Review: Sleeplessness (Carriageworks)

Venue: Carriageworks (Eveleigh NSW), Aug 4 – 13, 2022
Playwrights: Kaz Therese, Anthea Williams
Director: Anthea Williams
Cast: Kaz Therese
Images by Anna Kučera, Alex Wisser

Theatre review
Kaz Therese has roots that trace back to Hungary, but for many decades those stories of immigration were kept silent. Shame and trauma prevent us from knowing the truths, behind how we have come to be. Those of us who are undaunted by the challenges that emerge from uncovering and confronting the past, stand to gain so much when those revelations are brought to light. In Sleeplessness, Therese dares to go back in time, almost as an act of defiance against her elders, in order that a sense of liberation can be attained for their family.

Therese’s determination to reach for the truth, provides for the piece, a certain zeal that has us on the edge of our seats. Along with the inherent mysteries that surround these stories about a hidden past, it is Therese’s fearless integrity that proves compelling. Co-written with and directed by Anthea Williams, Sleeplessness is beautifully structured, capable of weaving together multi-generational narratives to form a powerfully coherent portrait, not only of an immigration experience, but also of inter-generational trauma, that many Australians share.

As first-person narrator in this one-person presentation, Therese is a commanding presence, dynamic yet inexorably vulnerable, as they take us through a string of heart-breaking revelations, with an immense and unmistakeable generosity. Supported by video projections (assembled by Zanny Begg), filmed incredibly by Therese half a lifetime ago, on the very same subject, we gain a level of insight rarely paralleled. Sleeplessness tells of someone else’s secrets, but will no doubt resonate intimately, for each individual with whom it connects.

Remarkable lighting design by Karen Norris brings emotional embellishment to the ever intensifying story-telling. Working harmoniously with minimalist physical configurations, and the aforementioned sentimental video elements, Norris demonstrates great sensitivity and elegance, in her calibrations of tension and mood. Music by Anna Liebzeit is appropriately restrained, but no less evocative in the creation of a space that is simultaneously ethereal and heavy, allowing us to travel through the circularity of time, in this contemporary exploration of difficult family histories.

There is a feminist frame to how meaning is conveyed in Sleeplessness. It is indeed helpful to study the women in our past through modern lenses, so that we can apply those discoveries to our lives today, in practical ways, and to ensure that we progress in a way that hardships of our foremothers, can offer more than just catharsis. Following in our mothers’ footsteps, and repeating their patterns, are probably inevitable, for we are genetically entwined, but to learn from the lessons they bequeath, is perhaps the best way to honour their legacy.

Review: Jekyll And Hyde (Hayes Theatre)

Venue: Hayes Theatre Co (Potts Point NSW), 29 Jul – 27 Aug, 2022
Book and Lyrics: Leslie Bricusse
Music: Frank Wildhorn
Director: Hayden Tee
Cast: Melanie Bird, Mitchell Cox, Georgina Hopson, Madeleine Jones, Luke Leong-Tay, Brendan Maclean, Rob McDougall, Sarah Murr, Gus Noakes, Billie Palin, Brady Peeti, Matthew Predny, Mitchell Roberts, Rutene Spooner
Images by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review

Dr Jekyll is determined to reveal the secrets hidden within the human psyche, but what he uncovers is beyond anything he can ever prepare for. This 1990 musical by Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn, is a retelling of the 1886 novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, famous and eternally resonant with what it says about our nature.

Bringing a delicious sense of camp, is new direction from the inventive mind of Hayden Tee, whose bold vision ensures that Jekyll and Hyde is nothing short of a captivating experience. The show is taut and exciting, with a superlative level of singing and musicianship that has us impressed from start to end. Orchestration by Nigel Ubrihien is exceptionally sophisticated, as well as being highly enjoyable, with Steven Kramer’s musical direction delivering great visceral power, through all that we hear. Olivia Wilding and Sally Schinckel-Brown are the two cellists prominently featured, keeping us deeply engaged in the high drama of this outlandish story.

Leading man Brendan Maclean is appropriately intense and macabre in the title role, although not always convincing with the emotional dimensions being explored. Brady Peeti as Lucy steals the show unequivocally, as does Georgina Hopson (who plays Emma), both performers completely disarming with their supreme vocal abilities. Mitchell Cox and Rutene Spooner too are unforgettable in multiple smaller roles, able to seize our attention with every appearance, for moments of genuine delight. Also noteworthy is choreography by Siobhan Ginty, who keeps our eyes amused through the duration, with her wonderful physical configurations of a splendidly assembled cast.

Set design by Melanie Liertz is whimsical yet ambitious, able to create for the viewer a sense of expansiveness, alongside a satisfying quirkiness to her depiction of a psychiatric hospital. Lights by Anthony Pearson succeed at establishing atmosphere for each sequence, but can sometimes feel perfunctory, or perhaps insufficiently creative in approach. Costumes by Mason Browne on the other hand, are highly appealing, and relentlessly glamorous, whilst maintaining accuracy in all his representations of the tale’s colourful personalities.

We can never try too hard, to reveal who we are. It is apparently true, that there is no end to how much we can learn about being human. The problem it seems, is what we do with that information, when we understand that a big part of our existence comprises qualities less than desirable. Mr Hyde is horrible, and he is everywhere. We imagine that to know Mr Hyde, is to be able to control him, but evidence suggests that evil will always find a way.