Review: Snap*Click*Shot (Karul Projects)

Venue: PACT Centre for Emerging Artists (Erskineville NSW), May 25 – Jun 2, 2018
Choreographer and composer: Thomas E.S. Kelly
Cast: Jessica Holman, Thomas E.S. Kelly, Libby Montilla, Amalie Obitz, Taree Sansbury, Kassidy Waters

Theatre review
Accompanying the dance, is a recorded narration about ecology. It provides an Indigenous perspective on our relationship with the environment, particularly memorable for its musings about our responsibilities as custodians of the planet. The message in Thomas E.S. Kelly’s Snap*Click*Shot is sombre, but unifying.

The bodies in motion are simultaneously human and animal, soil and vegetation; the false points of demarcation that separate us are dissolved, for an expression of our existence that is all-encompassing. This is a summation of events that sounds excessively romantic, but when immersed, the show feels authentic, convincing in its depiction of nature as wholistic and incontrovertibly linked to the human experience.

Kelly’s work, as choreographer and composer, is sensitive yet disciplined, elegant yet dynamic. His ability to place in tandem opposing qualities, the hard with the soft, creates a sense of drama that keeps us engaged. It is a strong team of dancers, extraordinarily cohesive, and impressive in their familiarity with Kelly’s idiosyncratic physical language. Their presentation is confident, and very well-rehearsed, with an inexhaustible vigour that fills the auditorium. Costumes and lights are however, inadequately conceived, resulting in imagery that is needlessly monochromatic and repetitive.

At the production’s conclusion, we congregate in a circle, eyes closed, sharing in a moment of silent meditation. Our insecurities from being exposed thus, reach for reassurance, and we find camaraderie in that unusual instance of connection. We often think of independence as a virtue, but it is a falsehood to conceive of any life detached. It is vanity that separates, and narcissism that fuels oppression. The simple exercise of acknowledging others as equals will solve many problems, but we rarely rise to that challenge.

www.karulprojects.com

Review: Arthur & Marilyn (Dinosaurus Productions)

Venue: Blood Moon Theatre (Potts Point NSW), May 29 – Jun 2, 2018
Playwright: Jasper Lee-Lindsay
Director: Danen Young
Cast: Meg Hyeronimus, Alec Ebert

Theatre review
Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, both legends in their own right, are significant not only for the work they had left behind, but as is typical of bona fide celebrities, their personal stories, whether real or fabricated, determine how we remember them generations on. The couple fell in and out of love, against the romantic backdrop of Hollywood in the 1950s. In Jasper Lee-Lindsay’s Arthur & Marilyn, each party is risen from the dead, and the consummate storytellers are called upon to give us their version of that famous love affair.

Dialogue is scintillating in the two-hander, with an admirable authenticity to its depiction of a lulling time and space that has us fascinated and seduced. Actors Meg Hyeronimus and Alec Ebert are an enchanting pair, accurate in voice and physicality for a convincing portrayal of mid-century America. Hyeronimus is wonderful as Marilyn, conveying not only the iconic vulnerable glamour that most of us are familiar with, but also adding a dimension of wilfulness and confidence that makes this iteration seem, perhaps strangely, even more genuine than the original.

The plot of Arthur & Marilyn is imperfect, unable to cultivate an emotional journey with enough potency that can live up to the sentimental value we hold for its subject matter, but levels of intensity for the production, is cleverly controlled by director Danen Young, and our attention is sustained to the end.

Relationships can be kept beautiful, if we are able to concede when their time is up. Longevity of marriages are venerated in polite society, but like so much of life, we learn ultimately that it is the quality, and not quantity, of things that should be valued. Monroe and Miller never had a “happily ever after”, but the many sweet moments that they did have together, represent their very best days on earth.

www.bloodmoontheatre.com | www.facebook.com/DinosaurusProd

Review: Twilight (Motimaru Dance Company)

Venue: The Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), May 29 – Jun 3, 2018
Direction, Concept, Choreography, Dance: Motoya Kondo, Tiziana Longo
Image by Johan Planefeldt

Theatre review
The initial image is of one organism, but our logic soon determines that there are two human bodies on stage. Although nothing is explained by Motoya Kondo and Tiziana Longo, it is probably inevitable that we should interpret their work as a representation of the human experience. We connect with the flesh on display, instinctively thinking that the expressions are about us. Strange as they may be, the movement and shapes evoke a familiarity, perhaps talking about the universal sensation of internal conflict that can arise at any moment within any person, or the eternal difficulties of maintaining relationships.

