5 Questions with Mathew Coslovi and Wendi Lanham

Mathew Coslovi

Wendi Lanham: What’s the last risk you took?
The last risk I took was going on a cruise to New Zealand with 6 girls.

Why did you start acting?
I got into acting because acting felt like no job that I have ever felt the same about.

What’s your favourite part of the show?
My fashion, taking off my old clothes and getting into my new, better clothes.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
No!

Has this show changed you in some way? If so how/why?
I feel like I have learnt a lot about myself and I feel like I have learnt more about life.

Wendi Lanham

Mathew Coslovi: What’s the last risk you took?
The last risk I took was to say yes to full time job, whilst acting. Juggling the two has definitely been a challenge.

If you weren’t an actor what would you be doing?
I wouldn’t feel fulfilled for one. But if I had to do something else I would be a skydiving instructor.

What makes you laugh?
Pretty much everything. I laugh a lot and my witch laugh is renowned.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I do yoga before every show. It helps me warm up and focus.

What is the best advice you have been given in regards to acting?
To always use your fellow actors, to listen to them and to react. To direct your focus away from yourself and think about what you are trying to do to the other character. To be confident, be easy to work with and to love what you do!

Mathew Coslovi and Wendi Lanham can be seen in Dignity Of Risk devised by Shopfront’s Harness Ensemble and ATYP.
Dates: 9 – 26 Aug, 2017
Venue: ATYP

Review: Dignity Of Risk (ATYP / Shopfront Arts)

Venue: ATYP (Walsh Bay NSW), Aug 9 – 26, 2017
Dramaturg: Jennifer Medway
Director: Natalie Rose
Cast: Mathew Coslovi, Holly Craig, Teneile English, Caspar Hardaker, Riana Shakirra Head-Toussaint, Steve Konstantopoulos, Wendi Lanham, Brianna Lowe, Sharleen Ndlovu, Jake Pafumi, Dinda Timperon
Image by Tracey Schramm

Theatre review
11 performers take to the stage, each with intimate revelations, for a discussion about the personal versus the social, from a perspective of individual lack and disadvantage. Not all of the cast is disabled, but Dignity Of Risk requires that human inadequacies are laid bare, for an examination of how each person navigates the world, with their own sets of imperfections. Through a display of weakness, it is the image of strength, previously imperceptible, that persists. The human spirit is everywhere, but it can only be brought to view by the expression of vulnerability.

The production takes a gentle tone, but it speaks with great power and a sublime beauty. The nonchalant delivery of lines, coupled with the unassailable authenticity the personalities invariably portray, initiates a slow burn that eventually, and surprisingly, overwhelms. Natalie Rose’s direction and Jennifer Medway’s dramaturgy, are consciously resistant of a sensationalist approach. They build poignancy through sensitivity and nuance, without a reliance on conventional narrative structures, and their trust in a universal benevolence pays off. A highlight is Holly Craig’s solo dance sequence, incredibly elegant and sensual, made even more moving later in the piece, when she explains the meanings that dancing holds for her, as a person with vision impairment.

In a show that talks a lot about our bodies, Margot Politis’ choreography plays a significant role, and what she does with movement, gesture and positioning, is nothing short of inspiring. Set to the wonderfully rousing electronic music of James Brown, the many non-verbal sequences of Dignity Of Risk are masterfully manufactured for our visceral response, involuntary yet hugely enjoyable. The production is visually sumptuous, with Melanie Liertz’s set and Fausto Brusamolino’s lights offering a range of ethereal dimensions that juxtapose delightfully against the very earthy, corporeal concerns of its players.

All of us have shortcomings but not everyone has the privilege of being able to hide them. For some, identity is intrinsically linked with their deficiencies, while others are allowed to be known only for their successes. No matter the faults we have, as defined by society or by the self, we all wish to be regarded with respect, and we all deserve to be seen for our capacity to contribute, as people who share in the earth.

www.atyp.com.au | www.shopfront.org.au

Review: After The Dance (New Theatre)

Venue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Aug 9 – Sep 9, 2017
Playwright: Terence Rattigan
Director: Giles Gartrell-Mills
Cast: Tom Aldous, Callum Alexander, Lloyd Allison-Young, George Banders, John Michael Burdon, Sandra Campbell, Rowan Davie, Peter Flett, Matt Ford, Valentin Lang, Lauren Lloyd Williams, Amelia Robertson-Cuninghame, Alyssan Russell, Claudia Ware
Image © Bob Seary

Theatre review
It is England in the 1930s. David is fabulously wealthy, and dreadfully miserable, living a life with no aim and purpose. Terence Rattigan’s play is about a writer who has everything, including two women vying for his affections, but who remains obstinately unfulfilled. Time has not been kind to After The Dance, which feels sorely irrelevant, with its archaic, although honest, worldview. We no longer despise work, and we no longer tolerate the representation of women as accessories for the libido and vanity of men. We have thankfully moved beyond Rattigan’s depiction of a failed existence, as exemplified by his protagonist’s persistent disquiet.

Director Giles Gartrell-Mills shows us the emptiness of David’s days, through the inconsequential and foolish ways personalities in his household spend their time. There is a worthwhile discussion to be had about the overindulgence of alcohol that is perhaps the only thing in the show that retains some resonance, but we are never able to really empathise with those who appear onstage. When we see Helen and Joan fighting over David, we question his appeal, having seen only evidence of his shortcomings, and the narrative’s persuasiveness begins to suffer.

Actor George Banders faces the grim task of making David a likeable figure, and even though his attempts are doubtlessly confident, the battle seems to be ill-fated from the start. More impressive is Amelia Robertson-Cuninghame as Joan, the vivacious wife who, although rudimentarily written, is memorable for the performer’s conviction at delivering surprising complexity, and a refreshing sense of panache. Also noteworthy are Brodie Simpson’s costumes for the show’s female characters, each outfit beautifully fitted and thoughtfully assembled.

David connects with nothing, and finds himself in a painful abyss of solitude. Loneliness is universal, but as we discover in After The Dance, how we talk about it changes with time and space. We can invent endless concealments so that the plague of loneliness can be diminished, but finding true release from it, requires that the self must go through the most genuine of reflections, and the most brutal interrogation. David suffers from writer’s block, unable to find expression for what he knows to reside within, yet he looks only outward, hoping for respite to come from others. A large mirror sits in the drawing room where all the action takes place, but in spite of his vanity, David takes not one look into his own eyes.

www.newtheatre.org.au

5 Questions with Brianna Lowe and Sharleen Ndlouv

Brianna Lowe

Sharleen Ndlouv: What’s the last risk you took?
Brianna Lowe: Going to Japan without my parents.

What’s your favourite part of the show?
Talking on stage for the first time.

What makes you laugh?
Funny movies and having fun with other people.

What’s great about rehearsing and performing at ATYP?
The great atmosphere and feeling welcome.

If you could have any superpower, what would you choose and why?
To have the ability to move things with my mind, to cause mischief and be naughty.

Sharleen Ndlouv

Brianna Lowe: What’s the last risk you took?
Sharleen Ndlouv: Abseiling down a 50m waterfall.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I have quite a few but I give myself a pep talk and a victory dance.

Who do you think should see this show?
Everyone, for all those areas in life that need a bit of audacity, bit of re-mapping and just a little fun and loosening up, for that person we all know we can be.

Favourite silly joke?
What did sushi A say to sushi B? Wasabi!

What’s it like to play yourself on stage?
The most beautiful thing I have experienced so far.

Brianna Lowe and Sharleen Ndlouv can be seen in Dignity Of Risk devised by Shopfront’s Harness Ensemble and ATYP.
Dates: 9 – 26 Aug, 2017
Venue: ATYP

Review: The Telescope (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Aug 4 – 12, 2017
Playwright: Brooke Robinson
Director: Carissa Licciardello
Cast: Tel Benjamin, Alison Chambers, Cecilia Morrow, Nicholas Papademetriou

Theatre review
Fighting technological progress is a futile exercise, but we can be certain that not all efforts at advancement are worthwhile. In this short play by Brooke Robinson, a family of four is being forced out of their home, because a giant telescope for the purposes of detecting alien life in space, is scheduled to be installed. Lenny has been fighting hard to prevent the loss of her home, but when the government’s generous compensation arrives, we discover that she is the only one who wishes to remain. Her parents and brother have decided to take the money and run, leaving Lenny to grapple with the fact that she has been abandoned, replaced by cold hard cash.

Replete with cynical wit, the humorous dialogue of The Telescope leads us into a delightful, and misanthropic, probe of the modern family. Kinship is no match for money and technology, but there is little melancholy in this staging, directed by Carissa Licciardello, who pushes her actors to extraordinary lengths of camp and slapstick. It is a marvellous cast, in a tightly rehearsed, exhilarating performance.

