Review: Charlie Pilgrim (ATYP)

Venue: SBW Stables Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Nov 21 – Dec 1, 2018
Playwright: Sam O’Sullivan
Director: Jena Prince
Cast: Rose Baird, Maliyan Blair, Stephanie Calia, Aria Ferris, Adelaide Kennedy, Sophie Lewis, Astra Milne, Daisy Millpark, Tobias Purcell, Carmen Rolfe, Callum Macgown, Lucinda Slattery, Noah Sturzaker, Eva Sutherland, Annabelle Szewcow, Mia Williams, Stanley Wills
Image by Tracey Schramm

Theatre review
Tired of feeling like an outcast at school, Charlie Pilgrim retreats into her bubble, indulging in a love of science. She invents a time travel machine, only to find that it traps her in a time loop, with a new Charlie Pilgrim materialising every 24 hours. A solitary activity quickly becomes a social one, and our protagonists have to find a way to resolve the quickly escalating situation. Sam O’Sullivan’s Charlie Pilgrim (Or A Beginner’s Guide To Time Travel) is an ambitious piece of writing that packs a lot of ideas into its 80 minutes. It is an enjoyable narrative in a familiar sci-fi format, extremely detailed in its rendering, with explorations into a wide variety of themes. There is a density to O’Sullivan’s work that can prove challenging, but the richness of what he offers is quite tantalising.

Wonderfully imagined by director Jena Prince, the production cleverly utilises a large cast of young actors, to create a hive of activity that is irresistibly engaging. Emma Lockhart-Wilson’s lights and Maddie Hughes’ sounds are robustly manufactured to provide clearly indicate every plot point, ensuring that we never get confused by all the relentless hustle and bustle. The ensemble is extraordinarily disciplined, yet consistently effervescent with what they bring to the stage. 17 precocious actors delight us with their creativity and charm, keeping us entertained and enthralled by the story that they so enthusiastically tell.

If we understand that the only constant in life is change, then it should follow that time is never as orderly as we assume it to be. Regrets are evidence of a life well lived, and much as we wish to revisit the past to make things right, there is a human capacity that allows us to see that it is never too late for amends to be made, even if oblique approaches are required. Yesterday’s lessons are for today, and learning to live with poor decisions, is crucial in how we can evolve into better people. The meaning of life, lies in the need to make every day an improvement. We are informed only by the past, but to dwell in it is meaningless.

www.atyp.com.au

5 Questions with Yerin Ha and Mark Paguio

Yerin Ha

Mark Paguio: Who has been your biggest influence in your career so far?
Yerin Ha: My biggest influence would have to be my Mum. I’m very grateful that she has not once questioned my career path but instead, always supported me in every way that she can. She even convinced me that I should study acting in Korea because of my Asian background. Even though those were some of the toughest years of my life, I don’t regret it one bit as it made me learn more about who I am, my culture, my language and potential opportunities for me overseas. She has also been the biggest support in my life and has played a major role in moulding me into the performer and woman that I am today.

What do you think is missing in the Australian performing arts sector right now?
Authentic stories, especially for people with culturally diverse backgrounds. If we want to see more people of color on stage and screen, it begins with the writing and producing. But if
there are no writers to write these authentic stories and no producers willing to take risks, it’s just going to be the same stories done by the same people. It would be nice to close the gap
with new voices, new faces and new stories. If you weren’t acting, what field would you be pursuing? I think I would be a baker/patisserie chef. Weirdly enough I get such a satisfaction from
watching/actually putting icing on cakes until it’s smooth with no bumps, and decorating it with whatever you want. The options are endless.

If you had the opportunity to play a role you would never be able to see yourself play, what would it be and why?
It would have to be Debbie Reynold’s role in Singin’ In The Rain. One of my all time favourite movies. I would love to be able to play alongside Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor who are two of the most amazing actors back in that time. The songs and the dances just fill me with such joy when I watch the film, but I couldn’t see the industry accepting that role being played by an Asian women (still to this day).

What attracts you to the headphone verbatim technique and does it differ from a conventional play – from an actor’s point of view?
The process and art form of collating the material for headphone verbatim, and being able to share real stories told by real people intrigues me. These are stories from people you see on
the streets and the technique of headphone verbatim reminds the audience that everybody has their own history and stories, which I feel like we tend to forget as we get caught up with our own lives. I think it does differ for an actor when working on a conventional play, as you’re not bringing options to the floor about how you think the character would behave or talk. Headphone verbatim is a technique that requires you to find character nuance and gesture through voice and intonation. It is a form with so much potential to tell authentic stories, yet is so scarcely seen in Australia.

Mark Paguio

Yerin Ha: What are some of the challenges you face being an Asian actor?
Mark Paguio: I could write a whole essay on this, but given I hate writing essays I won’t. Other than the usual things such as lack of opportunities, prejudice, lack of trust in the bankability of Asian actors etc., I think the lack of accessibility of audiences outside of the white, middle-aged sector to theatre presents a huge problem. It’s a beautiful thing to see yourself or your culture being represented, but when you simply don’t have the funds for – or exposure to – inclusive theatre, it hinders the ability for the industry to grow in a way that addresses the other issues which I have stated. We need more Asian audiences, too! Of course, this issue extends to other actors of colour, actors with disabilities, trans actors etc.

If you could rewind time and change one thing what would it be and why?
There is an infinite amount of things that I would go back in time to change, that would either be beneficial to me in my adult life (i.e. forcing my younger self to play more sports so that I can learn to catch a damn ball in my drama classes), or beneficial to the world (i.e. stopping colonisation because I’m capable of that apparently). But the first thing that comes to my head would be to go back to a particular day in primary school, where the savagery of my 12-year-old self lead to a friend crying because he felt ridiculed from a joke I had made. I felt awful, but this was the first time, to my knowledge, that my words had severely hurt another person, and because of this I was frozen with shame. So I walked off, while my other friends consoled him, without a proper apology. The guilt of that still haunts me to do this day. Let’s make things clear, though. Realistically, I wouldn’t go back to stop myself from making the joke. I would go back to make sure that I apologised.

If you could spend one day with your favourite actor what would you do?
I would spend a day pampering myself because I am my own favourite actor. Kidding. I wouldn’t say I have a favourite actor because there are so many to choose from, but I would love to go to an all you can Korean BBQ with Timothée Chalamet. Firstly, because I would love to pick his brain as a young actor who is killing the game. Secondly, because he seems like a pretty energetic, humble, and intelligent dude that would chat the night away (and chatting over great food with my friends is my favourite pastime). Thirdly, he’s a huge Cardi B fan and I think we’d really vibe together.

What aspects of headphone verbatim do you find most appealing?
Finding the character from text is a process. A huge process where you get to explore and play. Once you get to show it in front of the audience, all the work becomes so rewarding. Naturally, with any process like that it comes with its trials and tribulations. The beauty of this work, and hearing these voices being played in your ear in real time means you get to just dive into their rhythms, energy and lives with ease. All you have to do is connect.

What excites you most about having a career in the arts?
Other than living in fear about when my next paycheck will be, the most exciting thing about having a career in the arts, at least right now, is that the zeitgeist is heading towards an industry that wants to tell stories that reflects the people within the society and the world we live – or that it now wants to tell stories that go beyond the world we live, but is inclusive of the people within our world – despite race, religion, sexual/gender identity, ability etc.

Yerin Ha and Mark Paguio are appearing in I Walk In Your Words, directed by Kristine Landon-Smith.
Dates: 9 – 11 May, 2018
Venue: ATYP

5 Questions with Anika Bhatia and Margaret Thanos

Anika Bhatia

Margaret Thanos: What is something you admire most about the theatre?
Anika Bhatia: It allows us to think differently. There are constantly new ideas being discovered and explored and old ideas being recreated in new ways. It’s not just a form of entertainment. It is the most visceral art form. It allows us to vicariously see the truth to our own selves and reflect, evaluate and learn and even sometimes laugh or cry during the process.

If you could meet one famous theatre person who would you choose and why?
Damien Ryan from Sport for Jove Theatre. I attended two of his lecture programs for my HSC on The Crucible and Julius Caesar and I was just so impressed and started fan-girling a lot. He’s incredible.

Why is it important that we talk about young people issues?
Because young people are the future?! The struggles of beauty expectations, masculinity, isolation, cyberbullying, the pressure to conform and have sex permeate throughout the play. The decisions that young people make in the face of these struggles become defining moments of their life so it’s important to understand how we make them.

Tell me a little fun fact about you.
Well, I was born in India and moved to Sydney when I was 5. My mum said that we had some connections to the King of Rajasthan at one stage! Fun stuff!

What is something that you have learnt over the course of rehearsals for Intersection 2018: Chrysalis.
It’s been really fun to uncover the truth behind the texts and experience that with Rachel Chant and the creative team. I also learnt a lot from being able to talk to Gretel Vella, the writer of one of the scenes I’m in and understand and discuss the characters and her inspirations for them. From both Rachel and Bec, the assistant director, I’ve learnt that taking risks is really important in the rehearsal process and being able to trust myself and stay committed to my creative decisions.