What we think about Twilight is informed, of course, by what we see. The two bodies convulse and glide, they tear apart, or they cling on for dear life. We may find ourselves forming meanings as a voluntary response to the dance, but it is when we are lured into meditation, observing with no appraisal, that the show is at its most potent. Transcendence on this occasion, is a collaborative art form, with Hoshiko Yamane’s music playing a vital role, alongside Kondo and Longo’s choreography and lighting design. The mesmerising juxtaposition of dynamism and stillness, a hallmark of the Butoh discipline, casts a spell and keeps us engaged throughout the piece.

It is an illusion of separateness that is distinct in Twilight. Quite literally joined at the hip, Kondo and Longo have made themselves appear exactly the same, yet they depict a sense of resistance toward one another, so that harmony is only ever a temporary notion. We wish for unity, but our appetite for discordance seems as natural as breath. It is as though, peace had always existed, but we fail to recognise it, and we make all go to war to find it.

www.motimarubutohdance.com

5 Questions with Alison Bennett and Kate Walder

Alison Bennett

Kate Walder: What is your favourite aspect of devising theatre?
Alison Bennett: A bit like when we had lunch today. We peer into each other’s hearts and it’s so pure and it’s the best and the worst of people. I can honestly say that the best moments of my life happen in a rehearsal room. More than performance. I fall in love with the artists and it hurts when it ends. I discover what I think and what I feel and I learn to humbly listen. I know I sound ridiculous but it’s true.

What inspired you and Hurrah Hurrah to create this show?
The Roomba Robotic vacuum cleaner I saw at my brother’s house. More broadly I guess it’s the driving question I have about how do average people, you and me, change the world? That literally keeps me up at night. So when I see an image that I find fascinating, in this case it was my brother introducing his daughter to the Roomba, I just dig in deep and all roads lead back to a similar question which is how do WE – you and I – face ourselves.

Where do you think we go when we die?
Oh my. I don’t know. This show has made me genuinely conflicted about my own beliefs. I don’t know if we continue or if we simply end. I might say however that heaven and hell… nonsense.

Do you think humans will always be able to control AI?
Nope. Without being grim, I think our ego has set us up for self-destruction.

What is the most ridiculous thing you have ever done for the sake of convenience?
That might be ordering dinner from an Uber so I didn’t have to walk the take away home. OMG. It’s awful.

Do you think robots will take over the world?
I think robots will infiltrate our everyday, in the sense that they will become an accepted aspect of our existence. We already know that many industries will become automated, but what will be interesting is whether Artificial Intelligence runs away with itself and surpasses our ability to control it.

Kate Walder

Alison Bennett: Would you ever buy a Roomba Robotic vacuum cleaner?
Kate Walder: Would now because they have so much personality! Not only do they clean your house, they basically double as automated waiters for light objects like beer or your toothbrush. They would also be quite useful as transport for recalcitrant infants.

Why do you think clowning is an exciting performance style?
I adore clown. The whole concept of being brave but fallible, playing with the audience but accepting the flop, being vulnerable and yet a complete idiot is so freeing and honest. It also allows the actors to address a complex issue with the beautiful simplicity of a child, which is often where the most acute observations are made.

How would you describe your attitude to death in 3 words?
Mildly avoidant. Flabbergasted. Metaphysical. Oops that’s 4.

Are you afraid of dying?
I find it hard to answer that question. I can’t imagine what it must be like to face your own death. I don’t think anyone can know until they get there. I wonder about the circumstances and hope it won’t be tragic. I hope I won’t be alone. I hope I will be taken care of. I accept there will be pain but I hope there will be dignity. For now, the fear is not knowing.

