5 Questions with Asha Boswarva and Ilai Swindells

Asha Boswarva

Asha Boswarva

Who are the characters you play in Intersection and how are they similar to you?
Asha Boswarva: I play Saoirse a girl who is grieving over the first death in her family. She’s unsure how to deal with the situation and is trying to escape from the claustrophobic weight of the family’s heartache. During rehearsals for Intersection, my grandfather died and my feelings of loss became very similar to my character. I realised that, I too would do anything to make a loved one happy.

What has been the weirdest/funniest bonding moment with one of your fellow cast mates?
There have been many hilarious bonding moments, some which can’t be shared ‘what happens in rehearsals, stays in rehearsals’ but recently Steffan, again who plays Stuart forgot his costume prop in our full rehearsal run. He grabbed a denim jacket not knowing it was mine and came on stage wearing a size 6 girl’s jacket. It looked like a crop top on a 6ft guy and it cracked up the whole cast.

The show is a big amalgamation of unique coming of age stories, will you share one of your most significant coming of age moments from your life?
Working on Intersection is a significant coming of age moment for me. At 15, it’s the first time I’ve been in a production with a large cast that is significantly older than me. We’re telling Australian stories that include swearing, drug and sexual references but they are genuine and could be happening around Australia on any given Friday or Saturday night.

If you could work with any artists in the world who would be at the top of your list?
Matt Damon would be top of my list. He’s written his own stories – Good Will Hunting, produced movies – Manchester By The Sea and is now directing. He does funny, serious and action and seems like a genuine guy. I also would have loved to work with Audrey Hepburn and Robin Williams both incredible actors.

What has been the most valuable thing you’ve learnt from working in an ATYP production?
Sounds simple but to listen. I’ve learnt different styles and techniques from each of the cast members and director Katrina Douglas. There’s a bit of swearing in my scene and I’ve managed to pick up a few tips on that front too. Essentially, an ATYP production is like no other. It gives young actors a chance to work as professionals.

Ilai Swindells

Ilai Swindells

Who are the characters you play in Intersection and how are they similar to you?
Ilai Swindells: I play Hassan in Intersection and in the play we watch him lose his best friend, get his heart broken and be absolutely reduced to nothing. Can’t say I’ve had my heart broken just yet but I have definitely had many low points in my life where I’ve been reduced to nothing whether that was because of a friend or a tough situation I found myself in, I can relate! Also the characters all live in this super small town and having grown up in a small town myself with not much to do, I can relate to the boredom and dangers that come with too much idle time.

What has been the weirdest/funniest bonding moment with one of your fellow cast mates?
For Australia Day this year I spent the day randomly signing up to Chatswood RSL and spending some time there with another cast mate Steffan Lazar who plays Stuart and is hilarious. We basically took advantage of the cheap RSL prices and watched people play the pokies with intense fascination.

The show is a big amalgamation of unique coming of age stories, will you share one of your most significant coming of age moments from your life?
So many come to mind and so many are not appropriate to share I bet! I think finishing school is a pretty liberating experience especially since I grew up in rural central Queensland so moving to big and better places like Sydney is little life changing in its own right.

If you could work with any artists in the world who would be at the top of your list?
Quentin Tarantino. But I hear he is only making a certain number of movies and he’s almost reached that number. So sadly I don’t see that happening…

What has been the most valuable thing you’ve learnt from working in an ATYP production?
The opportunity to work with such a large cast of young people has been a fun first for me especially one with such a broad age range has presented its own unique insights. Having not done much theatre work, ATYP has been great and made the transition from screen to stage a comfortable one and Katrina Douglas (Director) who is very much a team player and takes on board your offers which allows the process to be a team effort.

Asha Boswarva and Ilai Swindells can be seen in Intersection by the writers of ATYP’s 2016 National Studio.
Dates: 1 – 18 Feb, 2017
Venue: ATYP

Review: I Hate You My Mother (Old Fitz Theatre)

whiteboxVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jan 24 – Feb 11, 2017
Playwright: Jeanette Cronin
Director: Kim Hardwick
Cast: Jeanette Cronin, Simen Glømmen Bostad
Image by Rupert Reid

Theatre review
In Jeanette Cronin’s I Hate You My Mother, strange stories are told of women with webbed feet and their, less strange but more abhorrent, transgressions as defilers of sons. The playwright’s epic, mysterious, poetic style means that access to psychological dimensions are restricted, but its ability to intrigue is without doubt. Her characters are boundlessly colourful, made seductive by generous helpings of ambiguity. We find ourselves drawn in, enthralled by the sounds of their speech, although the subtlety of their revelations can cause frustration. The play’s enigmatic qualities work effectively beyond the sensual when they manage to provoke thought, but we often luxuriate only on the surface.

