally about communication and the modes through which communication happens. We, The Lost Company has vocabularies of its own that are refreshing, unique and dare we say, original, but what it speaks can be understood by all, and like the themes that it is concerned with, we are all embroiled in this mysterious undertaking as one.

www.venue505.com/theatre | www.clockfiretheatre.com

Review: My Zinc Bed (Ensemble Theatre)

ensembleVenue: Ensemble Theatre (Kirribilli NSW), Oct 10 – Nov 22, 2015
Playwright: David Hare
Director: Mark Kilmurry
Cast: Danielle Carter, Sam O’Sullivan, Sean Taylor
Image by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
Addiction might be termed a modern phenomenon. In recent years, conditions of all kinds ranging from alcohol and drug use, to sexual and stealing behaviours, have become forms of addiction, almost achieving medical or pathological legitimacy in the general discourse of Western life. David Hare’s My Zinc Bed examines the meanings behind this contemporary way of looking at human volition and responsibility, and the quality of human weakness versus expectations regarding the individual’s contribution or dependence on society. The script is extremely contemplative, punctuated by stimulating and controversial ideas that can be challenging, although the tone of the work is notably gentle and compassionate. We are encouraged to examine the human condition from a refreshing perspective and to evaluate our assumptions about addictions of different kinds, but always being mindful about the vulnerabilities that we share.

Mark Kilmurry’s direction is interested in all the philosophical content of the text, and succeeds in making his play a relentlessly thoughtful one, while maintaining a dramatic tension that keeps us engaged throughout. Characters in the play are not particularly likeable, but their experiences are readily identifiable, and Kilmurry ensures that their exchanges never fail to fascinate. Visual elements are effectively minimal, but subtle design flourishes are executed with remarkable elegance. Tobhiyah Stone Feller’s set and Nicholas Higgins lights provide the illusion of emptiness, but provide immense scope for sentimental fluctuations. What appears to be cold and hard on the surface, is actually quite subconsciously moving with each transition of scenes.

There are breathtaking performances to be found in the production. All three actors demonstrate a thorough understanding of text and characters, and their interactions are consistently powerful. Every line is delivered with the sizzle of subtext and mystery, and we are seduced into worlds of imagination and reflection. The rhapsodic Sean Taylor is as magnetic as he is convincing. We are lured into studying his every minute gesture, believing them to be of great significance, and his commanding voice is simply irresistible. The actor’s presence is an overwhelming one, and it is fortuitous that his abilities at storytelling are no less impressive. Danielle Carter’s part requires her to display extraordinary inner complexity and also to portray the somewhat customary femme fatale with a forceful allure, both of which she performs with tremendous impact. The central Paul Peplow is played by Sam O’Sullivan, who brings earnestness, passion and emotional intensity to a personality that is more than familiar to many of our lives. His work feels genuine, and the believability of his creation is crucial to the show’s success.

Being social means that we rely on each other. Every person is both strong and weak, and there is a constant negotiation that happens in how much we are willing to forgive, how we apportion blame, and how far we can extend kindness. Paradigms of illness and disease demand of us generosity, but like anything social, they stand to be exploited in ways that will not always find universal agreement. Addiction is real, but also false. Like any label of identification, it provides an indication of circumstances, that must always be prepared to be questioned.

www.ensemble.com.au

5 Questions with Zac McKay and Steve Vincent

Zac McKay

Zac McKay

Steve Vincent: What’s your most important/meaningful/memorable theatre experience?
Zac McKay: Definitely the first. Chinchilla with STC at the Drama Theatre Opera house. Directed by Rodney Fisher, designed by Brian Thompson. The set was completely white using the entire stage area, with a ballet bar running along the back wall. Stunning. The play itself about Nijinski Diaghilev, and the Ballet Russes. Coming straight from drama school to work with such a great bunch of actors including, Peter Carroll, John Gadden and Linda Cropper in such an iconic building was truly a blast.

Who would play you in the film “Zach McKay: It’s not OKay!!”
Nana Mouskouri. It’s a glasses thing.

Two Parter: In Ghosts you play Jacob Engstrand. a)What does Engstrand do on a Wednesday night? And b)What’s his spirit animal?
Gets pissed, falls unconscious in a gutter. Budgerigar.

In Ghosts, the only time we share the stage is in one scene where I enter but then you leave almost immediately!! What’s that about? Was it something I said?
You don’t say anything! However, you’re taller than me, younger than me, better looking than me, more talented than me, your have an agent a wife a car…. need I go on? I weep with despair every time I see you, and you ask about sharing the stage.

Any weird or wonderful pre or post show rituals?
No.

Steve Vincent

Steve Vincent

Zac McKay: What drew you to acting?
Steve Vincent: I was pursuing a career as a professional footballer when I met a beautiful young woman whose grace, confidence and worldliness struck me like a thunderbolt and woke me up out of my one track football mind! She was studying classical music at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and her influence on me is huge, I started to see there was a lot more to life than football and I felt I needed to find a way to try and explore and learn every inch of life. Acting was the answer.

What Shakespearean character would you like to play?
Without a second thought or doubt… Shylock! I’ve loved and felt for him from the moment I read The Merchant Of Venice and would love a hit out at him. I came to the works of Bill late and Shylock was the first character I met and I keep returning to him over and over. I’m also a big Pacino fan and he brought a tenderness and humanity to a character many thought to be evil. I already know all his lines, all I need is to age a bit and I’m set!

How do you learn all those lines?
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition! It’s the old fashion way, but it’s the only way for me. Apps and recordings never lets it sink. I just repeat and repeat and as they sink I try to form images to associate and then recreate those “mind paintings” each time I repeat. The blocking helps, and then I take them for walks all over the city and try to make them conversations.

What pertinence does Ghosts have to a contemporary audience?
Ibsen’s works aren’t classics just because they are old. They’re classics because the themes he writes about are universal and transcend time or period or culture. I relate to my character Olswald because I can understand his issues with his world, his family, culture, his art and himself. As I too have gone through one or two of the same issues. The world gets older but the issues for people stay the same. It’s kinda sad when you think about it. But, if you’re a mum, dad, son, daughter, have hopes and dreams, strong ideals, have been lied to or have lied to someone, in love or out of love or been born… Then you’ll find something in Ghosts.

If you could achieve anything, having no limitations whatsoever, what would that be?
It’s going to sound corny but I’ve recently learned limitations are what you put on yourself. We live in a great country where we can set out to achieve anything! I’m the son of migrants, they had limitations due to a Franco ruled Spain. Their choice to move to Australia has resulted in a lifestyle for me where I can achieve anything! I owe it to them to do so. I’d also like to have a long lunch with Marlon Brando!

Zac McKay and Steve Vincent can be seen in Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen.
Dates: 7 – 24 Oct, 2015
Venue: The Depot Theatre

Review: Rent (Highway Run Productions)

highwayrunVenue: Hayes Theatre Co (Potts Point NSW), Oct 8 – Nov 1, 2015
Book, Music and Lyrics: Jonathan Larson
Director: Shaun Rennie
Musical Director: Andrew Worboys
Cast: Laura Bunting, Denise Devlin, Casey Donovan, Linden Furnell, Josh Gardiner, Loren Hunter, Stephen Madsen, Nana Matapule, Jack O’Riley, Matthew Pearce, Chris Scalzo, Monique Sallé, Kirsty Sturgess, Chloe Wilson
Image by Kurt Sneddon

Theatre review
Stories about the impoverished artist are always romantic. The bohemian life is one that fires all our imaginations, but only a few of us are able to experience. In spite of all the debauchery and vulnerabilities associated with that way of life, we admire the purity that they represent with their uncompromising choices. The characters in Jonathan Larson’s Rent are passionate and idealistic, and like characters in Puccini’s La Boheme, their poverty is seen to be something of a rebellion against an establishment that is corrupt and ugly.

There are tragic repercussions in the narratives of Rent, and it is not until those occur in the second act that emotions begin to run high. All the musical numbers are beautifully realised under the direction of Shaun Rennie, but characters and their stories are somewhat distant, perhaps due to the age of the piece. Rennie, along with his designers (set by Lauren Peters, lights by Ross Graham and costumes by Georgia Hopkins) bring an accuracy to the look and feel of the USA in the mid-90’s, and Musical Director Andrew Worboys does an excellent job of updating its sound, but for a substantial duration, the piece plays like a concert with brilliant performances that engage, but only on a superficial level. We wait for poignancy to take hold, and although it eventually does, its effects seem too little, and too late.

The cast is comprised of 14 powerful voices that give the musical a superb polish. Some are stronger actors than others, but the quality of singing is consistently impressive and thoroughly enjoyable. Mimi is played by Loren Hunter, who shines bright in the role with her creation of a personality that is complex, colourful and clear. There is a precision to her work that delivers just the right amount of pathos, keeping us connected through her sense of authenticity. Along with her warm vocal tones, Hunter’s portrayal of conflict and suffering is an irresistibly captivating one. Also memorable is Casey Donovan, feisty and dramatic as Joanne, the Ivy League-educated lawyer. Donovan stuns us with her extraordinarily soulful singing, giving the musical genre a rare edge, and surprises us with a convincing characterisation of an intriguing personality. Christopher Scalzo is a controversial Angel. Originally written as a trans woman, Scalzo’s interpretation reads more like a cisgender gay male. Well-known trans characters of the theatre are extremely rare, so this obliteration is unfortunate, but it is a commendable decision that Scalzo is not required to assume a false trans identity for the stage, and is instead allowed to give expression to the role in a manner that is perhaps more in line with his personal gender identity. It is also noteworthy that Scalzo’s gutsy approach to his songs adds a raw dimension to a show that can be too clean in its presentation of the New York underground. His concluding scene is sensitively rendered, providing one of the key elements to the most moving portion of the production.

Rent was created at a time when AIDS was the leading cause of death in young Americans. Although there is much more still to be achieved in the space of HIV/AIDS research and medical advancement, we have come a long way since those early days of death and darkness. Discrimination however, still persists and the message in Jonathan Larson’s work remains relevant. Wealth distribution is still the cause of our troubles, and the urgency to address the problems in Africa is undiminished. The production’s upbeat end is to be expected, and although it seems futile in these times of complacency to bemoan the fact that the struggle is yet to be over, the truth in Larson’s work resonates, and it is always the underprivileged that is neglected and we simply have to do better.

www.hayestheatre.com.au | www.highwayrunproductions.com