Alison Bennett and Kate Walder are appearing in Roomba Nation.
Dates: 4 – 21 July, 2018
Venue: The Old 505 Theatre

5 Questions with Meg Hyeronimus and Danen Young

Meg Hyeronimus

Danen Young: How does it feel to play such an iconic figure as Marilyn?
Meg Hyeronimus: Initially, terrifying. I didn’t really know much about her other than the typical “blonde bombshell” character and that she’s the most famous blonde of all time or at least the 20th Century. So yeah, completely overwhelmed. I dove into my research, gathered everything I could find and found her to be so incredibly extraordinary and complex. As Arthur Miller said in an interview “whatever anybody was she had a little of it”. I also quickly accepted that I’d never be Marilyn. That took some stress away. I think the script definitely helps with that – with the breaking down of her public persona, and portrays a more real and human version of her. My relationship to her has become incredibly personal, I find myself fighting for her in whatever way possible – in everyday life or during rehearsal (I suppose that’s a real driving force for me in the show) and I love her a lot. I feel her pain and her hope. It’s also opened a lot up for me as an actor, I feel more confident in myself and owning my power. I’m very grateful for the whole process. 

How is it different this time round? 
I think there is an obvious shift in each of us, it feels like we’ve matured as actors/theatre-makers. Don’t get me wrong, we very much are still those excited passionate kids – but the approach to our work is more direct and fast paced. The vision for what we want is clearer; for Alec (playing Arthur) and I as actors making choices for our characters and for Danen and his directorial vision. There is a lot more freedom for me as Marilyn now. I’m not trying as hard to be a certain way. I think I have a better understanding of her, or rather MY Marilyn and all that character stuff (which the first time round plagued me for a while). It now comes second nature, leaving me with so much more room to PLAY! It’s so FUN, even when it tears my heart apart. 

What is your favourite thing about the rehearsal room? 
Well, that I get to work with two of my best friends. Also the silly characters that are always floating around. Alec has one whose name is Timothy Panknell. He’s from somewhere in Brooklyn. And never ever fails to make me laugh. Danen and Alec both take on who they think Arthur Miller’s mother would sound and be like. It’s probably the funniest thing I’ve witnessed first hand. 
We have so many stupid jokes and outbursts of nonsense, and it’s generally Alec saying something so absurd and ridiculous that Danen and I lose it for a good 5 mins. 
It’s a good base for us to be open and just play around with the script, despite the work being so sincere and somewhat philosophical.

If you could have dinner with any famous person from the past, who would it be? 
Is it annoying to say Marilyn, because honestly that would be my first choice. I’m desperate to speak to her. Other than that, Hatshepsut. She’s one boss ass bish! 

Marilyn’s from LA and Arthur’s from New York, so where would you rather live, LA or New York?
Young Meg would say New York in a heartbeat. And I would say present Meg would say it too, just a little more hesitant. I need space and love nature, so I’ll say LA. That is my final answer. Which is lucky considering I’m moving there in 3 weeks, HA!

Danen Young

Meg Hyeronimus: LA or NY?
Danen Young: Oooooh that’s tough. I’d have to say NYC in terms of a city to live in. There is sooooooooo much happening in such a small amount of area, and it literally never sleeps. Which is absolutely perfect for a night owl like myself!!

Dinner guest?
I would have to say Nikola Tesla. Such an incredible mind that was not as successful and far reaching as he should have been. The memory of his great work was stomped on by Thomas Edison and I would just want to say sorry for that!!

How different has it been directing this time around?
There have actually been a lot of things that are similar about directing this time around. The difference mainly being the length, and the challenges we’ve faced in terms of developing a rhythm for the show. The short and sweet version of the play was probably a bit nailed into us, so breaking free of this emotional and muscle memory was the first big hurdle. In terms of staging, lighting, and sound the show is coming together fairly in the same, but on a larger scale; so the lighting plots are more complex, there are more sound cues, and more blocking to figure out. But being on a small budget, and having restrictions on how much set we can have, means that we’ve kept the set minimal, to focus on the characters, relationships and memories that Jasper has so beautifully written into his script. Rehearsals are still super fun and full of cheeky banter!

Why produce this play?
Firstly, because the script is amazing. For actors, the words just pull you along, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. But I think it’s also a very interesting take on memory, and celebrity culture in this highly connected world of social media. How can we really know who these people were? Whose word can you trust as an authority on what these people were like? Does it really matter? Is it possible to know someone if you’ve never met them? I can’t really answer these questions, but I want to say that the overwhelming feeling I’ve had whilst directing this play, is that our memories are who we are, but in the end, it’s the memory of us in the minds of other people that define who we are.

Describe the show in 3 words.
Sincere. Ethereal. Heartbreaking.