Elevated by beautiful work from its team of designers, the production is effortlessly elegant, with an atmosphere cleverly calculated to secure our attention. Director Kim Hardwick establishes an ethereal grace that underscores the entire show, but even though its theatricality is charming, its sense of drama tends to be underwhelming. Qualities of danger and moral deficiencies are central to the work but they feel underplayed, subsequently distancing the audience from its controversial themes. The play wishes to talk about paedophilia and incest, both difficult subjects, but its sophisticated approach lets us off the hook, and we continue to pretend not to see.

Cronin is actor for the female roles, each of them devious, powerful and unpredictable. There is no performer more gratifying than one with something to say, and Cronin is certainly rich with ideas and passionate intentions. Her male counterparts are played by Simen Glømmen Bostad, less confident but equally compelling nonetheless. They find excellent chemistry in every scene, luring us into all their exchanges, although resolutely cryptic in their expressions. The experience of gender can tell great stories, because none is free of its taint, yet it often hides itself from consciousness. In I Hate You My Mother, women do unspeakable things to boys, and we have to wonder why.

www.oldfitztheatre.com

Review: Invasia (The Leftovers Collective)

leftoversVenue: Hustle & Flow Bar (Redfern NSW), Jan 26, 2017
Devisors/Performers: Veronica Alonzo, Nisrine Amine, Alison Bennett, Lauren Clair, Darryl Cooper, Curly Fries, Fiona Jopp, Tim Kemp, Lorna Munro, Lap Nguyen, Paul Ryan, Wendy Strehlow, William Suen

Theatre review
Australia Day remains a celebration for some, but for many others, it is an occasion to remember the atrocities that originated in 1788, and continue to happen to our Aboriginal peoples on a daily basis. There is no question that a significant proportion of the population understands the remorse that should feature on the day, although very few are able to conceive of any proper action that would extend beyond words of sorrow and guilt. We run the risk of turning the occasion into an opportunity for a kind of emotional absolution, that is ultimately inconsequential.

Invasia imagines an absurd scenario, whereby a new ruler is democratically elected to take over the Australian government, with dictatorial powers that enable them to determine a whole new way of life. Five individuals take to the stage, reciting passionate diatribes, in various non-English languages. We are mostly confounded, restricted by our monolingualism, unable to understand anything. Listening takes on a different meaning, as we move away from the activity of deciphering words, to becoming open to the other signifiers in communication. We are forced to connect on other levels, heart to heart perhaps, in trying to reach something concrete, and mutual.

It is easy to talk about the dismantling of failing systems through radical ideas, but we never go through with them. We take small steps instead, and are frustrated that change is invisible. If the problem is identified as being a white patriarchal thing, we want to conceive of a solution that simply replaces an ethnicity for another, a gender for another, except existing power structures will easily determine that the staus quo remains. The art of Invasia provides no answer to our Australia Day woes, but it is a strong articulation of the many questions, relevant and pertinent, even if we comprehend none of its words.

www.theleftoverscollective.com

Review: Osama The Hero (Tooth And Sinew Theatre)

toothandsinewVenue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Jan 21 – Feb 4, 2017
Playwright: Dennis Kelly
Director: Richard Hilliar
Cast: Tel Benjamin, Lynden Jones, Poppy Lynch, Joshua McElroy, Nicole Wineberg
Image by Ross Waldron

Theatre review
Just slightly beneath the skin of every human existence lies the barely contained need for violence, but like every propensity that we try to suppress, it finds expression in unexpected ways. Dennis Kelly’s Osama The Hero discusses our thirst for blood, looking at where that appetite comes from, and how it manifests. We find ourselves in an English housing estate, observing a group of neighbours inflicting cruel harm on one of their own.

It is a tale about scapegoating, and the habitual transference of our evil desires onto easy targets. In the case of Kelly’s play, young Gary, and his innocence, become the object of the group’s brutality, and in the process of his persecution, revelations are made about our oft-unexplained and neglected violent selves.

Director Richard Hilliar goes to great pains for every one of the play’s savage moments to occur with great power. The transgressions are hideous, and they are presented as such. A cultural gap exists between us and the working classes of England located at the centre of the drama, and it is arguable if the production’s interest in that specificity of experience has been made to translate effectively. As we are kept dazzled by the uniqueness of a cultural other, we often lose sight of the universality that can allow the work to resonate more intimately.

The ensemble of five is unquestionably energetic and committed, but the challenge posed by Kelly’s language and its accompanying encumbrance of dialects, can be a cause for distraction. Our attention alternates between hearing meanings, and observing the unsatisfying labour put into achieving what is ultimately a cosmetic accuracy. At their best however, the actors provide masochistic delight in an atmosphere of terrifying menace, the kind of which one would hope to encounter only at the theatre. Nicole Wineberg is particularly memorable in a scene involving her character Louise’s obsession over a video showing a man being killed. She brings the show to an intense peak, with the palpable depiction of a woman lost in evil and dread.

Bad people are almost always other people. If Osama The Hero succeeds, we should see ourselves in its characters, and gain a better understanding of the way we operate, as individuals and collectives, in these post-9/11 times of terror and fear. There is perhaps no solution to our unyielding need to make enemies out of fellow human beings, but knowing how that process works is essential if our evolution is to be progressive. When Osama bin Laden was executed, we never really expected the world to suddenly become a better place, but it certainly quenched the thirst of our carnivorous vengeance, if only for a moment.

www.toothandsinew.com

Review: Odd Man Out (Ensemble Theatre)

ensembleVenue: Ensemble Theatre (Kirribilli NSW), Jan 19 – March 18, 2017
Playwright: David Williamson
Director: Mark Kilmurry
Cast: Gael Ballantyne, Justin Stewart Cotta, Rachel Gordon, Lisa Gormley, Matt Minto, Bill Young
Image by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
Alice and Ryan meet on a bus, and are quickly drawn to each other. They have little in common, except for a shared desperation to become coupled up. Alice is sensitive about her biological clock running out of time, and Ryan is fearful of loneliness. They work hard to create a union, and in Odd Man Out, it seems tough grind is the key to success.

Marriage happens hastily for the pair. Ryan has never said “I love you” back to Alice, and proves himself embarrassing and humiliating in every social situation, but Alice decides to marry him anyway. No surprises then, that the husband turns out a disappointment. It is true, in David Williamson’s world of intractable heteronormativity, that women get into relationships to change men, while men hope for women in their lives to never grow.

We never really believe the Alice character. Maybe it is her severe lack of judgement that betrays the credibility of the narrative, or maybe, we are simply very tired of stupid girls in our stories. Turns out the “odd man out” here, could actually be a rather strange woman. Actor Lisa Gormley’s extraordinarily animated style may not have made things any better, but her conviction in spite of the playwright’s flawed imagination, is impressive. Her work is entertaining, and her aforementioned exuberance, does provide effective distraction from the play’s implausibilities.

Played by Justin Stewart Cotta, Ryan is a much more detailed and authentic personality who helps provide necessary grounding to Odd Man Out. Cotta turns in a spectacular performance, intelligent and thorough in his approach, for an interpretation that is immensely engaging and amusing, while retaining a solid amount of insightful nuance. Whether wildly rhapsodic or sensitive and quiet, Cotta provides the production with excellent layers of depth and clarity, giving the show a meaningful sense of purpose.

Mark Kilmurry’s direction of the piece is spirited and taut. The show has a vigorous energy aided by inventive use of a small chorus of actors, introduced into scenes of otherwise structurally simple dialogue. Sound design by Alistair Wallace is similarly effective in manufacturing a sense of motion and progression, for an urgency that helps us stay captivated.

The play ends abruptly, and awkwardly, with a fairy-tale conclusion that reveals a human need for hope, however misplaced it may be. Odd Man Out is fundamentally romantic, even if it is rarely sweet or poetic. Against all odds, we will dream up a way to make love happen, and that, is the essence of a life well lived.

www.ensemble.com.au

5 Questions with Briallen Clarke and Emele Ugavule

Briallen Clarke

Briallen Clarke

Emele Ugavule: Australia has seen four Prime Ministers in five years, resulting in our biggest arts funding institution, the Australian Council, being ripped apart & diminished to a shadow of its former self. Forcing a number of respected performing arts hubs to shut down. What do you think the role of Australian arts practitioners are in times of political trauma?
Briallen Clarke: What I love about being an artist is that work we create can be anything we want it to be. It can escape from reality, it can be a chronicle of the times, it can be accessible, it can be challenging, it can feed our culture, it can be a catalyst for change, it can be beautiful, it can reflect nature, it can soothe the soul. The role of an arts practitioners is to strive to make work that does one, several or all of these things. What is difficult in times like these, is how we can find ways continue to do this. Whether we create art to make a statement, as a form of therapy or as an emotional release, we must continue to do it. Artists by nature in this country are dogged in their resourcefulness and creativity. Never has it been more important to be keep going because if we stop making art, they win. Our role is to keep making art no matter what.

