Review: Godface (Matriark Theatre)

matriarkVenue: 107 Projects (Redfern NSW), Jun 28 – Jul 10, 2016
Playwright: Robert den Engelsman, Murray Lambert
Director: Scott Parker
Cast: Murray Lambert, Emily McGowan, David Molloy, Jesse Northam, Sam Flack
Image by Alinta Haydock-Burton

Theatre review
In Godface we find a familiar reflection of our scepticism and distrust of government and the adversarial political system. There is an accuracy to the way Robert den Engelsman and Murray Lambert’s writing represents our feelings about politicians and their operations, but its insights and perspectives on the subject are hardly unusual. It shares our disillusionment with all things political, featuring characters that need little introduction, for a simple tale of corruption and exploitation.

Scott Parker’s enthusiastic direction brings to the stage a liveliness that many will enjoy, using puppetry and techniques of commedia dell’arte to spark our imagination as it forms a commentary on the state of the world. Delightfully performed by a unified cast of actors, the production is memorable for its sense of variety, established by a keen interest in a non-naturalistic mode of expression. Sam Flack leaves a remarkable impression in a range of characters including the head of the New God Party, a wolf gangster and a pair of opinionated giraffes. The actor is vibrant and humorous, with excellent charisma that gives each of his transfigurations considerable appeal. Designer Aleisa Jelbart’s work on puppets, props and set is especially noteworthy, with an exceptional eye for detail and refinement that provides touches of stylistic elevation to the production.

At the 2013 elections, 739,872 informal votes were recorded. There is little hope to be found in Godface, for good reason, and we see clear as day, the alienation felt by many of our population. Modern democracy is deeply flawed, but remains the only system we deem acceptable. It is a conundrum that we learn to live with, and on occasions such as this weekend’s federal elections, we have no alternative but to indulge in a moment of delusion that the world might just be ready to make a change for the better.

5 Questions with Helen Dallimore and Lucy Durack

Helen Dallimore

Helen Dallimore

Lucy Durack: What did you enjoy most about playing Glinda in the original London production of Wicked and do you ever miss it?
Helen Dallimore: Going on stage in front of two thousand people a night, in a show you know they will love, in a role you love to play. It doesn’t get much better than that.

If the Sydney Symphony Orchestra let you sing one non-witch related song, any song in the universe, just for fun, in a karaoke-with-a-symphony-orchestra kind of way, what would it be?
Actually, we are doing my number one karaoke song in the show! What are the chances? I won’t ruin the surprise…

Of all the iconic witches out there, who is your favourite and why?
I love Elphaba. She’s so strong, yet vulnerable and fierce and loving. A brilliant role model for aspiring witches.

If you were given the option of flying or travelling by bubble as your preferred mode of transport in real life, what would you choose?
Look, the bubble has that element of theatricality about it, which to a showgirl is very appealing. But sometimes you just want to pop down to Coles in your trackies and not necessarily have to put on the whole crown and gown scenario. It’s a lot of pressure. Flying allows for a more casual look, you can dress it up or down – it’s a bit more versatile.

Do you think you might bring some of those amazing tube cakes you are so famous for making to rehearsals? Asking for a friend.
Ah yes, the caneles. Tell your “friend” I think I can rustle some up. Don’t forget to remind her about the bespoke gowns we have to fit into though.

Lucy Durack

Lucy Durack

Helen Dallimore: What is the difference in your process as a performer when approaching a concert rather than role in a show?
Lucy Durack: Preparing for a role in a show for me means getting in the head of that character, figuring out their voice, their walk, what they want, how they go about getting (or not getting) what they want and mapping out their character arc within the story of the show whilst trying to make it all as truthful as possible. In a concert, while you are sort of playing a heightened version of yourself, you also have to ask those questions and figure out those thoughts separately for each song as often the songs are all sung by different characters and then work out how to put them all together in the one show. On top of that, seeing as you are being a version of yourself, it’s about figuring out the ratio of how much ‘you’ you bring to the piece and how much ‘character’ from wherever the song is originally from and that will most probably differ from song to song. For both a concert and a show, I like to start by learning all my words and harmonies as much as possible before the first rehearsal so I can really play in the rehearsal room, in the hope that the playing helps me find some of the answers to the above questions that I haven’t figured out yet.

