5 Questions with Maggie Blinco and Lex Marinos

Maggie Blinco

Lex Marinos: What is your earliest performing memory?
Maggie Blinco: Earliest memory was in Russell Lea Kindergarten where I was cast as Mary Mary Quite Contrary which I think was a bit of early typecasting. The rest of the class sat as flowers in a row and I watered them and made the mistake of actually getting a drop on my best friend. She glowered and I knew what was in store for me.

Who has influenced you most?
Rex Cramphorn… I did not become “professional” till I was in my late thirties and for some years was cast on my comic and loud brash persona. For some reason I have never plumbed, Rex cast me in a very serious role in Edward Bond’s Summer, down in Melbourne at Playbox Theatre. It was the beginning of an awakening and a fruitful collaboration with that wonderful man.

What do you pursue when not acting?
I knit a lot. Complicated Kaffe Fasset patterns, A variety of stuff. I find it soothing and very good for the grey matter, working out patterns. I love cooking and getting friends around a table, actors mainly I suppose.I have a lovely family and spend time with them as much as possible. I shop and cook and keep house just like any old fashioned woman.

How many grandkids do you have?
3 granchildren. Over the years I have been very involved with them and minded them all a great deal when they were young. I had fun with them and I dearly love them.

Are you married? Are you wealthy? Answer second question first.
Unfortunately I am a poverty stricken actress who only occasionally makes any reasonable money, despite my long experience.If you were not already married to that lovely wife you have I might have grabbed you years ago.I do love working with you on this play. A sense of humour is a vital element in any man and you are loaded with it.

Lex Marinos

Maggie Blinco: Why do you balk at answering questions?
Lex Marinos: Um …

What do you enjoy most in life?
Waking up, realising I haven’t died in my sleep, it’s always on my bucket list. Then it’s family. I’m blessed with wife kids, grandkids, brother, aunts, cousins nieces nephews, in laws outlaws… all with interesting lives. We laugh as our default setting and cry when necessary.vI remember my Papou: “My child’s child is twice my child”

Can you remember why you wanted to be an actor/entertainer?
To find fame, fortune, and a girlfriend. Admittedly 1 out of 3 is not a great return, but I’ve kept on keeping on. Did’t want to work in the café. Didn’t want to work in an office. Didn’t want a regular job. Wanted to create shows like Omar And Dawn. Wanted to meet interesting people like you. Wanted to travel to exotic places like Tasmania and Qatar.

What is your simple guiding philosophy for dealing with this crazy world?
I just try and get through the day, aware of how capricious life is and that people can be dangerously dumb and brilliantly smart.

Do you cook?
I reheat and make salad and toast… Sometimes I do lamb shanks or a curry. I’m surrounded by brilliant cooks and am happy to serve as their taster.

Maggie Blinco and Lex Marinos can be seen in Omar And Dawn by James Elazzi.
Dates: 12 – 27 Jul, 2019
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre

Review: Angels In America (Apocalypse Theatre Company)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Feb 15 – Mar 16, 2019
Playwright: Tony Kushner
Director: Dino Dimitriadis
Cast: Joseph Althouse, Catherine Davies, Maggie Dence, Ben Gerrard, Jude Gibson, Ashley Lyons, Gus Murray, Timothy Wardell
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
At the centre of Tony Kushner’s Angels In America, are the breakdown of two relationships, from two different worlds. We might like to term those seemingly separate existences the left and the right, as we are want to do in so much of our political conversations. In the middle of catastrophe however, when the devastation of human frailty becomes palpable, categories dissipate as they prove increasingly impotent and therefore meaningless. Set in the middle of the 1980s AIDS crisis, Angels In America is an ode to desperation, that condition for which the face of humanity has to reveal its truest nature.

In their hopelessness, characters in the story are met with divine intervention. Ghosts, angels and other apparitions descend upon their consciousness, not always as a form of salvation or even reprieve, but as a refusal of the finitude to which we regard life, especially during sickness and disease. Kushner summons the vastness of our mental capacities; call it belief, imagination, or fantasy, to render a theatrical representation of being, that extends our conception of sentience to include metaphysical dimensions.