How important is relativity in a play? Do you think that the script & its delivery must attempt to resonate with its audience’s contemporary experiences or that no matter what, people will always find a way to relate to a story in their own way?
I do believe that plays resonate with people no matter what the subject matter or central issues are that are explored. Even if all it does is stimulate discussions about how outdated the views presented are, or how unrelatable it is to a contemporary audience, it is still serving to encourage audiences to reflect on their own lives and belief systems, which is valid. Of course there isa certain potency that comes with seeing a play which directly reflects events or themes as as they are being experienced, it is engaging and thrilling. However, I don’t believe that a play loses purpose or importance as the world changes, the function it serves and the impact it has just evolves.

Why and how is A Strategic Plan relevant?
I think that is for the audience to discover and decide.

Your comedic style is very unique and magnetic. What/who have you drawn inspiration from to create Linda?
Aren’t you kind?? Linda is definitely an amalgamation of a few people I have encountered in my life. She exists in a world that is so different from my own so I did a lot of looking out to initially create this character. The more I have come to know her though, there are aspects of her personality that I can relate to for sure. The world of this play gives license to making things slightly more heightened too so it has been interesting to decide on which parts of her personality to dial up, and at what points in the story.

Can you share a moment from your process whilst working on A Strategic Plan that you loved?
Something that I have loved and that has been such joy is how much we have laughed, like really hard belly laughing. Company fits of unable to breathe, bent over, tears streaming down face type of laughter. Any actor will tell you though that this kind of laughter exists in equal parts joy and torture so it has been an aspect of the process I have both loved and struggled with (see I’m even laughing now at the thought of it!).

Emele Ugavule

Emele Ugavule

Briallen Clarke: What do you think is the best thing about being an actor?
Emele Ugavule: Oooooo. Tough. Nice. To be honest this job is incredibly rewarding in many ways, but the one thing that I think I find the most rewarding is that it allows me the privilege of being a storyteller. I come from a culture where storytelling is how we pass on our legacy, our history, our traditions. Being an actor allows me to do the same but as a vessel for other people’s stories instead of my own – so it teaches me to look at people whose lives I would otherwise never encounter, with compassion and to tell their stories with empathy yet objectivity.

You love to travel. Which destination is next on your list?
The Pacific! Particularly, Melanesia. Specifically – Vanuatu!! I need to invest more in where I’m from and I’m very passionate about Pacific visibility and stories – and Melanesia is the key to Pacific identity. I’m half Tokelauan (Polynesia) and Fijian (Melanesia) and almost all the stories of the Pacific that we see today in mainstream media (including Moana) focus on Polynesia. Melanesia is a cultural mine. It was the first part of the Pacific to be settled and yet remains one of the last cultural & linguistic mysteries to the world so I’m incredibly drawn to it.

You’re a gifted musician and lover of music. Has that been useful in your creation of Jill for A Strategic Plan?
Oh you’re so kind! I mean totally. My life is pretty much musicians these days. All my mates are musicians, my partner is a musician. So it’s a world I’m very much invested in and have spent the last few years learning to create a strong dialogue within. Music has always played a huge role in my life – it’s actually the reason I got into acting, long story bla bla, so it’s been lovely to be able to engage with my friends in conversation surrounding their world to authentically tell their story through my world.

What artists have you had the pleasure of working with that you have found particularly inspiring?
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh man! Brag town. All my mates to be honest! Ngaiire, Wallace, New Venusians, Broken Mountain to name a few. Sydney has such an incredible hub of musicians & vocalists that it doesn’t get enough credit for!! All the people I’ve worked with have either been my mates first or have become my mates as a result of us working together and they all inspire me in different ways whether it’s Ngaiire’s incomparable stage presence & vocal agility, Wallace’s flawless dance moves & lyrical flow, the 7 piece band magnetic sound & dance inducing vibes of the New Venusians, or Broken Mountain’s nostalgically poignant yet sharp drops – all of them work so very hard at their craft and care so very much about the people they work with and I find that kind of work ethic inspiring.

Any artists at the top of your wish list to work with?
Oh. Uh. I’ve never really thought about this. I just love working with musicians and have been lucky enough to be asked to work on projects with artists who I find incredibly cool and interesting. I think 2016 really presented a new shift in sound and visual aesthetic for the pop music world as a response to the political climate in America, which brought artists such as Solange, Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Common & Frank Ocean to the fore front of the GP’s consciousness. I tend to fall ‘out of love’ with artists just as quickly as I ‘fell in love’ – because should I ever meet them I don’t want to have this ‘You’re out of my league’ complex, we’re all humans and just because your career makes you more visible than me, it doesn’t make you any better than me – so there’s a lot of artists whose work I love and respect that challenges me and my work intellectually and emotionally but no one that I’m drawn to in a way that makes me think ‘I want to work with that person!’. I’ll just keep doing my own thing and if someone wants to work with me, that’s cool. If not, that’s cool too.

Briallen Clarke and Emele Ugavule can be seen in A Strategic Plan by Ross Mueller.
Dates: 27 Jan – 11 Mar, 2017
Venue: SBW Stables Theatre

5 Questions with Poppy Lynch and Joshua McElroy

Poppy Lynch

Poppy Lynch

Joshua McElroy: Do you think taking up an acting career will make you happy?
Poppy Lynch: When I was about 15 I gave up ballet dancing. Something that I had done for so long and at such a level. Up until that moment it was what I had in mind as the career for me. When I quit I had no artistic outlet and somehow found acting through school performances and drama class. And the rush I felt was unlike what I’d felt before. Cause I could now be all these characters and escape whatever teen angst I was suffering in the real world. The most important thing for me is that acting gives me happiness even when I fail. It is the one thing I’m passionate about. I don’t think those who is less than passionate should take up an acting career cause it’s such a hard and damaging business at times. So short answer is YES! And as soon as that’s not the answer I won’t bother doing it.

Why do you think the play is relevant for an Australian audience?
Right now the world is suffering a scare tactic war. People in power including our own government and media; are using fear to cement their lead. The terror groups of this time (which are a part of or surround ISIS) have become the tool for this fear tactic war. And people such as Donald Trump and our own Pauline Hanson use images and words of violence to encourage fear which is an emotion that often initiates hate. Those who are influenced fear ALL that come under the bracket of a terror threat. But this means that innocent people are also under fire. Because their beliefs or appearance somehow come under the bracket that the people in power have created. Osama The Hero is about people fearing something and going out to kill that fear with hate and violence. The clincher is that these people don’t have evidence. “You don’t need evidence for terrorists.”

What is your biggest fear?
I hate cockroaches! But that’s not the biggest fear I guess. I think being alone. I don’t mean at one specific moment I quite like doing things alone! I just mean at a later stage in life I fear losing all the people around me. Which is radical and might be far fetched but it’s often something I think about.

What do you and your character have in common?
She has been through a lot of horrible stuff. It’s hard for me to find something in common with the abuse she has copped and the life she has been given. But I think she has a high level of intrigue. She wants to be involved and I think she is observant. Those are some things I notice in me.

What is an artist’s biggest responsibility?
Oh this is a hard one. I think I like the idea that one of an artists biggest responsibilities is to confront. Because confrontation relates to exposing a certain level of truth that resonates with the audience. And I hope that that resonation would result in some sort of change being made. Osama The Hero relates to this I think. We want to confront to get the message across. That whole message about humans and how we hate what we fear and what that hate results in.

Joshua McElroy

Joshua McElroy

Poppy Lynch: When did acting become a career goal? Was there a moment or person that encouraged you to pursue it?
Joshus McElroy: I was always a very theatrical, attention seeking individual from a young age. Funnily enough Suzanne Millar who now runs bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company was the one who showed me I could turn that into performance. The moment I decided to 100% commit to the arts as a career choice was the moment I quit my Degree Of Commerce at Macquarie University.

Being a somewhat new and young artist in the business what are the main challenges (personal or career driven) that you’ve faced?
Cash. Cash is a hard to come by. Everything else is great fun.

What is the leading theme or concept in Osama The Hero? And how does that expect to appeal or interest a modern audience?
The most prevalent theme for me in the play is fear. Everyone is terrified of anyone who challenges the status quo. New ideas are deemed dangerous, the people who present them – bad. We silence, censor and label people rather than discuss ideas. Politics and the media are increasingly vicious and violent. I don’t think the audience will find it hard at all to relate.

You are stuck on a desert island. Who is the one character you’d choose to be there with?
I would probably choose Louise. Mandy is too young to be resourceful. I feel like me and Francis would kill each other before starvation or dehydration got to us. Mark is too old. Louise would have the strongest will to live out of the bunch I think.

What is something that the audience will come out of Osama The Hero with in mind? (Without ruining it too much)
Everyone will have different thoughts as they walk out of the theatre. But every time I finish reading this play two things come up for me. 1. Is there such thing as ‘good and evil or are there just mistakes and not mistakes?’. 2. Is there any situation where silencing someone is beneficial?

Poppy Lynch and Joshua McElroy can be seen in Osama The Hero by Dennis Kelly.
Dates: 21 Jan – 4 Feb, 2017
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre