5 Questions with Sinead Cristaudo and Rachel Tunaley

Sinead Cristaudo

Rachel Tunaley: What have you learnt about yourself since moving away from home to pursue a career in the performing arts?
Sinead Cristaudo: I learnt first and foremost that no one is going to believe in myself for me. I think having to adapt to being in completely foreign surroundings entirely alone forces you to sink or swim. At some point you have to choose whether or not to back yourself, and there is definitely a hardness in me that I would never have developed without moving away from my home.

What’s your favourite moment to perform in the show?
I love the entire prom sequence, Norma gets to do all of her meddling which is so much fun for me. I also love the opening of our show, the way our very clever director and choreographer has set “In” makes it really meaty and layered so there is plenty to play with each time we run it.

What made you want to audition for Carrie?
I have loved the Stephen King story in its film adaptations and was elated to hear Louis Ellis Productions was auditioning for the musical of which I had always been curious but had never seen. I spent an evening listening to the soundtrack with my housemate Kristy who is also in the cast and we both got decidedly hyped for the auditions. I had also had the pleasure of seeing our director’s previous work of Parade the Jason Robert Brown musical and was in awe of how he presented a show I completely adore. I simply had to audition!

If you could play any role in musical theatre of any age or gender, what would it be?
Without a doubt it would be Mama Rose in Gypsy. Rose is an incredibly complex and flawed character that’s story is told through what I believe to be the best book written for a musical, accompanied with brassy golden age style music. Rose and Gypsy are everything I love about musical theatre, storytelling in a timeless and idiomatic way.

List three women who have inspired you to pursue a career in performing.
Barbra Joan Streisand must be first here, she is the strong, consummate icon I adore. I would sing her arrangements in our tractor shed to my audience of cane for hours, trying to sound exactly like her. Then without a doubt my dance teacher Louise Buljubasich and her mother Carol who cultivated my love for being on a stage from when I was four, exposing me to the wonders of Fosse and time steps and caring for me endlessly while I practically lived out my teens in the studio.

Rachel Tunaley

Sinead Cristaudo: What do you love about playing Chris Hargensen?
Rachel Tunaley: I’ve always been intrigued by villainous characters in shows. There’s just something so fun about playing a character so different from yourself and getting to be super feisty. I admire the way Chris doesn’t let anyone else define her and makes her own rules throughout the show, even though her morale are rather compromised. I also get a killer song and get to belt like no tomorrow which is a win!

Has a mentor or teacher ever given you advice that has shaped the way you approach and view performing, if so what is it?
A teacher I had at NIDA would always get us to look at a text, whether it’s a scene or a song, and he would ask us “what is this?” I loved this approach because there was no falseness to it. It would force us to just look at the act for what it is; “a confession of love”, “a song of mourning”, “an apology”. Asking myself this when approaching a new text forced me to get out of my “artists” brain trying to find a deeper meaning and just accept the text for what it was.

What do you think people love about the story of Carrie that sees it remade in film and revamped in theatre?
Well if you found the movie(s) too scary, I think you’ll find the musical is a little easier to watch. It’s still bloody and there’s still a lot of dark elements but it’s just hard to be scary
while singing show tunes to be honest. The musical also re imagines the characters Stephen king has created and sheds a different light on them that audiences may not have seen before.

What is your favourite part of the rehearsal process? What has it been so far in Carrie?
Definitely getting to do the blocking of ‘The World According To Chris’. I get to have my Regina George Mean Girls moment standing at the point of a triangle with my posse behind me and I’ve just never felt more powerful in my entire life.

What performances or pieces of theatre have inspired you most?
Gosh that’s a hard question because most theatre excites me and inspires me to be a better performer and to want to create something great. The first time I saw Rent the musical really struck a chord with me though. I guess I was used to musicals being super camp and glitzy so when I first saw it I was completely blown away. It depicted a certain honesty and tragedy in such a beautiful way which I wasn’t used to in musicals, plus the music is so damn catchy.