Not that our bodies are unimportant. In fact, in this deep interrogation of material versus immaterial, we are consumed more than ever, by our very corporeality. Flesh and blood are never far from the centre of our attention, functioning as literal concerns and as symbols, reiterating time and again, that we are immovably both vessel and soul. Heaven and earth are inextricably linked at the location where skin breathes, making us simultaneously, painfully so, sacred and profane.

This transcendental drama is communicated through director Dino Dimitriades’ pursuit of the sublime. The aesthetic world that he manufactures as vehicle for Kushner’s words, is heavy yet delicate, a sentimental embrace of past sacrifices, and a benediction that regards our future, as LGBTQI communities, with caution. At over seven hours long, it is probably inevitable that the journey would feel uneven, with certain portions coming across less powerful than others. It is a massive undertaking, and the considerable confidence with which the epic is approached, sets our expectations very high, and we struggle to overlook moments win which our awe is allowed to falter.

Jeremy Allen’s set design is carefully proportioned and elegantly conceived, but the minimalism of its style is unforgiving of construction imperfections. The colour palette of costumes is thoughtfully calibrated by Maya Keys, who perhaps exercises too much restraint in her visual representation of personalities and their physicality. Lights by Benjamin Brockman are memorable for their dark sensuality, moving us between spaces of despair with an artistic finesse reminiscent of Rembrandt and Caravaggio. Ben Pierpoint is tasked the impossible challenge of providing original music for the endurance piece, understandably deficient in its thoroughness, but sensational at each key juncture of the plot.

The show boasts some extraordinary acting by its indefatigable cast. Mormon wife Harper is played with luxuriant and interminable nuance by Catherine Davies, whose disarming authenticity brings invaluable poignancy to the entire operation. Her husband Joe is interpreted with unexpected tenderness by Gus Murray, tremendously convincing in the complex duplicity that he is charged to portray. The dynamic Ben Gerrard offers up a depiction of a dying man at all his extremes. As Prior, he is more provocative than he is moving, successful at engaging our minds for an intellectual understanding of the story. Ashley Lyons plays another AIDS patient Roy, admirable for the energy and colour that he brings to the stage.

As Belize and Mr. Lies, Joseph Althouse is a scintillating presence, with a marvellous, precise use of voice and gesture that gently steals all of his scenes. Timothy Wardell goes on an emotional roller coaster, able to convey Louis’ passions with aplomb but insufficiently lucid with the role’s philosophical attributes. The Angel is given the Maggie Dence treatment and proves quite the phenomenon, appropriately strong and otherworldly. Jude Gibson impresses in a variety of roles, particularly memorable as Mormon mother Hannah and as Dr. Henry, intricate and humorous with everything she presents.

When we reach for the esoteric, it is a greater truth that we seek, but being mortal, we can only understand its messages within our ultimately insurmountable limits. What we receive will always bear a reflection of ourselves, no matter how much bigger a version we can perceive. Angels In America suggests however, that we can move beyond good and bad, right and wrong, past and present. We are encouraged, through this spiritual fable, to think and act radically, to turn boundaries into starting points, for where we know things to end, is but the beginning of mystery. Much as we are essentially flawed and addicted to destruction, it is in our nature to imagine a higher power, and be able to conjure a notion of purity. The choice whether to follow that celestial magnificence, determines how we paint the destiny of each breath, in all our days.

www.apocalypsetheatrecompany.com

Review: All My Sleep And Waking (Apocalypse Theatre Company)

Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Nov 28 – Dec 22, 2018
Playwright: Mary Rachel Brown
Director: Dino Dimitriadis
Cast: Di Adams, Angela Bauer, Alex Beauman, Richard Sydenham
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
Anne has to confront very complicated feelings about her father. As his death approaches, all that had resulted from a troubled family life must finally be attended to. Together with Maria and Peter, the three siblings must get each other through this difficult time, and perhaps work towards a resolution for decades of psychological damage. All My Sleep And Walking by Mary Rachel Brown is a study of broken homes, staggeringly authentic in its observations, and admirably honest with its intentions. Although not a pessimistic work, the play’s realistic rendering of a daughter’s struggle, and of delicate family dynamics, is a refreshing alternative to stories of this nature that always seem determined to be improbably uplifting. Here, just to be able to encounter the unvarnished truth, proves powerful enough to satisfy.