Meg Hyeronimus plays Marilyn Monroe, and Danen Young directs Arthur & Marilyn, by Jasper Lee-Lindsay.
Dates: 29 May – 2 Jun, 2018
Venue: Blood Moon Theatre

Review: Stalking The Bogeyman (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), May 23 – Jun 23, 2018
Playwrights: David Holthouse, Markus Potter (additional writing by Santino Fontana, Shane Stones, Shane Ziegler)
Director: Neil Gooding
Cast: Noel Hodda, Radek Jonak, Deborah Jones, Graeme McRae, Alexander Palacio, Anne Tenney
Images by John Marmaras

Theatre review
David was raped at the age of seven. The damage that follows is unimaginable, and the vigilante action he plans to carry out is understandable, even if some of us will no doubt have misgivings about his intentions to kill. In Stalking The Bogeyman, we are not asked to pass judgement on David’s decisions, but to witness the repercussions of sexual assault, especially as it pertains to the very young. Incidents that take place over several minutes, cause reverberations that last a lifetime. We meet David 25 years after the fateful night, and his struggles are unabated.

With these extraordinary stakes at hand, the play is appropriately enthralling; we are desperate to see how the story concludes. Not only do we want to know, how and if the characters find resolution, it is important that we discover what it is, that our societies would consider to be the right thing to do. In the creation of this play, our values are placed under magnification, and we hope for it to tell us more about ourselves that we may not already know.

It is an engaging production, with Neil Gooding’s restrained direction keeping things concise and clear. Ideas in Stalking The Bogeyman are simple, and powerfully conveyed on this stage. Leading man Graeme McRae’s vulnerability as David is a vital component, that preserves our empathy comprehensively, through every step of the proceedings. The eponymous bogeyman is played by Radek Jonak, whose portrayal of malevolence is as impressive as the electrifying energy he introduces with each appearance.

The play ends on an abrupt, and perhaps anticlimactic note. The drama fizzles out, but as it is “based on a true story” we appreciate the honesty of its divulgements. It is true, that when disaster strikes, we are rarely able to procure redress or compensation that is ever going to be satisfactory. That which cannot be undone, requires that victims find ways, often radical in nature, to make their daily existences bearable. Many even more unfortunate, have suffered annihilating consequences. Another day will dawn, if only for battling the lingering shadows of yesterday.

www.redlineproductions.com.au

Review: Obscene Madame D (Theatre Kantanka)

Venue: 107 (Redfern NSW), May 23 – 27, 2018
Novelist: Hilda Hilst
Director: Carlos Gomes
Cast: Katia Molino
Images by Heidrun Löhr

Theatre review
Surrounded by death and dereliction, Madame D is plunged into a deep isolation, where she finds herself examining the meaning of her existence, after suffering the recent bereavement of a longtime companion. Still shaken from the sudden loss, her thoughts are incoherent but belligerent, and her behaviour is increasingly erratic. Her neighbours are perturbed, and so are we. Obscene Madame D is unsettling, an avant-garde work that is unafraid of confusion, determined to embrace the strange and difficult, in its exploration of life at its outer peripheries.

The space is charged with a sense of wonderment, as though something esoteric has taken over Madame D’s depressed home and mind. Video projections by Sam James and lights by Fausto Brusamolino create a gloomy but seductive atmosphere; we never feel at ease, but this mysterious intrusion into Madame D’s sanctuary is a hauntingly beautiful experience. Gail Priest’s music and sound are heard through headphones, so that all the secrets are presented with immediacy, and intimacy, although what we are presented with, never seem to be more than clues or deflections.

Directed by Carlos Gomes, who orchestrates something enchantingly unique for his audience, often intriguing with its penchant for rousing curiosity, though its ability to hold our attention is inconsistent. In the absence of a strong narrative, we drift through dream states, not all of which pertain to the show in progress. Performer Katia Molino cuts a glamorous figure, mesmerising even in various states of dishevelment. In the middle of all the tangential statements, Molino’s unflappable presence provides a reliable centre, that our imaginations can retreat into, and interpretations can be formulated.

When we meet Madame D, it is as though she is encountering freedom for the first time. In pain from the shock of a new independence, she now has to define the world for herself. No longer the passive half of a partnership, Madame D must finally grow up, and as an older woman, the process is understandably excruciating. It is an inevitable metamorphosis, one that can only be unpredictable, but that will ultimately be rewarding, if only for the brutal authenticity that it delivers.

www.107.org.au | www.kantanka.com.au