Sinead Cristaudo and Rachel Tunaley can be seen in Carrie the musical.
Dates: 25 Jul – 4 Aug, 2018
Venue: The Depot Theatre

Review: They Divided The Sky (Daniel Schlusser Ensemble)

Venue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Jun 13 – 30, 2018
Playwright: Daniel Schlusser (from the Christa Wolf novel)
Director: Daniel Schlusser
Cast: Stephen Phillips, Nikki Shiels
Images by Patrick Boland

Theatre review
Adapted from Christa Wolf’s novel Der geteilte Himmel, Daniel Schlusser’s They Divided The Sky tells the story of Rita and Manfred, lovers in East Germany, just before the 1961 erection of the Berlin wall. Like pieces of demolished concrete scattered in the aftermath, romantic fragments constitute the play, as we wade through a recollection of events, trying to piece together truths of the past.

Politics of that era is central to the piece, but resonance is derived instead, from the personal relationship between its two characters. With mid-century German ideologies taking a backseat, we focus on the dynamics of the pair, examining the intricacies of love at a time of social unrest.

They Divided The Sky is challenging, but ultimately fulfilling, work. Schlusser’s writing and direction require of us, a deep concentration, in order that its transcendental beauty can take effect. Incisive lighting design by Amelia Lever-Davidson helps us tune in, with a degree of meditative attention, in order that we may approach the staging with a heightened sensitivity. James Paul’s sound design manipulates our emotions so that we respond accurately, on a visceral level, even when our minds are yet to figure out what it all means.

Stephen Phillips and Nikki Shiels are the wonderful actors charged with the responsibility of keeping us intrigued and invested. With an usual approach to plot structure, the play is slow to draw us in, but we are captivated from the start, by the strong presence of its cast. Individually, Phillips and Shiels are precise and cerebral with what they bring, and as a couple, their chemistry is unusually powerful. Whether subtle or intense, their energy is able to fill the stage, and in every shade of light and dark that they manufacture, we discover something special in their ephemeral theatricality.

A love is never more devastating than when it ends prematurely. In a week that has seen migrant children torn away mercilessly from their parents, we can easily imagine what it feels like to have a heart be broken, not by the object of desire, but by cruel external forces. In a world increasingly adversarial, the dreaded history of Germany in two halves serves as cautionary tale, for what could result from our appetite for strife and disunity. We can all have our own principles, but to let them get in the way of peace, is our biggest offence.

www.belvoir.com.au | www.danielschlusser.com

Review: Dresden (Bakehouse Theatre Company)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Jun 15 – 30, 2018
Playwright: Justin Fleming
Director: Suzanne Millar
Cast: Thomas Campbell, Renee Lim, Yalin Ozucelik, Dorje Swallow, Jeremy Waters, Ben Wood
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
Wagner’s first success was Rienzi, an opera about the rise and fall of a medieval Italian populist leader. Hitler fell in love with the work, years after Wagner’s death, and in Justin Fleming Dresden we see the unexpected and formidable ways in which art can inspire behaviour, good and bad. It also looks at Hitler as a failed artist, and proffers a chicken and egg scenario; questioning the relationship between that infamous abominable nature and his own deficiencies at artistic creation. Even though information about contemporary fascistic regimes seem to remain prominent in our consciousness, the play does not feel immediately relevant, but Fleming’s writing exceeds the story he tells. Against a backdrop monumental and historic, his words sing with an enchanting beauty, imparting observations that are succinctly constructed and very wise indeed.

Opera and a world war, give the play a sensibility that is unavailingly grand, but the small auditorium is ambitiously converted by set designer Patrick Howe to convey the sophistication associated with Wagner’s discipline, as well as the aesthetic severity of Hitler’s Germany. Benjamin Brockman’s lights are relentlessly theatrical, with incessant transformations that move us through dimensions, from miscellaneous days of yore, to those that are even more ephemeral and fantastical. Director Suzanne Millar very deftly negotiates the weaving realms of the play, taking us from real to imaginary, across terrains and timelines, for an impressively lucid telling of tales.

Yalin Ozucelik and Jeremy Waters are the leading men, both enthralling with their respective stage presences, and splendid with the dialogue that they are master of. As Wagner, Waters is spirited yet delicate, and as Hitler, Ozucelik’s depiction of cruel imbecility strikes a perfectly balanced act of dramedy. Also memorable are Dorje Swallow and Thomas Campbell, each supporting player demonstrating excellent versatility, proving themselves to be eminently watchable in any guise.

We often hear, that all publicity is good publicity. If all Hitler had wanted from his extreme brutality, was to be remembered, then the confounding actions of people in power everywhere, can begin to make sense. Most of us wish to leave behind some semblance of a legacy, no matter how minute, so that our time on earth can be seen to be of some value. Some want their names to last, but others prefer that what they had tried to generate in their own lifetime, is able to make permanent improvements into the future. Bad people exist, and as we negotiate existence around them, we must try to stop ourselves from fighting fire with fire. Good can turn into evil in the blink of an eye, when we let our guard down and start to emulate those who wish to trespass against us.

www.bakehousetheatrecompany.com.au

Review: Marjorie Prime (Ensemble Theatre)

Venue: Ensemble Theatre (Kirribilli NSW), Jun 15 – Jul 21, 2018
Playwright: Jordan Harrison
Director: Mitchell Butel
Cast: Lucy Bell, Maggie Dence, Jake Speer, Richard Sydenham
Images by Lisa Tomasetti

Theatre review
Holograms are a reality, and so is artificial intelligence. Combining the two could garner extraordinary results, and in Jordan Harrison’s Marjorie Prime, we see what happens when the memory of lost loves are calibrated through technology, and people are able to re-materialise in three dimensional pixel form. A widow speaks to her late husband, who appears to exist right before her eyes, a digital simulacra assembled from information that she provides. This is science fiction that all can relate to. Universally intriguing notions around the extension of life, is a powerful subject, but the play’s sense of drama is subdued, and its intellect seems curiously restrained.

The production is elegantly assembled, on a very fabulous set, designed by Simon Greer. Director Mitchell Butel gives us only the essentials in a remarkably low-key approach, but the text seems to offer little that is exciting, besides its initially enticing conceit. Scenes become increasingly repetitive, and we find ourselves gradually alienated from a story that struggles to progress meaningfully. Its conclusion however, is once again provocative, as it takes the plot, finally, to somewhere surprising and quite fascinating.

The show might prove underwhelming but it is a polished and professional cast that takes the stage. In the role of Jon is Richard Sydenham, whose emotions are conveyed with an admirable precision that invites us at key points, to attain truthful connection with themes being discussed in Marjorie Prime. Maggie Dence is charming and humorous as Marjorie, cleverly introducing moments of levity to prevent the piece from turning monotonously serious. Lucy Bell and Jake Speer are competent and committed to their parts, although predictable with the interpretations that they bring.

There is a heavy scepticism in the play, that relates to the synthetic portions of our high tech existence, even though it does acquiesce to the inevitable development of civilisation down the futuristic path. Technophobia should never be the default position when talking about tomorrow. We should question everything, but whenever we submit to convenient attitudes of “natural is always better,” we deprive ourselves of empirical truths. It is tempting to want things to stay the same, but the only constant, as always, is change.

www.ensemble.com.au

Review: Estelle Astaire’s Woes & Wares (Blood Moon Theatre)

Venue: Blood Moon Theatre (Potts Point NSW), Jun 13 – 16, 2018
Playwright: Bianca Seminara
Director: Bianca Seminara
Cast: Bianca Seminara

Theatre review
It is a Tupperware party, and our host is doing her best to keep us entertained. Estelle Astaire’s Woes & Wares is a one-woman show, in which a recent immigrant from New York relays the journey that had got her here. The challenges of a child living with a difficult mother, and failed love affairs of an ingenue, form an amusing biography of someone trying to come into her own. Estelle is great company, and her mother is a splendidly colourful creature, both witty and spirited, in this uncomplicated but cleverly written play, by Bianca Seminara.

For the production, Seminara serves also as actor and director, for which her abilities are evidently less accomplished. There is a charm and attractive quirkiness to the presence she brings on stage, but the lack of dynamism and drama in the performance, makes for a monotonous experience, albeit a tenaciously endearing one. Nevertheless, the hour-long show is fairly rewarding, made memorably novel by the circulation of a large number of fascinating plastic containers among the audience.

Estelle has a horrible husband, whom she tolerates in a way similar to how she had dealt with her mother. The big difference of course, is that Estelle is no longer a child, and can leave her appalling circumstances at will. Independence is essential, but to acquire the skills that will help one attain it, is always a tricky ordeal. When mothers are unable to fulfil their duty as role models, daughters often have to learn things the hard way. Estelle has yet to find her path, but we are glad to see that she is on the right track.

www.bloodmoontheatre.com

Review: Air (Old 505 Theatre)

Venue: The Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Jun 13 – 30, 2018
Playwright: Joanna Erskine
Director: Anthony Skuse
Cast: Tel Benjamin, David Lynch, Diana McLean, Suzanne Pereira, Eloise Snape
Images by Mansoor Noor

Theatre review
Annabel works the graveyard shift at a community radio station, reading out obituary entries from the day’s newspaper. Usually an intensely solitary endeavour, interruptions begin to occur, as the phone starts ringing, and as visitors decide to drop by. Joanna Erskine’s Air is part supernatural thriller, and part family drama. It is an intriguing plot, if slightly too meandering, with some genuinely funny touches and moments of melancholy that are quite enthralling.

The play builds to a slightly underwhelming conclusion, but the journey is on the whole, a satisfying one. Director Anthony Skuse’s delicate approach casts a transformative spell over the space, allowing us to luxuriate in the hazy intimacy of the broadcast studio, where a sense of the metaphysical can come and go as it pleases. Eloise Snape is a very endearing Annabel, thoroughly authentic with the naturalism that her acting style embodies, especially delightful when presenting the subtle comedy of the piece. Tel Benjamin and Diana McLean are also on hand for further amusement, eliciting some very cheeky, and surprising, laughs when we least expect them.

Much of Air is a meditation on loneliness and isolation. That which provides safety to Annabel, involves the company of the deceased, and the shunning of the living. It is true that people are tiresome, often unbearable, so we understand the voluntary exile some might choose, over the difficult social responsibilities that are routinely thrust upon us. There is however, little that is rewarding in a life made invulnerable. To let the self be open, will inevitably incur hurt, but without obstacles, we might as well be dead. Annabel’s growth requires that she learns to care and protect, not just for herself, but also for others. It also requires that she makes decisions only with circumspection and not fear.

www.old505theatre.com

Review: The Hypochondriac (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Jun 9 – Jul 1, 2018
Playwright: Molière (a new version by Hilary Bell)
Director: Jo Turner
Cast: Gabriel Fancourt, Darren Gilshenan, Sophie Gregg, Emma Harvie, Lucia Mastrantone, Jamie Oxenbould, Monica Sayers
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
Argan is convinced that he is riddled with disease. His wife Beline, has heard it all before, and tired of waiting for his death, is now plotting to steal his entire estate without the help of sickness to deliver the goods. Molière’s The Hypochondriac is given new interpretation by Hilary Bell, who makes adjustments to the language and story for yet another generation. The essence of Molière’s farce is retained, and it proves still to be effective and very enjoyable, but a more modern sensibility is introduced, most notably in terms of its women characters, who are now full of nerve and agency.

First glimpse of the production is impressive. Designer Michael Hankin’s set is an opulent creation, gloriously lit by Verity Hampson to convey both the wealth at the centre of Argan’s story, and the traditions from which it is derived. The show however, is slow to start. Energies are subdued, and a misplaced hush pervades much of the action, even if the cast looks to be raring to go. Things do fall into place however, when an air of chaotic ruckus that so defines the genre, eventually kicks in, to replace the strange tentativeness of its beginnings.

Performer Darren Gilshenan’s marvellous comedic presence makes him the perfect candidate for Argan; he brings to the role a rare combination of precision and raw impulse, keeping us firmly on track with the plot, but always feeling as though anything could happen, as is crucial in this style of live comedy. It is a thoroughly accomplished ensemble that takes the stage, and although chemistry in-between is not yet at perfection on opening night, each player is as enthused and skilled as the next, and we find ourselves fawning over all of their colourful characterisations.

Marriage is increasingly strange a phenomenon. As we move towards ever more rational forms of existence, the fact that people hold on to that ancient practice, is quite curious. Young ones in The Hypochondriac wish to have marriage legitimise their love, whilst their older counterparts think of marriage in direct accordance with the possession of property. Love and property can exist today independent of that institution, but we cannot help returning to it, maybe for its symbolism, or maybe we are simply always in search of something to make ourselves feel better.

www.darlinghursttheatre.com