Directed by Dino Dimitriadis, the production is deliciously taut, with meticulous attention on interactions between characters that delivers some very gripping drama. Anne is played by Di Adams, whose work is imbued with integrity, for a very believable, albeit overly serious, portrait of fortification and incredible stoicism. As Maria, Angela Bauer offers an emotional counterbalance, fabulously intense yet astutely humorous, for an outstanding performance that has us mesmerised. Richard Sydenham is delightful as Peter, with quirky mannerisms that prove endearing, and impressive nuance for every line that he dispenses. Anne’s son Josh, is played by a persuasive Alex Beauman whose relaxed naturalism adds valuable dimension to our experience of the show.

Maybe one’s father never did his best, or maybe his best was simply not good enough. Either way, regardless of his intentions, one has to suffer the consequences of an unsatisfactory parenthood, whilst imagining perfect fathers abound in every other household. Self preservation requires that Anne takes on merciless strategies; she vilifies him brutally and spares no thought for his feelings, even as he is ravaged by cancer. The degree of hurt that she suffers is palpable, and from our vantage point, forgiveness would do her a great deal of good, but that is of course, easier said that done. Anne can only access what is available to her, and when we want more for her, we reveal our inability to understand the devastation she has to bear. The miracle lies instead, in her own abilities as a mother. We watch her son grow into a stable and secure adult, and are awestruck by the incredible breaking of a curse.

www.apocalypsetheatrecompany.com

Review: Permission To Spin (Apocalypse Theatre Company)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jul 3 – 28, 2018
Playwright: Mary Rachel Brown
Director: Mary Rachel Brown, Dino Dimitriadis
Cast: Yure Covich, Anna Houston, Arky Michael
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
Cristobel is suffering an existential crisis, having learnt about her music being used for gravely nefarious purposes. After 14 years in the highly commercialised industry of children’s entertainment, her integrity is now unable to escape scrutiny, but corporate interests deny all her attempts to quit. Art and commerce are once again at loggerheads, in Mary Rachel Brown’s Permission To Spin, a dramedy that interrogates not only artistic purity, but also our general complicity and participation in the often ugly world of big money.

It begins with a big bang, two businessmen are snorting cocaine, in the midst of a lot of ruckus, wondering how to solve a problem like Cristobel. The laughs are loud and abundant, courtesy of Brown’s witty, often very incisive, dialogue. It is evident however, that the play is intent on seriously exploring our social, economic and political lives, and a gradual but marked change in tone occurs about midway through the hour-long presentation. Direction by Brown and Dino Dimitriadis provide good clarity to ideas, even when the writing turns dense. The contrast in mood, as the play crosses over from funny to heavy, involves an inevitable drop in energy levels, but we are kept attentive by some very resonant postulations.

Three excellent performers accompany us on this trip, helping us navigate the combative activity of Permisson To Spin, and in the process, locate a sense of our communal ethics. Anna Houston provides soul to the piece, simultaneously vulnerable and strong, with incredible nuance that speak volumes in her interpretation of Cristobel. Yure Covich is splendid as an obscene and irredeemably vile corporate asshole, powerful in his embodiment of our social ills and perfect as the show’s bad guy. Arky Michael is wonderfully comical, landing every punchline with remarkable precision and aplomb, displaying himself to be the kind of actor any production could rely on, for charm and interminable effervescence.

All our occupations contribute to greater consequences, even if we think them insignificant. Cristobel is meant to be creating music that is educational at best, innocuous at worst, but she is unable to stop her work from being repurposed in a manner that contradicts all that she believes in. There is a machine that absorbs and integrates us into its operations, to serve its purposes. We do not always have control over its desires, as is proven again and again, by the flaws and inadequacies of the way we execute our democracy. “It was music we were making here until they told us, all they wanted was a sound that could kill someone from a distance… I just pray that someone there can hit the switch.” Kate Bush, Experiment IV, 1986

www.apocalypsetheatrecompany.com

5 Questions with Anna Houston and Arky Michael

Anna Houston

Arky Michael: What do you love about being an actor?
Anna Houston: I love exploring and living with complex characters that do and say all the things I could never get away with in my own fairly pedestrian life. I get to behave really badly in this show, and it’s thrilling. I also love gluing my script into a scrapbook on day one of rehearsals. No brag, but I’m pretty good at it. My corners are VERY TIDY.

What should audiences expect from Permission To Spin?
Some big questions about how we live and how we treat other. The show is tightly packed with big ideas that fly at you so swiftly, so brutally, that you may need days afterwards to untangle them and formulate a response to the work. Also, heaps of lols. It’s really funny.

What do you find challenging about being an actor?
The industry itself has never been easy. There are so many terrifically talented actors out there not working. Staying optimistic and secure between acting jobs hasn’t gotten any easier since I entered the industry.

When was the last time you felt bliss?
Last night, falling asleep on the couch, heater turned up. That was bliss. Being safe and warm at night shouldn’t be a privilege, but in the Sydney we live in, it is. It feels like a gift. I’m lucky.

What personality traits do you admire most in men?
Empathy. Imagination. Kindness. Generosity. Humility.

Arky Michael

Anna Houston: There are three very flawed characters in Permission To Spin. Which character – Jim, Martin or Cristobel – would you spend a year with on a desert island?
Arky Michael: I would spend a year in the tropics with Cristobel . Martin would turn cannibal and eat me and Jim would send me crazy with his weird neurosis. Cristobel would be the type who’d help me gather island detritus and flora to create and design our own line of natural fibre swimwear and resort wear which would occupy our years of marooned bliss. The label would be called PERMISSION TO SPIN – OUT, BABY!

We first worked together on a play in 2005. In the thirteen years that have followed, what’s the biggest change you’ve noticed in the Australian performing arts industry?
Big changes are the new technology platforms which have blown open the doors to multiple accessible forms of art practise : you can create your own podcasts, blogs, and make films with digital cameras and editing apps on your laptop. Also in the last 15 years, the welcome and long overdue implementation of a cultural shift to reflect the diversity of modern Australia on out stages and screens. What is worse is the continued lack of government policy to nurture the performing arts sector.

Your character Jim manages Miss Polkadot, a children’s entertainer. What was the first album you bought? How old were you?
I was thirteen or so, and I remember recording “Disco Inferno” from the radio onto a blank audio cassette in my purple themed bedroom. The curtains were purple , so were the furry bedspreads and there were a pair of lilac furry feet shaped mats on the floor. I remember this song sending me crazy with joy!

This play deals with some ethical grey areas. When faced with your own ethical dilemmas, who or what do you look to as your moral compass?
Unfortunately it is always a battle locating my moral compass in almost every situation. I’m not proud of this. My innate greed, selfishness and sheer opportunism make me a poor quality life companion candidate. Anything beautiful I want sole rights over, anything delicious I prefer not to share, any item of nice clothing that I covet, I will not stop scheming to acquire. I am a lonely man. But I do think Tanya Plibersek would be a good person to set moral standards by.

Arky Michael, you are not only a masterful actor, you are also a fashion savant. Which member of the Permission To Spin family would you most like to give a fashion makeover? (I know that several of my rehearsal room jumpers have been traumatising for you, so don’t hesitate to nominate me.)
Thank you for saying I’m a fashion icon, because this is a fact. I often hear youngsters yell out : “look mum, there’s a W.A.G.O.S.E.!” (walking art gallery of sartorial elegance). I’d give Anna Houston a makeover because she seems to be confused about what is appropriate clothing for sleeping and clothing when you are awake – she tends to favour ripped stockings, jeans her mum wore in 1935, jumpers that are for babies and she needs to increase the frequency of shampooing her hair. Is this too harsh? I fear it may be, but strangely I can’t find the delete button on this laptop.

Anna Houston and Arky Michael are appearing in Permission To Spin, by Mary Rachel Brown.
Dates: 3 – 28 July, 2018
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre

Review: Metamorphoses (Apocalypse Theatre Company)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Feb 8 – Mar 10, 2018
Playwright: Mary Zimmerman
Director: Dino Dimitriadis
Cast: Claudette Clarke, Deborah Galanos, Jonny Hawkins, David Helman, Sam Marques, Bardiya McKinnon, Diana Popovska, Hannah Raven, Sebastian Robinson, Zoe Terakes
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses is a retelling of Greek tales; a collection of short stories from ancient times that continue to fascinate, in this epoch of secular pragmatism. Celestial beings and supernatural events that defy explanation, yet instinctively comprehensible, and resonant with our natural appreciation for the magical, conspire as though to impart moral lessons. It is uncertain if we can learn anything new from these antiquated recurring tales, but as a work of art, what Metamorphoses does achieve, supersedes the traditional functions of mythologies.

All the great passions we associate with Aphrodite, Eros, Orpheus, et al. are retained in the production, to serve as vehicle for director Dino Dimitriadis’ exhilarating investigations into themes of gender, sex and beauty. The penises and breasts of performers are ascribed, as though at random, to characters with intractably gendered pronouns, confronting our beliefs about the woman-man binary. When Myrra appears with a penis, and Midas with an ample bosom, we cannot help but question these visions. We know the experience of gender to be real, but Metamorphoses presents them as hallucinatory, urging us to expand our understanding of the relationship between human anatomy and human nature. Its persistent queering of these origin stories, again and again, works with the plasticity of our minds, to help us dismantle and defeat useless and quite harmful restrictions, so that a process of intellectual and intuitive transformation may occur for us all.

Featuring an impossibly attractive cast, including David Helman and Hannah Raven who beguile us with their extraordinary physique and sensational burlesque expertise, adding an unexpected dimension of decadent performativity to an atmosphere that is already disarmingly sensual. Deborah Galanos and Jonny Hawkins bring us some very big personalities, so deeply satisfying in this rare occasion of exquisite flamboyance. Sam Marques, Diana Popovska and Sebastian Robinson deliver memorable sequences of dramatic poignancy, utilising both god-given and cultivated talents to connect with our desire for meaning and inspiration. Claudette Clark, Bardiya McKinnon and Zoe Terakes are soulful presences with delicate vulnerabilities that draw us in. These heavenly bodies are positioned on stage, inviting us to embrace all the wonder and horror that we are, in the most liberating, poetically earthy way.

Extravagantly imagined, and expertly manifested, the design of Metamorphoses offers a level of aesthetic engagement that is at least as thrilling as the text from which it germinates. Jonathan Hindmarsh’s work on set and costumes represents a lethal combination of resourcefulness and sophistication that is as fabulously enchanting as it is impressive. Lighting designer Benjamin Brockman really goes to town for this show, with a fervent sense of creative freedom irrepressibly evident in every change of illumination, subtle or vivid. Some of Brockman’s images are truly breathtaking. Music may not always be playing prominently, but Ben Pierpoint’s compositions are crucial to how our attention is brought to focus for each scene. The quality of transcendence he is able to introduce to these otherworldly spaces, is thoroughly remarkable.

The language of beauty is being spoken in Metamorphoses. Much of what the show communicates, resides beyond the capacity of words, and its success as an entity of fine art, makes it an exemplary work of modern Australia theatre. We gather in these communal spaces to address a need, but we rarely know the nature of that appetite. Often, we find ways to verbalise the results, but when we see great art, the gravity of what is left unsaid, must never be underestimated, and on this occasion, it is the complex feelings that keep evading explanation, that hold its true value.

www.apocalypsetheatrecompany.com

5 Questions with Claudette Clarke and Diana Popovska

Claudette Clarke

Diana Popovska: Which character do you most relate to in Metamorphoses and why?
Claudette Clarke: I am not sure which character I most relate to in Metamorphoses but I have researched Aphrodite the most because she is the main character I play and some of these qualities are parts of my personality. Aphrodite is mischievous, angry and revengeful to mortals who refuse to fall in love. Goddess of love, sex and procreation; beauty, seduction, pleasure and happiness. Antithesis curses for non-compliance of the laws of love are: Sexual repulsion; Unnatural desires (incest, bestiality, etc.); Love unreciprocated; Ugliness. Some of these curses are played out in Metamorphoses.

This is your second time working with Dino, how is it different?
I worked with Dino many years ago in his very memorable production of To Kill A Mockingbird. Almost the entire season was booked out and people still talk about the production. The plays are both “classics” and here Dino is directing a queer reading of Zimmerman’s modern adaptation of Ovid’s verse to reflect current times. I am really enjoying working with him again. I love the way he pushes boundaries. As an actor of African Caribbean decent, I immediately identified with the topic of black and white in Mockingbird whereas it was interesting for me to think in more depth about gender mixes. Although I have always readily accepted difference, this reading pushed me to think further. This production reinforces my belief that, as humans, all we ask is to be respected and loved for who we are.

What has been your favourite moment in rehearsals so far?
My favourite moment in rehearsals came when Johnny Hawkins joined the cast. He has a way of playing and having fun with the characters, exploring possibilities, which is what is required.

Why do you believe this queer reading of ‘Metamorphoses’ is particularly important for the queer community to see?
I think that it is particularly important for the queer community to see this queer reading of Metamorphoses because these poems from Ovid were probably completed around AD 8. It may be reassuring to learn that stories of broader sexual and gender identities have existed for so long.

What excites you most about the staging of this play?
A cast of 10 actors on a tiny stage the whole time promises to be all-encompassing for an intimate audience to experience. The Old Fitz Theatre is one of the most intimate creative theatre spaces in Sydney.

Diana Popovska

Claudette Clarke: What parts of your personality as a human does your parts bring out?
Diana Popovska: I feel like this production and the parts I have been cast in bring out my playfulness as a human more than anything else. It has been such a beautiful experience introducing ‘play’ into the rehearsal room from day one. This has allowed me to connect with the text, our queer reading of the text and my fellow actors in a way which has been visceral and raw. This production has also brought out my queerness and sensual energy, and highlighted how fabulous I feel as a queer woman making theatre.

How does the “queer reading” of Metamorphoses impact on your interpretation of your parts?
I think it is important to understand that these stories are universal. For me, the several characters that I play in this production all experience various human emotions such as grief, love, heartache, lust and so on… This “queer reading” if anything allows me to celebrate more than ever these characters and their experiences, as well as stand there and fight for them and their right to be represented on an Australian stage.

What made you interested to be part of this production of Metamorphoses?
I have always wanted to work with Dino Dimitriadis as a director and when I found out that he was doing Metamorphoses I wanted in because I was incredibly interested to see what he would do with a text so colossal. As a queer identifying woman, I wanted to represent my community on stage during Mardi Gras. I mostly wanted to do this production because I knew it would be a celebration of queerness, a celebration of ‘difference’ and a celebration of the unwavering and all enduring human spirit in the face of hardship.

What kind of kid were you at school?
I was a little bit of a nerd / a little bit cool. I loved playing cards at lunch time and I was even on the debating team for a while. Drama class was my favourite, but I also really enjoyed playing sport too. I feel like I was super friendly with everyone in my year, we had a pretty tight year. I was pretty confident and ‘cool’, except for when it came to telling my high school crush, Katie that I liked them. I was super bashful around her and other girls I liked, and you know what they say, “you snooze, you lose!”.

How do you envisage theatre changing since ‘same sex marriage’ became legal in Australia?
I am hoping that far more companies will open their doors to allow for queer stories to be staged. I am hoping that this will allow for more queer identifying artists and creatives to create work and to see themselves represented in others work far more rapidly. If anything, the arts in Australia have been behind ‘same sex marriage’ for a long while now, it’s actually our government that has needed to pull their finger out. But now that the horrible plebiscite is over, I hope for love and inclusiveness for all queer identifying people and their allies both on and off stage.

Claudette Clarke and Diana Popovska are appearing in Metamorphoses, by Mary Zimmerman.
Dates: 8 February – 10 March, 2018
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre