Review: Everyone I’ve Ever Loved Or Slept With Or Both (Blood Moon Theatre)

Venue: Blood Moon Theatre (Potts Point NSW), Sep 4 – 8, 2018
Playwright: M. Saint Clair
Director: Liz Arday
Cast: Alana Birtles, Mirian Capper, Eleni Cassimatis, Oliver Harris, Melissa Hume, Ian Runekcles
Images by Liz Arday

Theatre review
When a relationship ends, it is only natural that one should take stock of past loves. It is unclear how many characters are being discussed in M. Saint Clair’s Everyone I’ve Ever Loved Or Slept With Or Both, but all the emotions it explores, are honest and real. It features young people, for whom romantic love is mysterious and irresistible, almost necessary in their emergence into adulthood. The writing is poetic, sometimes transcendental, sometimes silly, but always beautifully rhythmic, and a pleasure to devour.

Stories of love and lust are presented by six spirited actors, in combinations that defy conventions of society and of the theatre. Roles are taken on by different performers, who swap their parts throughout the production, resisting our desire to lock people into types and categories, intentionally elusive to achieve a broader sense of universality in how it addresses the audience. Heteronormativity too is dismantled, not only in terms of the gay-straight binary, but also in its challenge of monogamy’s dominion, by allowing the ensemble to interact in combinations that exceed the ordinary romantic pair. Director Liz Arday demonstrates intellectual verve, whilst keeping us sensorily engaged with her fast, inventive show. The cast is excellent in collaborative scenes, delightful with their execution of some very fascinating choreography.

There are times in life, when lovers are our everything, and we cannot imagine existence without all the intense passion, and drama, that they bring. There is always much to enjoy of such relationships, but as the years pass, it is likely that these partners will gradually slip down one’s hierarchy of needs. Everyone I’ve Ever Loved Or Slept With Or Both resonates with a kind of innocence, a sweet wistfulness of when other people were able to fill the void. How one emerges from that misconception, is never a simple process, and unsurprising if it turns out to be a lifelong endeavour.

www.facebook.com/Revolvingdays

5 Questions with Alana Birtles and Eleni Cassimatis

Alana Birtles

Eleni Cassimatis: What compelled you to audition for Everyone I’ve Ever Loved Or Slept With Or Both?
Alana Birtles: I decided to apply to audition for Everyone because I thought the title was very intriguing. I also liked the idea of investigating relationships and how people ‘mark’ or ‘stain’ us. Those particular words stood out to me.I also think the Sydney Fringe is a great festival and I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of it.

The process has been quite unusual, as we’ve been devising all while using a script. Can you explain what the process has been like for you?
It’s been a really interesting process devising and collaborating on this script. I’ve never worked in this way professionally before. I feel like it gives you a lot more room to play and discover, and I feel like it brought us closer as an ensemble. As each interpretation of this work will be unique, this will be the only time this version will be performed which is also a really cool thought.

Can you explain to everyone what “cup casting” is, and why we’ve been doing it?
Cup casting is this magical process by which we put ‘character names’ into a cup (a very particular cup mind you) and we each pull one out to see who we will be playing. It’s actually worked out amazingly as we all got characters/scenes that we had originally said resonated with us.

Have any moments or scenes from the play resonated strongly with you?
Yes there’s one scene in particular that I felt strongly about. Without giving anything away I’ll say that the scene is a complex one in its emotional variations but also the concept behind it. This is an instance where the magic cup casting worked because I actually ended up being allocated that scene. Otherwise, I believe the play presents a multi-faceted view of relationships that is relatable to everyone. Dissecting the play, the entire ensemble has related to particular experiences in the play or known someone that has had a similar experience.

We’ve been having a weekly guac comp during the rehearsal period… got any hot tips for a killer guac?
Ah the guac comp; one of the highlights of my Saturday’s. I am an avid avocado fan and pride myself in my guac-making abilities. I believe lots of flavour and freshness is key. I like to add a bit of raw garlic and Spanish onion, but I think you shouldn’t be afraid to utilise a decent amount of lemon, salt and pepper. I’m not usually a fan of coriander but I’ve been converted when used in guac. Coriander with a bit of tomato adds freshness.

Eleni Cassimatis

Alana Birtles: How are you enjoying working as part of a democratic ensemble?
Eleni Cassimatis: The collaborative nature of our democratic ensemble has been a lot of fun. As we are devising our way through a new text, it has meant we can basically pave our own way through it. Our cast and creative team are made up of a wonderful group of artists who all have a brilliantly diverse range of experience in various acting/theatre-making forms, meaning what each person brings to the table is a different wealth of knowledge, and therefore the experience of each scene or ‘vignette’ in the play has been injected with a variety of storytelling forms. On top of this, our cup casting has meant some scenes have been cast completely out of control, and then we’ve had the fun job of making it make sense!

What’s been the most challenging part of the process for you so far?
The most challenging part of the process for me was probably in the initial phases of staging the play – making myself succumb to the fact that we were going to have no idea what exactly the play was, or how exactly we were telling this story, and allowing myself to just play and create with no clear ending. St Clair’s text has been left so open for us, which at first seemed daunting, but gave us an abundant amount of delicious possibilities.

St Clair’s rejected a masculine story arch in her writing. How have you found working on a play that’s structure is more cyclical than linear?
The play’s structure, being more cyclical than linear, means that there isn’t a defined start point and end point to the story, and that where the play begins and where it ends could actually be anywhere in this order of experiences. In rejecting the traditional masculine story arch, Saint Clair has created an experience for the audience that gets ‘left hanging’ and doesn’t have a clear resolution, but what could instead be a new beginning. I’ve found working on this structure to be full of discoveries, because each time we would work out what one scene could be, we would find that it would open up hundreds more possibilities for what the preceding and subsequent scenes could be. I think it let us be more ok with pieces not directly connecting to each other, because they were still part of the inherent circling motion of the entire play, and thanks to the brilliant writing we were able to step back and trust that all the pieces connected and linked to form their own version of the traditional storyline.

Everyone explores intimacy and human connection in abstract fragments, which isn’t unfamiliar content in the theatre. How does this production present this universal experience in a different light?
I think the best way to talk to this is that in Everyone, we get to see little slices of life, which are short (or sometimes longer) glimpses into the relationship between couples or groups of people. These transactions explore many different assets of human connection and intimacy, are transient, and over the course of the play will hopefully resonate with and reflect experiences that everyone can relate to! The play breaks these concepts open and addresses them as the characters live out their experiences in front of the audience, and by allowing the characters to passionately try to work things out & make sense of things for themselves, pulling the audience in and along with them on the way.

There are 400 shows playing as part of the Sydney Fringe. Why should people come see Everyone?
Firstly – the title. Come on guys, how can you not be wanting to know more? Second – what a crew and cast I get to work with – working with Liz has been incredible, the guys at Revolving Days are amazing, and the 5 other actors I have got to spend this last six weeks with have been an absolute blast. I am so proud of the work we’ve created, I love the idea that no other version of this play will ever be the same, and love that I got to play part in putting St Clair’s work on it’s feet in the public for the first time.

Alana Birtles and Eleni Cassimatis can be seen in Everyone I’ve Ever Loved Or Slept With Or Both by M Saint Clair.
Dates: 4 – 8 Sep, 2018
Venue: Blood Moon Theatre

Review: Me And My Mother, Singing (Blood Moon Theatre)

Venue: Blood Moon Theatre (Potts Point NSW), Aug 22 – 30, 2018
Creator and Performer: Oleg Pupovac
Image by Roman Wolczak

Theatre review
In Oleg Pupovac’s one man show Me And My Mother, Singing, we are invited into a dreamlike consciousness, a waking meditation perhaps, about the creator’s Yugoslavian and Serbian roots. Stories of his past feature heavily, in this work about identity, demonstrating the inextricable relationship between our memories and daily existence. A new dawn always arrives, but we move into each day with personal histories that can be contained but is rarely erased.

Pupovac seeks refuge in art, reaching for his father in paintings of snow, and his mother in folk songs. Trauma is addressed indirectly, for a healing process that can never be hurried, and love is rekindled, if only in the realm of the soul, for a solace that is necessary but that can never completely assuage the experience of loss and longing. It is a satisfying presentation, with multimedia elements offering insight into the most intimate recesses of Pupovac’s mind, and the performer’s own warm charm facilitating an empathy in the audience, even when scenarios turn obscure.

