5 Questions with Yannick Lawry and Nicholas Papademetriou

Yannick Lawry

Nicholas Papademetriou: How confident would C S be today in a theological debate?
Yannick Lawry: I reckon Jack (apparently he hated the name Clive and used the name Jack all his life!) would have a decent answer for most theological questions. Even in our age of ‘hyper enlightenment’. The thing I’m less sure about is how he’d cope with debating in an age where it’s so easy to offend and apologies are rarely accepted..

If Lewis could date any modern celebrity of today who would it be and why?
In the context of Freud’s Last Session, Freud suggests Lewis was attracted to older, virtuous women after losing his mother at a young age. His wife, Joy Davidman, was an American poet and – like Lewis – converted to Christianity later in life. So a mature, devout, artistically minded woman from the other side of the Pacific. Unlikely to be anyone we know from the pages of OK! magazine!

What are you enjoying most as an actor about working on this production?
Our rehearsal process is somewhat intense. I’ve never had to work so hard to make using archaic props like pocket watches, gas masks and transistor radios look quite so natural, and I’m loving watching Nico as a master of character acting bring life and depth to Freud.

If Lewis actually met God what’s the first thing you think he would he ask him?
“Why this great test of life on earth before the great reward of heaven?”

Are you finding the play is making you question any of your own beliefs or theories?
Yes. Outing myself as a believer here, Freud’s arguments about theologians hiding behind their ignorance and creating a God-of-the-gaps where their explanations run dry still rings true in 2018, and has been one of my biggest difficulties with faith. Though I’ve equally enjoyed learning and absorbing Lewis’s many rational arguments for faith in the God of the Bible. Between Freud and Lewis on stage, I still don’t know who wins the argument in the show. Maybe we should give our audiences a scorecard each night!

Nicholas Papademetriou

Yannick Lawry: You’re playing Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalyis. To what extend does Freud’s Last Session portray him as the definition of sanity?
Nicholas Papademetriou: I think in today’s world he’ll come across as an eccentric but intelligent cuckoo. Although perhaps he was perceived as that in his day as well. He’s a combination of nerd, grumpy old man and nutty German psychoanalyst so he may not seem entirely sane, but he’s slightly insane in a good way.

What’s the most controversial thing Freud says or does in the show?
I suppose the most controversial thing he says is his comment about people’s sexuality – for the time, he was quite sensational. His open acceptance would have made him an absolute darling of the LGBTI community.

What’s the most controversial thing you’ve said or done personally (that you’re comfortable sharing with me)?
I have done and said so many controversial things in my life, the list would be far too long to list here (including being a stand-in for a hooker one night). But is that controversial or sensational? Or just plain stupid?

Theatre is a dying art, apparently. What do you reckon is ‘in’ theatre, both for audiences and artists?
I think theatre that is unpretentious, entertaining and easy to connect with is what really makes it for me. If symbolism, plot, message or themes need to be explained to me, then that is what would make theatre a dying art for me. Freud’s Last Session is definitely in!

Fart jokes, or highbrow humour?
I like my fart jokes to be highbrow. And my highbrow to be like dainty farts.

Yannick Lawry and Nicholas Papademetriou can be seen in Freud’s Last Session by Mark St. Germain.
Dates: 29 October – 10 November, 2018
Venue: Seymour Centre

Review: random (Belvoir St Theatre)

Venue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Oct 18 – Nov 11, 2018
Playwright: debbie tucker green
Director: Leticia Cáceres
Cast: Zahra Newman

Theatre review
A regular family wakes up to another ordinary day, getting ready for their midweek routine. We soon discover that things do not go as planned, when the police appear on their doorstep, delivering news of catastrophic proportions. debbie tucker green’s random is about youth violence in metropolitan cities, a consequence of our incompetence as communities to provide adequate care and guidance. The playwright’s unique combination of slang, patois and poetry, represents a sublime reshaping of the English language, that emerges from the Caribbean migrant experience in England. Keen observations of contemporary life, are positioned alongside nuanced social critique, giving palpable voice to the black working class.

Actor Zahra Newman plays all the characters in this one-woman show, proving herself a force of nature, and a legitimate superstar of the Australian stage. With extraordinary talent and skill, Newman tells the story of random with exceptional dynamism, taking us from jubilation to the extremes of tragedy, for an experience full of complexity and sentimental enthralment. The multitude of voices, emotions and gestures that the actor is able to portray for each and every personality, are administered with an astounding fluency, as we watch her switch flawlessly between states of mind, whether these people appear for a breathtaking split-second or for several bewitching minutes. Newman is an unequivocal genius, and the theatrical magic she dispenses here, is simply divine.

Directed by Leticia Cáceres, the production is sharp, powerful, often awe-inspiring. Hilarious at the start, and later on, turned harrowing, every moment is captivating, fuelled by an urgent confidence, a vehement need to present the play, with all its sociological pertinence and aesthetic glory. Designed with commendable sophistication, the staging features lights by Rachel Burke and music by The Sweats, both restrained in approach but marvellously efficacious, for this brazenly empty space.

There will be some who wish to call the phenomenon universal, but to neglect the racial dimension of violence in random would be callous. We are all capable of heinous acts, but the circumstances around racial inequity must always be taken into account when trying to understand the social ills of any community. Poor outcomes should never be considered random or accidental, when it is clear that the cards are clearly stacked against some. To be blind to the colour of our neighbours, is to be wilfully ignorant of the challenges that they face. We all deserve the same rights and privileges, but to imagine that things are already equal, and to behave as though nobody is ever in need of additional support, is to perpetuate and fortify the devil’s work.

www.belvoir.com.au

Review: Giving Up The Ghost (Pop Up Theatre)

Venue: Limelight on Oxford (Darlinghurst NSW), Oct 17 – Nov 3, 2018
Playwright: Rivka Hartman
Director: Rivka Hartman
Cast: Elaine Hudson, Chris Orchard, Andrew Wang, Madeleine Withington

Theatre review
There is a coffin in Lana’s living room, because her husband Ben had just died. Although the corpse lies securely within, Ben’s ghost is up and about, teasing and bantering with his wife, as they might had done for forty years of marriage. They argue over their daughter Gemma, who is considering giving up a valuable career opportunity for her less than ideal boyfriend. Lana tries to offer surreptitious parental guidance, with Ben interfering in the background, whilst everyone frantically gears up for the funeral.

Rivka Hartman’s Giving Up The Ghost is a screwball comedy about the grieving process. Looking at how we deal with loss, the play examines the consequences that we suffer, when a loved one passes on. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is not the giddy humour, but the serious ideas in Hartman’s show that really engage. Discussions relating to euthanasia are particularly stimulating, and we are left somewhat bewildered that the controversial topic does not occupy a more substantial portion of the plot.

Actor Elaine Hudson’s exuberance as Lana has us charmed. Along with Chris Orchard, who plays the very lively ghost of Ben, both prove to be confident personalities able to hold our attention with little effort. Their performances become palpable when the story turns solemn, allowing for a more naturalistic approach than earlier scenes of quite laboured madcapery. Madeleine Withington demonstrates good capacity for nuance in the role of Gemma, and Andrew Wang plays her depthless boyfriend with a laudable, albeit slightly green, boldness.

Gemma is not a woman completely of her parents’ invention, but it is a pleasure to observe her values reflect those of Lana and Ben’s. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and we delight in the idea that the best of our persons could potentially be bequeathed to future generations. It is true that we are ultimately no more than ash and dust, but all that we do while we walk the earth, whether good or bad, deliberate or accidental, will have reverberations beyond the grave. Only a fool will believe that all of life is within one’s control, but to be careless with the time that we do have, is unconscionable.

www.limelightonoxford.com.au

Review: In Waiting (Blood Moon Theatre)

Venue: Blood Moon Theatre (Potts Point NSW), Oct 11 – 19, 2017
Playwright: Liviu Monsted
Director: Liviu Monsted
Cast: Courtney Adams, Alison Benstead, Alana Birtles, Roslyn Hicks, Nathaniel Hole, Dale Wesely Johnson Green, Steve Maresca, Dean Nash, Katie Regan

Theatre review
In a purgatorial room, the dead wait for their turn to meet Ignus, a psychoanalyst in the esoteric dimension, who provides assistance to move these wandering spirits on to their eternity. It is an appealing allegory that we find in Liviu Monsted’s In Waiting, using the device of psychotherapy to illustrate the need for a certain enlightenment, intellectual and emotional , before life can take on a meaningful course. Monsted sets up an intriguing context, with charming interaction between his ghosts, but substantial portions of the 150-minute production involve two-hander sessions in Ignus’ consultation office, during which the writing often becomes convoluted and self-indulgent.

The work is certainly contemplative, but its dialogue frequently lapses into a dense and obtuse language, that is probably more suited to the form of a short novel than it does the stage. Acting style is uniformly animated, and although rarely authentic, the performers demonstrate a generosity in their prioritising of the text, which helps us decipher the proceedings. Actor Alison Benstead cuts a striking figure as the mysterious Ignus, impressive with the quantity of words she commits so effortlessly to memory. Also showing good commitment is Katie Regan as Estelle, the young woman who has to confront hard memories before she can be released from a state of stagnation.

The waiting room is a necessary space, but some of us can stay too long, in a condition of regret and fear. The future is always in conversation with the past. It might be useful to think that we can close the door on anterior events, but there is nothing we do today, that is not a result of experiences from all the yesterdays. To forget, is only to have it relegated to the subconscious. The characters who do well in In Waiting, are those able to find something that looks like acceptance. Time may not be linear, but no matter how we conceive of its passage, torment is not being able to move with it.

www.bloodmoontheatre.com | www.monsansproductions.com

Review: Evie May (Hayes Theatre)

Venue: Hayes Theatre Co (Potts Point NSW), Oct 12 – Nov 3, 2018
Book & Lyrics: Hugo Chiarella
Music & Lyrics: Naomi Livingston
Director: Kate Champion
Cast: Amanda Harrison, Loren Hunter, Keegan Joyce, Tim Draxl, Jo Turner, Bishanyia Vincent
Images by Nik Damianakis

Theatre review
In Hugo Chiarella and Naomi Livingston’s musical Evie May, a queer woman from early last century takes centre stage, to tell a story of lost loves against a backdrop of bittersweet nostalgia. We watch as our protagonist’s star rises, revelling in her achievements as an illustrious vaudeville performer, but also mournful of the sacrifices demanded of her, in a world that simply would not allow a woman to be her true self. Evie May is a strong work, beautifully imagined and executed with admirable integrity. Its narrative is intelligently constructed, with songs that are memorable yet unusually tasteful.

The show feels somewhat anomalous. In an industry that seems to thrive on relentless exhilaration, the languid melancholy of Evie May is paradoxically refreshing, sustained by a palpable desire to authentically represent a woman genius from our recent past. Director Kate Champion’s approach is elegant, often understated, and although visually underwhelming, her show is ultimately a moving one, profound in the messages it is able to convey. The characters come from a different time, but they all exist to impart something meaningful, and valuable, to how we see ourselves, then and now.

Within a no frills set up, the cast prove themselves more than proficient, at a lot of heavy lifting. The ingenue version of Evie, is played by bona fide triple-threat Loren Hunter, whose powerful acting and mesmerising dulcet tones, has us hopelessly engrossed in her character’s captivating melodrama. Amanda Harrison brings star quality to Evie at her early retirement age, a confident presence, thoroughly reliable as the production’s heart and soul, on which all the action anchors. Love interest June is played by a very delightful Bishanyia Vincent, effervescent as flamboyant showgirl and deeply poignant as the one who got away. Vincent is equally persuasive in the role of Margaret, Evie’s sister, a difficult personality made worthy of compassion by the actor’s detailed rendering.

It is convenient to think that the worst of our oppression as LGBTQ women are over, but Evie May’s story is not just a relic of yesteryear. The compromises we have to make, in order to succeed, or simply to survive, continue to be unreasonable and unjust. It is a modern Australia, but we must not live in the delusion that the straight white man has relinquished his position as top dog. Until our girls can walk into any space they choose, there is still much to fight for.

www.hayestheatre.com.au | www.newmusicalsaustralia.com.au

Review: TickTickBoom (Subtlenuance Theatre)

Venue: The Actors Pulse (Redfern NSW), Oct 10 – 20, 2018
Playwright: Melissa Lee Speyer
Director: Paul Gilchrist
Cast: Rose Marel, Emily McKnight

Theatre review
When the story begins, Jodie is seventeen and finishing up high school, but instead of exams and puppy love, it is her failing health that becomes all-consuming. To have her dug out of doldrums, chirpy schoolmate Clara is sent by parents to be the gallant lifter of spirits. In Melissa Lee Speyer’s TickTickBoom, the heart is the subject, literal and figurative, as we observe two young women navigate life and friendship, with a constant and unassailable reminder that death is always around the corner.

Big existential themes are cogently woven together by Speyer, who presents her observations in a manner that is indelibly tender and benevolent. The production struggles to establish an effective sense of humour, but its heavier sections are certainly sensitively rendered. Director Paul Gilchrist’s earnest approach makes for a warm, contemplative experience, and although chemistry between actors can seem inconsistent, both demonstrate undeniable talent, as they proceed to find authenticity, as well as integrity, for their respective roles. Rose Marel brings a valuable vulnerability to Clara, so that we can have an appreciation of the character beyond her shiny exterior. Emily McKnight is convincing in her performance of Jodie’s recalcitrance, for a portrait of teenage angst that we are all familiar with.

Time means nothing to this earth. It is the vanity of our mortal selves that creates the notion of time, and the notion of life running out. When Jodie is fearful of death, she is paralysed, unable to pay reverence to the ticking seconds that she so anxiously counts. To believe in time, is to imbue it with meaning. Species can come and go, but the world will evolve regardless of our individual fates. For each of our personal domains however, to make this fleeting existence bearable, will require a thing we name spirit, whatever one would like for it to mean.

www.subtlenuance.com

5 Questions with Sarah Greenwood and Alex Rowe

Sarah Greenwood

Alex Rowe: What made you want to be an actor?
Sarah Greenwood: I was eight and the soccer season had finished so I needed something to do on my weekends. I started workshops at the Brisbane Arts Theatre on Petrie Terrace, the most haunted building in Brisbane, and I was hooked. I worked with them, and anyone else who would take me, for the next ten years until I was accepted into the WAAPA Acting course. I love the people you meet. I love the excitement in anticipating of an opening night. I love the joy of discovering a character. What’s not to love?

From graduating drama school and settling in Sydney, how has the journey been so far?
I haven’t been here very long. I moved here in January 2017. I was lucky, as a WAAPA graduate there is an enormous community here to help you settle in. Nearly my entire class moved over from Perth as well. We’ve all had different journeys but it made it easier to have my friends here to commiserate and drink red wine. I miss Brisbane but it’s nice to be out of uni and getting my stride.

What’s been the biggest challenge and biggest joy of the rehearsal process so far?
The juggling act is always a challenge. I have a terrible habit of over committing myself but I always seem to find the energy to do everything! I have found great joy in acting out the creative process in this play within a play. It’s a little tongue in cheek and it’s always fun to laugh at yourself.

This play involves some confronting and terrifying experiences for the characters, how has it been acting in these particular scenes?
As my character Meg would say, I was acting! Isn’t that what we were supposed to be doing? Acting?

Will you invite your grandparents to this play?
I wouldn’t have been able to stop my Nanna from coming although I’m not sure she would have approved of some of the content. She used to take me to shows all the time. My Grandma on the other hand is waiting until she sees me in TV Week!

Alex Rowe

Sarah Greenwood: What was your first impression of the script when you read it?
Alex Rowe: My first impression was that even though this was written by an American and debuted in the year 2000, these issues and characters are prominent in Australia today. The writer, Nancy Hasty has successfully captured the different types of actors and also the submissive nature towards people with ‘power’ in the industry.

As a play within a play, what has The Director taught you about your own creative process?
It’s been interesting to play an actor in rehearsals, whilst being an actor in rehearsals. What this play has made me think about is James Dean’s relationship with his directors. I read a few of his biographies and he was known to argue with directors about his craft, that he thought actors were treated like puppets, told what to say, when to say it, where to say it and how to say it. I think actors now, at a time when everyone wants to be in the spotlight, are reluctant to speak up and will go with the director’s choice with the utmost trust, as jobs are far and few between and they are cautious of being blacklisted. In no way am I suggesting that I will wait in my caravan “until I’m ready to work”, which James Dean allegedly did, but it’s made me think about an actors job and their relationship with the director.

How have you found the Sydney scene after living in Melbourne?
The biggest change is obviously the weather, I’ve really enjoyed not dressing like I’m going to the snowfields during winter. Also, my family are based in Sydney, so it’s been really nice being around them and my nieces and nephew.

What is your favourite line from the play?
When Peter, the director referred to in the title of the play, asks my character John “Where’s Sally?” and John responds “I locked her out on the roof”; I find this funny and endearing that John thought by locking Sally on the roof he was really “pushing the boundaries” to hopefully impress Peter.

In the play Peter wants to ‘break through barriers’ to reality, have you seen a performance that made you forget you were watching an act?
An Australian actor who continues to impress me with his performances is Ben Mendelsohn. One of his most recent films Una starring the also incredible Rooney Mara, was one that stands out in regards to profound naturalistic performances.

Sarah Greenwood and Alex Rowe can be seen in The Director by Nancy Hasty.
Dates: 25 Oct – 10 Nov, 2018
Venue: Actors Pulse Theatre