Do you have a bucket list role that you haven’t yet played?
It would be very lovely to voice some awesome character in a Disney Pixar film or any great animated film, if it was a musical that would be a bonus.

Who is your idol and why?
Ok, there are a few. My mum and dad are in so many ways, they are great, fun, hard working people that always keep our family and our family values at the core of everything they do. Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope are also great influences in my life, they work so hard and make intelligent, hilarious, uplifting, poignant television and films that I love and they manage to always do everything with such kindness and humour. They never make anyone working with them feel excluded and have a real focus on gender equality. I have never met Amy Poehler or Tina Fey but they are also my idols, they are so funny, smart and seem to be people with their heart in the right place. If I could have a dinner party with all 6 people that would be really, really awesome.

If you were a real witch, what would be your signature spell?
I would love to have a spell to be able to make people feel peaceful, happy and contented, not in a ‘block your feelings’ way but to speed up times of depression, anxiety, grief and sadness to get to that lovely fulfilling feeling where you have worked through it all and come out the other side and can appreciate life and laugh about things again.

Who do you think would win in a fight between the four of us witches?
It depends what it was over, if was over the last salted caramel macaroon in the world, I think it would play out like this: Amanda would be a contender, she only has to think about arm muscles to get them, but I feel she would tire of the idea fastest, just get bored with it and really she prefers savoury food. Physically Jemma is probably the strongest, she runs many kilometres a day and she has a sporting mentality, but I feel she is too peaceful and again, has less of a sweet tooth and an iron will to stay that way. I think you Helen, have the core and inner strength as well as unequalled old fashioned gumption to really seal the deal but I possibly have the strongest sweet tooth of all so it would be down to the two of us. I think Amanda and Jemma would have gone home by now and you and I would have decided not to fight but rather share the last macaron whilst getting our nails done and dreaming up a fun new show for us all to star in.

Helen Dallimore and Lucy Durack can both be seen in Witches, with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Dates: 15 – 16 July, 2016
Venue: Sydney Opera House

Review: No Exit (Throwing Shade Theatre Company)

throwingshadeVenue: The Factory Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Jun 23 – 25, 2016
Playwright: Jean-Paul Sartre
Director: Andrew Langcake
Cast: Harley Connor, Courtney Powell, Darcie Irwin-Simpson

Theatre review
Sartre’s 1944 play No Exit is about three people coming to grips with their new existence post-mortality. The famous line “hell is other people” is heard late in the piece, and like the myriad ways in which it can be interpreted, the play is abstract, to be given meaning as one wishes. The concept of hell is a powerful one, considering its uncompromising permanence. Life may not be much more pleasant than hell for some, but hell’s eternal inescapability is truly terrifying.

The staging, directed by Andrew Langcake, is a simple rendering that attempts to bring realism to the absurdist piece, with an emphasis on finding character coherence over philosophical expression. Sound and lighting are strangely neglected, resulting in a supernatural realm that is unfortunately devoid of atmosphere. Performances are committed, and each personality is distinctly shaped by a cast of spirited actors, but chemistry is often lacking. Relationships are key in No Exit, and unable to portray them with enough clarity and dynamism, the production struggles to communicate beyond the superficial.

Individuals experience life from perspectives we know to be personal, but it is debatable if anything is ever unique in how we each see the world. We can only understand things from our singular positions, but in every transaction that we inevitably conduct with other beings, we become transformed, objectified and absorbed into another consciousness. The self is unable to remain separate, and meaning can only come from that act of concurrence, voluntary or involuntary. If other people will give you hell, they are also your only source of pleasure. How much the self can do to manipulate the other will always be limited, but happiness is always best managed within one’s own hermitage.

5 Questions with Danielle Baynes and Pip Dracakis

Danielle Baynes

Danielle Baynes

Pip Dracakis: What are the similarities between Lady and Danielle?
Danielle Baynes: I’m similar to who the Lady becomes at the end of the play. At the beginning I share her curious, romantic and cautious side. She’s very naïve though, I’m much more cynical. After a certain experience she has in the middle of the show we definitely become kindred spirits. She’s more talented than me but we’re both hilarious. We sort of look the same, except her face is much bigger.