Margaret Thanos

Anika Bhatia: What is your favourite line/moment in the play? 
Margaret Thanos: “You got bitten by that strange duck that followed you home.” – Blood On Bloody Blood Ladder. It’s not a line that I say, but it’s still glorious! 

How do you get into character? 
I think a lot about whatever has happened just before the scene, so I have the mindset to go into the situation as they would. I think about how they feel about what has just happened and what I want to get out of this scene. I also pace around in the physical way that my character does, so I get a sense of their body and the way that they carry themselves. It helps to remind my brain and body that I am not being Margaret in that moment, but I am someone else in their own life. 

Are there any similarities or differences between you and your character Jess from Victoria’s Secret Angel Virgin/Bakerz Delight?
Well, Jess and I are very different on so many levels! She really allows the opinions of what other people say to get to her, and worries about what other people will think, regardless of her own feelings and I think that is where we are most different. She also talks a mile a minute and basically spills out any thoughts that come into her head, while I tend to take more time with what I say. However, there are definitely similarities too! We are both 17, and I love how she has an awareness of the social issues in town, she sometimes builds things up in her mind to be bigger than what they need to be, and I think I do that too, and she gets annoyed at people interrupting her education – which is definitely a trait of mine! 

What is it like working with Rachel Chant?
Honestly, it is SO AMAZING. I am truly blown away by her insight into the play, the intricate meaning in every moment and her attention to detail. The crew and cast on this production is so fabulously talented and I am so grateful to have been a part of Intersection 2018: Chrysalis

What makes this show great for young people and adults alike? 
As a 17 year old you are really on the precipice of your life, waiting for it to start almost, while completing a really stressful period of school. You are also constantly thinking about the future so there are a lot of conflicted and confused ideas running around in your head and I think this show captures that really well. I truly believe that many young people who watch this show will resonate with at least one of the short plays. I think it’s great for young people that so many awkward situations that are typical for 17 year olds are being shown through this play, to show that these fears and desires that they have are not individual to them, but that so many others are going through the exact same experience. For adults, especially ones that have young people in their lives, I think that this show really looks into the teenage condition and all the great and terrible moments being 17 brings with it, and I think that is something really important for adults to understand and empathise with. 

Anika Bhatia and Margaret Thanos are appearing in Intersection 2018: Chrysalis.
Dates: 31 January – 17 February, 2018
Venue: SBW Stables Theatre

Review: Chrysalis (ATYP)

Venue: SBW Stables Theatre (Darlinghurst NSW), Jan 31 – Feb 17, 2018
Playwrights: Joseph Brown, Pippa Ellams, Harry Goodlet, Liz Hobart, Alexander Lee-Rekers, Madelaine Nunn, Julia Rorke, David Stewart, Phoebe Sullivan, Gretel Vella
Director: Rachel Chant
Cast: Brenton Bell, Anika Bhatia, Caitlin Burley, Jeremi Campese, Claire Crighton, Ben Tarlinton, Clare Taylor, Margaret Thanos
Image by Tracey Schramm

Theatre review
The delicate allure of a butterfly in full glory, is always under threat. The idea of a pupa however, is infinitely more satisfying, with its imminent beauty promising only majesty and wonder. This collection of ten short plays by young Australians may be named Chrysalis, but not only does it feature talent brimming with awesome potential, it showcases some surprisingly mature work that is already soaring with splendour. To witness such youthful triumph is indeed breathtaking.

An unequivocal highlight is a trio of remarkable and exhilarating monologues for the teenage girl. Writers Pippa Ellams, Julia Rorke and Phoebe Sullivan each deliver pieces that are playful, poignant and powerful, all giving extraordinary voice to female characters we routinely underestimate. Joseph Brown and Harry Goodlet show us in their respective segments, starkly different ways our boys behave with each other, but both are unabashedly tender in their depiction of affection and kindness, a refreshing change from the all too familiar rowdy machismo we have come to expect, of narratives concerned with Australian men and their mateship.

Director Rachel Chant does outstanding work in helping us find a sense of cohesion for the disparate plays, through her exquisite calibration, from story to story, of tone and style. Also impressive is her work here with the brilliant cast of eight. Every actor in Chrysalis is compelling and persuasive, all of whom are sensational with the incredible depth and authenticity they put on display. A sophisticated sense of humour further elevates the production, giving us some very smart laughs in addition to its many moving moments.

It is so marvellous seeing our young talk about their need for anywhere but here. Ambition is admirable, and when coupled with aptitude, the sense of optimism it provides is truly invigorating. The life of an artist is not an easy one, and many will fail to cut the mustard, but those who persist will be greatly rewarded, although rarely in accordance with early expectations. We must all grow up, and to choose to grow alongside the practise of art, is at once noble, and brave.

www.atyp.com.au

5 Questions with Jeremi Campese and Ruby O’Kelly

Jeremi Campese

Ruby O’Kelly: What was your initial reaction to Moth after reading it for the first time?
Jeremi Campese: Above everything, I was in shock… I had no idea what to expect when I began. I remember laughing more than I expected, and being completely stunned at other times. The story starts moving so quickly and before I knew it, I’d read the final scene. That’s when I realised you need to be focused from the ‘go’, because the story challenges you both thematically and narratively. To get under Sebastian’s journey, you need to be really zeroed-in… there are so many recurring ideas and lines that hold him together!

What do you love most about Declan Greene’s writing?
It’s very easy to tell a typical story of 15-year-old high school students in a less-serious, downplayed manner. But Declan takes these characters and runs with them so earnestly and brilliantly! They are immature but their story has such mature and intense subject matter. He builds and develops them with such care that we as actors have so much to play with and think about. The way Declan conveys the history of their friendship in such a short amount of time means that he plays with the audience’s heartstrings with ease. The language is also so familiar: it’s hilarious when a playwright nails Millennial vernacular.

Since working on Moth, a play that explores some very heavy themes including mental illness and bullying… do you now see the world a little differently?
Hugely. A lot of reflection has gone on since we started rehearsing about my school life, the way I saw kids treated, sometimes how I treated them myself. With Sebastian, what shook me the most was how quickly his world unravels: the whole story takes place over less than 3 days. Things can escalate, and they can escalate dangerously and quickly. Claryssa learns that the hard way, and so do the audience.

Was there anyone in your own high school experience that inspired your characterisation of Sebastian? It’s very good.
Thank you!! Yeah, there are certainly parallels I saw that I had to draw on. Primarily with his mannerisms and overall physicality I have a few friends in mind. So in terms of those ideas, I can’t really take credit for them – I’m just mimicking. But looking into Sebastian’s psychotic experiences, I was mainly left to my own research: as his experiences start becoming more and more abnormal (without giving too much away), I was drawn further away from my comfort zone.

Moth is your second show at ATYP in 2017. How is this experience different to your last play Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore?
Oedipus was a fast learning curve in terms of stage discipline, having to constantly embody new characters. In Moth, we have to do the same, but when we ‘play’ other characters, it is less clean: it’s more mockery. This has its own difficulty, because I’m having to constantly think about Seb’s attitude towards those characters, not just my own. And that’s the key difference, this show has made me to dive deeply into one individual’s experiences (as any great show does). They are both remarkable plays in their own rights, and I’m just so grateful to ATYP for giving me the opportunities. I can’t wait to get this one in front of an audience!

Ruby O’Kelly

Jeremi Campese: What’s the most difficult part about playing a high school student in Moth?
Ruby O’Kelly: Hormones in high school are all over the chop and playing with the fear of not being understood through making horrible decisions has been a great challenge. It’s funny though, as soon as our designer Tyler Hawkins gave me a school uniform skirt to wear in rehearsals, I put it on and I relived the awkwardness and weight of the material and had a rush of nostalgic insecurity. High school seems like a long time ago but the emotional trauma of being a teenager can stick with you forever.

Claryssa is a girl who, deep down, is insecure, but she covers it a lot, sometimes with mockery. How do you look for the balance between landing the humour and truth? You get it so right!
Daww thanks buddy. Declan Greene’s writing lends a huge hand to this balance by giving Claryssa a huge emotional journey. I guess what makes Claryssa funny is that half the time she’s mocking Sebastian, teachers, (everybody), she’s not trying to be funny. She genuinely thinks everyone is a fuckhead and what comes out of her mouth is so ridiculous it gets a laugh!

How do you want audiences to react to the show? Particularly ATYP’s younger audiences.
I hope the reaction from this play is reflection.. I don’t want to give away too much!! Working on Moth has made me want to be a better person. Moth has also given me a greater understanding of the consequence for actions made in high school.

The play pivots on Seb and Claryssa’s relationship. How would you define it in 3 words?
HA… and what a relationship they have… Today I’ll go with savage, hopeless and hilarious.

Rachel Chant works very collaboratively, so we’ve had a gratefully large role in shaping the play thus far. How have you found working with her? And most importantly, how long did it take to learn your lines????? Kidding…
Rachel has been an absolute dream to work with. Her incredible mind, generosity and empathy as a director creates the best environment for Jeremi and I to truly play. Rachel incorporates a lot of improvisation before we get scenes off the ground and often uses the creative impulses and physical discoveries we actors make to inspire some of her direction. She is a very cool lady.

Jeremi Campese and Ruby O’Kelly can be seen in Moth by Declan Greene.
Dates: 6 – 16 Sep, 2017
Venue: ATYP

Review: Moth (Millstone Productions)

Venue: ATYP (Walsh Bay NSW), Sep 6 – 16, 2017
Playwright: Declan Greene
Director: Rachel Chant
Cast: Jeremi Campese, Ruby O’Kelly
Image by Rupert Reid

Theatre review
Sebastian has been coughing up blood. He is being bullied at school, and we observe that at home, things are not faring much better. Computer games and a close friend Claryssa, however, keep his spirits up. Declan Greene’s two-hander Moth, features a pair of teenage outsiders trying to figure things out in a hostile environment, with little more than each other for support. The work begins with familiar scenes of schoolyard mischief, but becomes increasingly surreal, along with the escalation of Sebastian’s mental illness.

The play gives expression to dark sides of today’s youth with an impressive honesty, but leaves us to manage an understanding of how this has come to be, and how we are able to find improvements and solutions for the ones we are wholly responsible for. Greene’s sharp focus on the phenomena of youth disenfranchisement within our communities, is edgy and unquestionably disturbing, but also tremendously intriguing, and in parts very entertaining indeed. Moth‘s reluctance to explain itself makes us work harder, and hence, fall deeper into the theatrical quandary that it presents.

Director Rachel Chant does spectacularly in having us experience both the mesmeric and repulsive qualities of Claryssa and Sebastian’s story. The show is urgently energetic, and even though it struggles to retain coherence when the plot turns resolutely obtuse, our attention is always pulled back into its tumultuously evolving narrative, by Chant’s extraordinary flair for manufacturing poignancy. Remarkably well designed, the production’s visuals and sounds are a real pleasure. Todd Fuller’s animated projections and Alexander Berlage’s lights add rich and exciting dimensions to the staging, while Chrysoulla Markoulli’s music and Tom Hogan’s sound design impact upon our consciousness with circumspect precision.

Actors Jeremi Campese and Ruby O’Kelly are flawless in the piece. Campese’s potent charisma proves irresistible, and instrumental in how we regard Sebastian’s very upsetting downward spiral. He is a captivating presence, with the uncanny ability to take us through fluctuating spells of drama and comedy seamlessly, sometimes simultaneously. O’Kelly is meticulous in her exacting depiction of Claryssa, with intelligently construed gestures and utterances, offering us a beautifully nuanced study of the troubled teen. These kids worry us. We understand their dependence, and we can see in their eyes, the most accurate image of the world that we become.

www.millstoneproductions.com

5 Questions with Mathew Coslovi and Wendi Lanham

Mathew Coslovi

Wendi Lanham: What’s the last risk you took?
The last risk I took was going on a cruise to New Zealand with 6 girls.

Why did you start acting?
I got into acting because acting felt like no job that I have ever felt the same about.

What’s your favourite part of the show?
My fashion, taking off my old clothes and getting into my new, better clothes.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
No!

Has this show changed you in some way? If so how/why?
I feel like I have learnt a lot about myself and I feel like I have learnt more about life.

Wendi Lanham

Mathew Coslovi: What’s the last risk you took?
The last risk I took was to say yes to full time job, whilst acting. Juggling the two has definitely been a challenge.

If you weren’t an actor what would you be doing?
I wouldn’t feel fulfilled for one. But if I had to do something else I would be a skydiving instructor.

What makes you laugh?
Pretty much everything. I laugh a lot and my witch laugh is renowned.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I do yoga before every show. It helps me warm up and focus.

What is the best advice you have been given in regards to acting?
To always use your fellow actors, to listen to them and to react. To direct your focus away from yourself and think about what you are trying to do to the other character. To be confident, be easy to work with and to love what you do!

Mathew Coslovi and Wendi Lanham can be seen in Dignity Of Risk devised by Shopfront’s Harness Ensemble and ATYP.
Dates: 9 – 26 Aug, 2017
Venue: ATYP