Alison Chambers and Nicholas Papademetriou are very charming as parents who cannot wait to fly the coop, both impressive with the accuracy at which their comic instincts are implemented, in this piece of absurdist theatre. There is a lot of exaggeration, but the points it makes ring true. Cecilia Morrow is the sentimental Lenny, and we recognise her helpless devotion to a hopeless cause. Her agoraphobic brother Daniel is portrayed with a goofy exuberance by Tel Benjamin, who brings to mind a generation unable to engage with life outside of the electrical.

It is much too late to lament the proliferation and impact of technology. Our trajectory is fixed, and we must sink or swim. The characters in The Telescope choose between love and realities of the times, but truth is that we have both. On the other hand, we must acknowledge the ridiculous spending of billions in space, while continents of people are left to languish in poverty. No matter how far we evolve, the morals of humanity’s story rarely change. In the discussion of tech and morality, we must always return to the simple idea, that selfishness, in whatever guise, is wrong.

www.oldfitztheatre.com

5 Questions with George Banders and Amelia Robertson-Cuninghame

George Banders

Amelia Robertson-Cuninghame: How can today’s society relate to the text and its characters?
George Banders: The wonderful thing about this play is that it’s still so relevant. The themes of alcohol addiction, jealousy, betrayed, unrequited love are all highly relatable to modern audiences. The characters aren’t archetypes, they feel so real with their own little quirks, which makes them a joy to play.

Your character David has a few vices, do you have any?
Way too many to mention so publicly. I do however secretly enjoy big game hunting, I know it’s probably not PC these days but there’s nothing like the feeling of bagging a majestic 6 tonne male elephant. What a rush…

What is it like working with Giles Gartrell-Mills?
Terrible, the man’s a hack! He couldn’t direct traffic! But if he asks, tell him I’m really enjoying it. He has a wonderful sense of the world, and gives you the room and support you need to see what these characters are capable of, and how far we can push this play to make it thrilling. He dialogues with actors so well, and it’s always such a fun, energetic room to play in. Would work with him any day.

If you could be one character from After The Dance in real life, who would it be?
I’d be the doctor, George, just for that sweet sweet pay check, also I feel practising medicine in the 30’s was so much easier; “splitting pain in your side and jaundice? Have a Coca Cola!”

Describe the play in a Haiku.
Bottomless drinks served
Swinging naked from chandelier
Mind the balcony-

Amelia Robertson-Cuninghame

George Banders: What is the most rewarding project you’ve ever worked on and why?
Amelia Robertson-Cuninghame: Well this one time, I mâchéd the entire solar system out of found chewing gum wrappers just to top Melissa Fuller from 7B’s volcano. That’s not entirely, or at all, true. I don’t think I can pinpoint one project that is more fulfilling than the other. I think everything we take on, we do so because it’s the right fit for us at the time. Each time we walk away with more wisdom and knowledge then before. Hopefully.

What do you find is the most moving moment in After The Dance?
For a play that is all airs and graces, there are so many moving moments! But, without giving too much away, probably the ending. Although that may be for my own selfish reasons!

If the main characters in the show were cocktails what would they be?
David is a Side Car, a classic, but still a bit old and musty. Joan, a dirty Gin Martini, refined with just the right amount of salt. John doesn’t make it to cocktail stage, he’s slugged straight from the bottle. Helen is a Mimosa, equal parts sensible and fun. Peter is a Tom Collins, trying to play with the big boys, but still topped up with soda. And Julia is a Mint Julep, a harsh spirit almost too much to bear, cut often with saccharine.

Who was the first actor you saw that blew you away?
Joan Cusack in Addams Family Values, yaaass feisty husband slayer from the 90’s! Also, still know every word!

What song do you listen to, if you’re going into an intense scene, to pump you up?
Die Antwoord would be my go to a lot of the time, although if I’m after melancholy, probably some Jeff Buckley.

George Banders and Amelia Robertson-Cuninghame are appearing in After The Dance, by Terence Rattigan.
Dates: 9 August – 9 September, 2017
Venue: New Theatre

Review: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (Sport For Jove Theatre)

Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Aug 3 – 19, 2017
Playwright: Dale Wasserman (adapted from novel by Ken Kesey)
Director: Kim Hardwick
Cast: Matilda Brodie, Laurence Coy, Patrick Cullen, Anthony Gooley, Travis Jeffery, Felicity Jurd, Stephen Madsen, Wayne McDaniel, Joshua McElroy, Tony Poli, Nick Rowe, Di Smith, Wendy Strehlow, Bishanyia Vincent, Johann Walraven
Image by Marnya Rothe

Theatre review
The action takes place inside a male psych ward, except of course, the allegory is in reference to the mad world that all of us inhabit. In Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, McMurphy (made famous by Jack Nicholson in the film version) represents the wild man that we have to tame. He turns up full of life, impressing upon us that he is not in fact insane, but a product of nature in its splendid rawness, and is clearly out of place in this environment of medicated placidity. It is probably no surprise that in this 1962 work, it is a woman who is charged with the business of suppressing that sublime nature.

Nurse Ratched has successfully emasculated everyone we see, and McMurphy must find a way to escape her wicked depravity. Man’s authenticity is upheld as desirable and esteemed, even if all the women who cross McMurphy’s path are debased and humiliated. The rebel’s story is always a powerful one, and it is no different here, whether or not we warm to its central character. It is after all, a battle for dignity and innocence, and we will only be allowed to side with the righteous hero.

Anthony Gooley’s charisma serves him well in the role of McMurphy. Dynamic and intuitive, and effortlessly captivating, it is a pleasure to watch the actor fill the stage with his brand of robust theatricality. Simultaneously portraying qualities that are menacing and vulnerable, the character that he presents is complex, considered and hence, convincing. Ratched is a surprisingly human manifestation, under Di Smith’s interpretation. Hints of warmth and kindness make her a believable personality, but an impotent villain. In the absence of a formidable opponent, McMurphy looks to be a rebel without a cause, and dramatic tension is significantly compromised.

Director Kim Hardwick’s approach is a contemplative one, and although never lacking in verisimilitude, sections that deal with aggression and chaos, can seem too gently manufactured. Individual patients in the show are fascinating, often beautifully performed, but they feel strangely distant. Without a threatening presence, the group misses an opportunity to have us more viscerally engaged. The production however, boasts accomplished design work, especially noteworthy are Martin Kinnane’s lights; compelling when subtly rendered, and utterly remarkable when his creativity turns bold or extravagant.

We play by the rules, thinking them necessary for self-preservation, even when we judge them unsound. When one’s own sanity comes into question, it is invariably societal expectations that provide the measure at which behaviour must be gauged and contained, whether or not conditions of that acceptance are based in logic. McMurphy’s radical disobedience involves him acting from unmitigated impulse, alone, and the consequences he has to face are dire. It is true, that much of what we endure, is unfair. It is also true, that rules are made to be broken, and when the lunatics take over the asylum, redress can be achieved, if unity, and solidarity, can be found.

www.sportforjove.com.au

Review: Acts Of Faith (Popinjay / Emu Productions)

Venue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Jul 18 – Aug 5, 2017
Playwright: Melvyn Morrow
Director: Elaine Hudson
Cast: Taylor Owynns, Joseph JU Taylor

Theatre review
A property developer and a nun may seem an unlikely pairing, but because they meet in Sydney, it makes sense that both are in the real estate market, trying to take advantage of one another. Melvyn Morrow’s Acts Of Faith is a response to this city’s obsession with property prices, and our unabashed pursuit of preposterous inflation and personal gain.

The play features a string of deceptions by untrustworthy types, determined to make the most of a system that feeds the rich and greedy. It reflects our increasing emphasis on money, as a society that has moved away from defining characteristics of mateship and the fair-go, to what is today a guiltless infatuation with materialism. Even a mother superior has to participate in this gluttony for her narrative to materialise on the twenty-first century stage.

Dialogue in the show takes on a very formal tone that can seem old-fashioned, but undeniably suited to the archaic institutions being represented. Director Elaine Hudson ensures that actors approach their parts with impeccable logic, and that they deliver their lines with an enjoyable sense of rhythm and buoyancy. Although we are kept engaged in every scene, the comedy could benefit from a greater sense of flamboyance in delivery. Taylor Owynns and Joseph JU Taylor bring their warm presences to the story, both impressive with the precision and conviction that they put on display.

In a world that insists on everything being monetised, the modern economy is brutal with how it dictates the way we live, and how our personal choices must conform to its principles of profit maximisation. Religious organisations too are participants in this race for money and power, yet they hide behind disguises that appear celestial and traditional, to gain an upper hand in a system that allows them to benefit exclusively, from donations, tax breaks and the like. Numbers do not lie, but they can only work their magic when applied with diligence and fairness.

www.kingstreettheatre.com.au

Review: Technicolor Life (The Depot Theatre)

Venue: The Depot Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Jul 26 – Aug 12, 2017
Playwright: Jami Brandli
Director: Julie Baz
Cast: Amy Victoria Brooks, Nyssa Hamilton, Michael Harrs, James Martin, Tasha O’Brien, Cherilyn Price, Emily Sulzberger, Cherrie Whalen-David
Image by Katy Green Loughey

Theatre review
Maxine is a gregarious 14-year-old with a lot to deal with. Her sister has returned from the war in Iraq, having lost her left hand along with much of her will to live, while their grandmother decides to move in to enjoy her last days, before having to succumb to cancer. Jami Brandli’s Technicolor Life is an entertaining exploration into the notion of joie de vivre, where tragic circumstances are filtered through a youthful optimism and resilience, as represented by the very innocent, but very wise, Maxine. People lose limbs and lives everyday, yet somehow we must move on, and resist being submerged by the inevitable accumulation of damage over time.

Director Julie Baz ensures that characters are colourful, with consistently vibrant interactions. Pathos is perhaps too mild under Baz’s interpretation, but we nonetheless find ourselves deeply involved. Nyssa Hamilton does fabulous work in the role of Maxine, particularly memorable for her voice, which seems to be endlessly malleable and powerful. The actor is a delightfully inviting presence, and she keeps us firmly engaged with the conundrums that surround her. Amy Victoria Brooks and Emily Sulzberger play Maxine’s fairy godmothers, who introduce a thrilling effervescence with each entrance, through their mimicry of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, after our protagonist discovers the 1953 classic.

Necessity compels us to take action, but inspiration is the most blissful way to achieve motivation. Having lost herself inside the glittering falsity of old Hollywood, Maxine delves into dreamland searching for answers to problems in her real world. We are often caught up in the gruelling demands of daily existence, and our minds are made to be increasingly restrained by the need to act with practicality, prudence and pragmatism, leaving us to reject that which is the most beautiful and sublime. Asking for divine intervention is usually the last resort, but what could result from the consultation of higher planes, must never be underestimated.

www.thedepottheatre.com

Review: Kindertransport (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Jul 28 – Aug 20, 2017
Playwright: Diane Samuels
Director: Sandra Eldridge
Cast: Camilla Ah Kin, Annie Byron, Harriet Gordon-Anderson, Sarah Greenwood, Emma Palmer, Christopher Tomkinson
Image by Philip Erbacher

Theatre review
In 1938, an estimated ten thousand Jewish children from families in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, were moved to safety in the United Kingdom, before the commencement of the second World War. Diane Samuels’ Kindertransport is the fictional story of one such child, nine-year-old Eva who finds herself sent away from Hamburg. She ends up in Manchester, north of England, eventually changing her name to Evelyn. Decades later, we discover that she has all but forgotten her life as a Jewish child. To leave the past behind, Evelyn’s survival instincts have created a kind of amnesia, in order that she may make the most out of her present circumstances. The play is about the relationship between yesteryear and today, and how our histories are constantly under threat of obliteration.

There are many theatrical works about Jewish experiences during the Nazi era, and Kindertransport can often feel generic in its approach to telling its story. It is a narrative that has to be reinforced, because there are wounds yet to be healed, and antisemitic threats have yet to disappear. There may be nothing particularly unpredictable about the show, but its capacity for the expression of genuine emotions, is nonetheless valuable, in the ongoing process of catharsis for many who continue to be affected by events of the war.

Sandra Eldridge’s direction introduces a gentle touch, working on the tenderness between characters rather than on exploiting the more sentimental elements of the play. Sections can feel underwhelming, with dramatic tensions kept subdued, but a highlight occurs in a fantasy sequence where Evelyn confronts her mother, both speaking as adults, putting to words their respective struggles. Actors Camilla Ah Kin and Emma Palmer find remarkable chemistry in this moment, and the stage becomes briefly incandescent. Also noteworthy is set design by Imogen Ross, with a backdrop composed of open cardboard boxes, symbolising the movement of peoples and cultures, as well as the human need to bring illumination to our darker inner selves.

There is much to be sad about what Evelyn has had to endure, but it is her ability to emerge strong and flourished that should be celebrated. None of us should hope to reach our graves unscathed by the ravages of mortality, if we are to seek a life well lived. It may be considered unfortunate that some of us have had to abandon religion, tradition and culture in order to find a way forward, but survival is key, and we must attain it however possible.

www.darlinghursttheatre.com