What do you enjoy most about performing in live theater?
If it can only be one thing, then I’d say the audience. The shared experience, the instant feedback, the mixture of being completely in control and totally out of control at the same time. Nothing compares.

What is the most ridiculous thing a director has asked you to do in rehearsal?
Look I won’t name and shame, BUT Michael Dean once had a group of us running around a dodgy, empty car park late at night in Parramatta yelling “red alert”.

Who inspired you in the creation of the mysterious male character in Bicycle?
Oh Pip, the question you’ve been dying to ask all this time… I won’t go into detail about the personal inspiration, but I was inspired by an author named Bram, and a little bit inspired by Mads Mikkelson.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
At the moment it’s binge watching crime shows in bed until 3am. I also indulge in too much soft cheese. But Nigella Lawson said, “I don’t feel guilty about any pleasure. I think you should only feel guilty if you don’t feel pleasure”, and I try to take on that attitude as well.

Pip Dracakis

Pip Dracakis

Danielle Baynes: If you and I were musical instruments, what would we be?
Pip Dracakis: You would be a Steinway and I would be a Stradivarius.

You are a brilliant Actor Musician, what’s unique about this type of performer and how did you approach your role in Bicycle?
I see my role in Bicycle as a storyteller and try to serve the story and text in all my musical and physical choices. It’s great to be able to work on a show where you can think as an actor and communicate through music.

What’s the strangest thing someone has said to you after a performance (any performance)?
During one of our post-show Q&A’s for Merchant of Venice with Sport for Jove, we were asked how we all knew each other. The kid was in year 7. I think he was struggling with all the other questions about dealing with a racist play in the 21st century.

What was the process in creating the score for Bicycle?
I listened to a lot of different repertoire but most of my musical ideas were inspired by the text and born out of the organic rehearsal process. Lots of trial and error, seeing what enhanced the script and what moments were best left without any musical underscoring. In some scenes, the music is totally improvised and in others, there are prescribed excerpts by Bach or Bartok, for example.

And finally, if someone was to make a movie of your life, who would play me?
Fran Fine.

Danielle Baynes and Pip Dracakis can both be seen in Bicycle.
Dates: 21 June – 2 July, 2016
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre

Review: Away (Sport For Jove Theatre)

sportforjoveVenue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Jun 22 – 25, 2016
Playwright: Michael Gow
Director: Damien Ryan, Samantha Young
Cast: Angela Bauer, George Banders, James Bell, Michael Cullen, Danielle King, Berynn Schwerdt, Georgia Scott, Lizzie Schebesta, Christopher Stalley, Christopher Tomkinson, Eloise Winestock, Amy Usherwood, Sarah Woods
Image by Marnya Rothe

Theatre review
Michael Gow’s Away is about ordinary lives and their hidden struggles. The action takes place in 1967 Australia, but the problems faced by its characters are of a personal nature and therefore eternal in their resonance. Social turbulence evolves with each era, and although we think of the world as being a different place with different challenges through time, Gow’s play demonstrates the constancy of our inner struggles. We can imagine ourselves existing in any period, but human mortality is the basis of how we conceive of ourselves; the awareness of death’s inevitability tells us what we want from each day and what we wish to leave behind.

Away is not essentially of an operatic scale, and its many intimate qualities are lost in the very vast theatre space. The production is attractively designed, sleek and refreshing in its simplicity, but the set has an asymmetry that causes the play to project to approximately two-thirds of the auditorium, leaving remaining seats cold. Direction is similarly negligent of this spacial imbalance. Actor Sarah Woods is a clear stand out for her deliberately exaggerated performance, gripping the audience with an over-the-top entrance, and keeping us engaged with her dramatic flourishes as her character Gwen proceeds to reveal her surprising complexities.

The text has an interest in the dark and messy sides of life but the show has a sterility that disconnects from its intentions. The story might be conveyed well to the better seats in the house, but its message is not delivered with sufficient power. We congregate at the theatre to listen, and those on stage have the responsibility to reach out to all who have made the effort to participate. The room can be packed full through commercial brilliance, but the night proves to be fruitless if people leave with emptiness.

Review: Back At The Dojo (Belvoir St Theatre)

belvoirVenue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Jun 18 – Jul 17, 2016
Playwright: Lally Katz
Director: Chris Kohn
Cast: Fayssal Bazzi, Dara Clear, Catherine Davies, Harry Greenwood, Brian Lipson, Natsuko Mineghishi, Luke Mullins, Shari Sebbens
Image by Brett Boardman

Theatre review
Lois lays in a hospital bed, with her husband Dan by her side waiting for her to gain consciousness. Their granddaughter Patti appears unannounced and drugged out, after disappearing for two years working on her gender transition. Dan and Patti take time to mend their bond, and in the process we witness parallels between Dan’s life in the late sixties, becoming his own man through the discovery of karate, and Patti’s own frustrations in her journey into womanhood. Back At The Dojo by Lally Katz is an emotional work, but gently so. It does not create big scenes of heightened family drama, taking its time instead to build on our involvement with its characters and their stories. Through excellent humour and a moving depiction of relationships, we gradually become invested in the people before us, although its slow burn may prove to be too demanding of some audiences. Katz’s writing is amusing and colourful, with an undeniable poetic beauty, but the play takes a long time to get to its point, resulting in a plot that can feel somewhat aimless before we arrive at its later, more poignant sequences.

The decision to cast a male actor in the role of Patti is a distasteful one that reflects a surprising callousness, given the impressive level of sensitivity evident throughout the rest of the production. Patti’s is one woman’s story, but due to the rarity of transgender representation in our theatres, it is also every trans person’s story, and no trans woman would ever want to see herself portrayed by a man, on any stage or screen. We do not see Patti’s early days in masculine expressions of gender, so to choose a male actor over a female one (trans or cis), only goes to demonstrate the production’s inability and refusal to accept Patti’s gender as she now presents. To be misgendered is one of the most appalling things any trans person could experience, and Back At The Dojo‘s misgendering, deliberate or unintentional, is an unacceptable transgression.

It must be said however, that Luke Mullins’ performance as Patti is a captivating one, and very powerful. He is obviously unable to convincingly depict the physical transformations that his character has had to endure, but there is a beautiful psychological accuracy in his work, in addition to the passionate yet nuanced drama that he sustains in every stage moment. Director Chris Kohn extracts very believable performances from all his actors. It is essentially a simple tale, with few opportunities for a more ostentatious approach, but every personality and relationship feels meticulously refined, with a palpable omnipresence of truthfulness and vulnerability that gives the show an enchanting soulful quality. The role of Dan is played by Brian Lipson, a gentle giant, full of strength and tenderness in his mesmerising interpretation of an older man dealing with immense loss, that will touch the hardest of hearts. Natsuko Mineghishi steals many scenes as the dojo Sensei, a real-life action hero with thrilling karate showmanship, lethal comic timing and a spectacular singing voice.

A profound connection exists between generations, but modern life seems to prevent many of us from experiencing and reaping its rewards. The disintegration of the family unit, and the ever rising regard for individuality means that few of us maintain significant intergenerational relationships. In Back At The Dojo, a distraught woman finds purpose and meaning by learning about her grandfather’s own obstacles in life, and by recognising her kinship responsibilities. We come to a realisation that both Patti and Dan are sinking under the weight of loneliness, and that the frailty of their existences are to be salvaged by the perennial tie that binds. They are fortunate to have one another, like we all have our own families, but how we value them is what the play brings into question.

Review: Bicycle (Lies, Lies And Propaganda)

liesliespropagandaVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jun 21 – Jul 2, 2016
Playwright: Danielle Baynes
Director: Michael Dean
Cast: Danielle Baynes, Pip Dracakis

Theatre review
It is one woman against the world in Danielle Baynes’ Bicycle. The odds are stacked against our 19th century protagonist as she discovers not only her life’s passion, but also the injustices that women face when trying to carve out a self-determined existence. Coming of age in Baynes’ play means realising the discrimination that is systematically entrenched in a world that had previously seemed innocent. An awakening of desires demands that her eyes are open to truths, and her story of tragic enlightenment is told in a way that disallows us from denying its persisting relevance. The nameless Lady’s feelings and experiences, her perspective of the world, and her hunger for what is right, all find connection with our 21st century sensibilities, and shock us into seeing the intimate parallels between what we had considered to be bygone history and what we continue to retain. It is a passionate piece of writing, insightful and brilliantly elucidating through a narrative that is at once personal and universal. At the core of its many colourful permutations of form, is its unmistakeable feminist advocacy that many will find irresistibly inspiring.

Baynes plays the Lady in the hour-long monologue, with Pip Dracakis providing an added female omnipresence with her person and violin. Space is restrictive, and the production relies squarely on the leading lady’s ability to keep our attention and imagination engaged, which she accomplishes remarkably well. Scenes are thoughtfully demarcated and given distinct flavour by director Michael Dean, but some sequences are more effective than others, resulting in a plot trajectory that can feel uneven in its resonance. Dracakis’ live music gives the show a dynamism that works seamlessly alongside Baynes’ actorly endeavours for a powerful statement about art, and the struggles in its creation.

Sex and art are linked in Bicycle, both are appetites ferocious in nature and indomitable. The Lady’s liberties are completely usurped by a patriarchy that is determined to diminish her wishes and talents. We live in a world where powerful people go to great lengths to maintain the status quo, for their position necessitates the subjugation of many. This seems to be part of human nature, never to change, but processes where disenfranchised groups work to destabilise and subvert oppressive forces are always ongoing. Not all will succeed, but the battle continues for the human spirit is at its most potent when the downtrodden are left with nothing else to lose. Her rights as a sexual being and an artist, are a threat to her father and his conspirators, who do all they can to disempower her, but we are glad to see her fight to the end, whether or not she comes out on top.

Review: Hot Brown Honey (Sydney Opera House)

hotbrownhoneyVenue: Sydney Opera House (Sydney NSW), Jun 22 – 26, 2016
Creators: Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers, Lisa Fa’alafi
Original concept: Candy Bowers, Kim ‘Busty Beatz’ Bowers, Lisa Fa’alafi
Director: Lisa Fa’alafi
Cast: Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers, Juanita Duncan, Lisa Fa’alafi, Ofa Fotu​, Materharere Hope “Hope One” Haami, Crystal Stacey
Image by Dylan Evans

Theatre review
Six women take to the stage in a sensational update of the cabaret format, to confront big political issues of the day, and to entertain in the most spectacularly decadent ways possible. The women’s mantra is to “stand up and make noise”, and although deadly serious with their message, Hot Brown Honey‘s sense of humour is always an underlying and critical presence that keeps us engrossed even when the going gets tough. At the intersection of racism, sexism, homophobia and body fascism, the stars create theatrical representations that are crucial to our nation’s discussions about justice and equity as applied to women of colour in particular. On a relentlessly vibrant and glamorous stage, we see stories that allow identification, but also confrontational statements that speak directly to those of us in positions of privilege. If live theatre’s most valuable feature is its dimension of danger that comes from the unpredictability of conscious individuals sharing space, then Hot Brown Honey is a triumph of magnificent proportions.

These women are powerful, emotional and aggressive, each with blinding talents gloriously showcased in sequences that aim to simultaneously seduce and repulse, with the formidable MC Busty Beatz bringing harmony and cohesion to the night. The programme features some of the most jaw-dropping beat-boxing ever to be heard (by Hope One) and massive notes from Ofa Fotu’s classic torch songs interpreted with acerbic irony, against a backdrop of musical production irresistible from start to finish, comprising mainly of hip hop, soul and funk influences. There are subversive stripteases, same-sex orientated twerking, mesmerising bridal aerial silk acrobatics, all passionately imbued with social commentary to deliver a show memorable for being uniquely dignified and progressive. Hot Brown Honey is wild and vivid in its expression of feminine disobedience and unapologetic with its pointed perspectives on cultural colonisation, giving voice to an under-represented but large segment of our population, and reshaping the way we think about identities for the purpose of empowering every darker skinned woman and girl.

Where power imbalances exist, politeness serves to deepen those inequities. When we let sleeping dogs lie, our problems become further fortified. The six ladies of Hot Brown Honey will disrupt and antagonise, using their bodies, minds and spirit to create pandemonium where a faulty establishment resides, but they have also made room for conversation, and participation therein is not exclusive. The subjects broached here are difficult ones, which means that many of us will try to avoid them, but this is a Pandora’s box that we desperately need, and some very loud noises have initiated the process. We can run but we cannot hide, from this yet another new wave of feminism, and the tenacious efforts currently under way for a paradigm shift.

Review: Straight (Brilliant Adventures)

brilliantadventuresVenue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Jun 16 – Jul 2, 2016
Playwright: D.C. Moore
Director: Shane Bosher
Cast: Danielle Cormack, Sean Hawkins, Simon London, Madeleine Jones

Theatre review
Lewis and Waldorf are old friends from university days, reunited several years after their lives have taken different turns. While intoxicated, they decide to make an amateur porn film with each other. Lewis is married, with a history of just 2 sexual partners, and the happily single Waldorf is more experienced with 71, but neither have had encounters with men. Based on the 2009 film Humpday by Lynn Shelton, D.C. Moore’s Straight is about transgression. It explores issues around the constraints of sexual identity, along with an investigation into boundaries of friendship, and takes a look at the rules of monogamy in modern marriages.

Taboos are confronted with a vehement directness in Straight, which locates our cosy assumptions of human sexuality and puts them through a series of thorough and provocative interrogations. The script is a gripping one, made even more enthralling by director Shane Bosher’s very effective delivery of plot tension and believability for what is actually an absurd context. A brilliantly awkward sense of humour permeates Moore’s consistently nuanced writing, but the production has an air of unrelenting seriousness that compromises its potential for comedy. The mischievous Danielle Cormack delivers the biggest number of laughs as Steph, and leaves an excellent impression even though the actor only appears once in an early scene. Also noteworthy is Madeleine Jones who performs the role of Morgan with excellent psychological accuracy and a sharp intuition.

Lead role Lewis is played by Simon London whose thoughtful and intelligent approach creates a character that we are able to connect with, in spite of his quite incredible decisions. Sean Hawkins is the charming Waldorf, who keeps proceedings buoyant with an unpredictable and aggressive energy. The two turn up the sexual heat in the show’s crucial moments, creating an exceptionally libidinous stage that many will find titillating, while some others will be left embarrassed. Their work demonstrates pure conviction, but it is the ambiguity of their characterisations that inspire the biggest questions.

Art is eternally preoccupied with sex as a topic because it is universal, and one that can be examined extensively, and ceaselessly. The diversity of individual experiences and the plurality of our beliefs mean that new perspectives can always be added to the ever-expanding discussion and hence, comprehension of the nature of sex. We however, live in societies that suppress these interchanges, so we become accustom to presuming an uniformity in our hidden sexualities. We fool ourselves into thinking that we know how other people do sex, and furthermore we often place those same limitations on our own individual sex lives. Straight is about people who give themselves a chance, and who dare to go into the unknown, in the voyage of self-discovery that we call life. It is about defining identities by first experiencing what one is not, before settling on what one is.…

5 Questions with Karina Bracken and Jace Pickard

Karina Bracken

Karina Bracken

Jace Pickard: Why should people come and see Flame Trees?
Karina Bracken: For the uncommon, yet most excellent, combination of free parking AND being a champion of independent theatre.

When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
When I was 11 years old (also intuited by Psychic Elizabeth years later).

What are your interests outside of acting?
Conducting extensive independent studies on Chocolate Cafes, daydreaming, discreetly changing the ringtone on other people’s mobile phones (always amusing when people realise that that quacking duck is actually an incoming call – everyone should try it), tap dancing, talking to myself with a different accent (currently it’s Indian with an English influence) and recycling.

You are playing a police officer in Flame Trees, would you want to be one in real life?

There’s been a lot of talk about diversity in the arts, what’s your take?
Oh man! Why would you ask me this? It’s because I’m black, isn’t it?!

What I can say is that I am grateful for those people involved in the casting process who are not attached to a particular type or look, but are open to the idea that a character could be portrayed by a variety of physical appearances.

And I guess my thinking is influenced by my own family which has a little diversity of its own going on – my Indian born cousin is married to a Japanese woman, my brother’s wife is Polish, my Indian born mother has fair skin (and has been asked if she’s Italian) and my sister (who is the same colour as me) gave birth to a fair haired, blue eyed boy.

Also, I really dig the idea of subverting audience expectations. I personally would love for the opportunity to play a character with an Irish accent and not have it explained.

Jace Pickard

Jace Pickard

Karina Bracken: What is Flame Trees all about?
Jace Pickard: Ten years ago, a girl named Tess confesses to lighting a bush fire in her home town that killed her best friend and sent her to prison. Cut to the present day and Tess has now returned to redeem herself and make peace with those she has betrayed and left behind including her brother, her Aunty and her ex-boyfriend.

What makes you laugh?
Oh God, I laugh at most things. Even when no one has even said anything, I may just burst out laughing because I’ll be thinking of something in my head. I swear the cast think I’m insane. I can safely say that if you quote something from The Simpsons, I’ll be on the floor in laughter. I think when it comes to doing gritty drama like this production, you need to have comedy in the room and not take everything so seriously or you will just crash and burn. I am so thankful that I can have a laugh with this cast. There is so much positive energy in that room, you could never feel drained or upset when leaving a rehearsal.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I’m hoping in ten years to be doing various projects nationally and internationally within the industry. Acting is very much my passion and I love doing it but I also love to write and produce. I have produced two feature films now (Lead Me Astray and Remember Redfield) and have recently finished writing a feature I hope to put into production early next year. Heck, I might even direct this time around. I have a great team behind me and we will continue to make films and entertain an audience. I’m sure within ten years time, you’ll be able to find those films (and hopefully many more) on DVD shelves or on Netflix/Stan/Presto etc. Honestly, I just hope I am still doing what I love and that is working in this amazing industry.

What is like working with the cast of Flame Trees?
What I love about working on a project is how much of a family you become with your cast and crew over the few months you spend together: Isabel Dickson (Tess) and I bonded over the fact that we both went to the same acting school when we were at callbacks and when I was auditioning with her, I knew she had the part. She is very professional and natural and it has been amazing working with her. Karina Bracken (Monica) is my other partner in crime. Both Tess and Monica play a big part in Andy’s story and it has been so much fun to work off one another in tackling very dramatic scene. There was one scene that both Karina and I did recently where all I wanted to do was run up and hug her because it was so intense. Rebecca Clay (Val) leaves me in awe every time I watch her do a scene. When working on group scenes where all the cast are together, she just gives me so much to work with when our characters are playing off one another. I am so jealous I don’t have a one on one scene with her because she is astonishing. I love pouring Ryan Bown (Matt) a fake beer every time we do a scene and I do love all my scenes with Ryan. Matt is Andy’s bro and it is so easy to treat Ryan like a brother on stage and off because he is so easygoing and lovely. Simeon Yialeloglou is our brilliant director who is so on the ball with staging this entire production. What I love about Simeon is that you can clearly see he has put the work in to making something beautiful and I really hope we are doing a great job at helping him achieve his vision.

I have saved the best for last: Wayne Tunks, the writer and producer of Flame Trees, who is also playing Nathan, Tess’s older brother. I had seen casting calls for Wayne’s previous shows in the past and I had very much wanted to work with him so I was very stoked when I landed the role of Andy in his production. He is such a nice and inspiring person to work alongside and I swear to God, you need to try his cakes. They are mouth-watering. We recently did a scene where Nathan hugs Andy and I am not supposed to respond to it, which took all my might not to hug him back because man, he gives the best hugs! Haha.

I don’t have one bad thing to say about these group of people. I am very honoured to be working with such amazing talent.

Tell us a joke… I like really dumb jokes.
I read these ones online recently: How do fish get high? Seaweed. A man was hit in the face by a can of Coke. Lucky it was a soft drink. How can you get four suits for a dollar? Buy a deck of cards.

Karina Bracken and Jace Pickard are appearing in Flame Trees by Wayne Tunks.
Dates: 15 June – 2 July, 2016
Venue: The Depot Theatre