In the creation of his own art, Pupovac manifests a closeness with loved ones, that in turn inspires an appreciation for the complex ways, in which each of us thinks of family and roots. People can seem so different from one another, but underneath the surface are inevitable points of connection that can only endorse our kinship. We like to think ourselves special, and even though individual trajectories are always unique, the infinity of our sameness can never be denied, including, sadly, our age-old propensity to divide.

www.thetwopeas.com

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: Arthur & Marilyn (Dinosaurus Productions)

Venue: Blood Moon Theatre (Potts Point NSW), May 29 – Jun 2, 2018
Playwright: Jasper Lee-Lindsay
Director: Danen Young
Cast: Meg Hyeronimus, Alec Ebert

Theatre review
Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, both legends in their own right, are significant not only for the work they had left behind, but as is typical of bona fide celebrities, their personal stories, whether real or fabricated, determine how we remember them generations on. The couple fell in and out of love, against the romantic backdrop of Hollywood in the 1950s. In Jasper Lee-Lindsay’s Arthur & Marilyn, each party is risen from the dead, and the consummate storytellers are called upon to give us their version of that famous love affair.

Dialogue is scintillating in the two-hander, with an admirable authenticity to its depiction of a lulling time and space that has us fascinated and seduced. Actors Meg Hyeronimus and Alec Ebert are an enchanting pair, accurate in voice and physicality for a convincing portrayal of mid-century America. Hyeronimus is wonderful as Marilyn, conveying not only the iconic vulnerable glamour that most of us are familiar with, but also adding a dimension of wilfulness and confidence that makes this iteration seem, perhaps strangely, even more genuine than the original.

The plot of Arthur & Marilyn is imperfect, unable to cultivate an emotional journey with enough potency that can live up to the sentimental value we hold for its subject matter, but levels of intensity for the production, is cleverly controlled by director Danen Young, and our attention is sustained to the end.

Relationships can be kept beautiful, if we are able to concede when their time is up. Longevity of marriages are venerated in polite society, but like so much of life, we learn ultimately that it is the quality, and not quantity, of things that should be valued. Monroe and Miller never had a “happily ever after”, but the many sweet moments that they did have together, represent their very best days on earth.

www.bloodmoontheatre.com | www.facebook.com/DinosaurusProd

5 Questions with Meg Hyeronimus and Danen Young

Meg Hyeronimus

Danen Young: How does it feel to play such an iconic figure as Marilyn?
Meg Hyeronimus: Initially, terrifying. I didn’t really know much about her other than the typical “blonde bombshell” character and that she’s the most famous blonde of all time or at least the 20th Century. So yeah, completely overwhelmed. I dove into my research, gathered everything I could find and found her to be so incredibly extraordinary and complex. As Arthur Miller said in an interview “whatever anybody was she had a little of it”. I also quickly accepted that I’d never be Marilyn. That took some stress away. I think the script definitely helps with that – with the breaking down of her public persona, and portrays a more real and human version of her. My relationship to her has become incredibly personal, I find myself fighting for her in whatever way possible – in everyday life or during rehearsal (I suppose that’s a real driving force for me in the show) and I love her a lot. I feel her pain and her hope. It’s also opened a lot up for me as an actor, I feel more confident in myself and owning my power. I’m very grateful for the whole process. 

How is it different this time round? 
I think there is an obvious shift in each of us, it feels like we’ve matured as actors/theatre-makers. Don’t get me wrong, we very much are still those excited passionate kids – but the approach to our work is more direct and fast paced. The vision for what we want is clearer; for Alec (playing Arthur) and I as actors making choices for our characters and for Danen and his directorial vision. There is a lot more freedom for me as Marilyn now. I’m not trying as hard to be a certain way. I think I have a better understanding of her, or rather MY Marilyn and all that character stuff (which the first time round plagued me for a while). It now comes second nature, leaving me with so much more room to PLAY! It’s so FUN, even when it tears my heart apart. 

What is your favourite thing about the rehearsal room? 
Well, that I get to work with two of my best friends. Also the silly characters that are always floating around. Alec has one whose name is Timothy Panknell. He’s from somewhere in Brooklyn. And never ever fails to make me laugh. Danen and Alec both take on who they think Arthur Miller’s mother would sound and be like. It’s probably the funniest thing I’ve witnessed first hand. 
We have so many stupid jokes and outbursts of nonsense, and it’s generally Alec saying something so absurd and ridiculous that Danen and I lose it for a good 5 mins. 
It’s a good base for us to be open and just play around with the script, despite the work being so sincere and somewhat philosophical.

If you could have dinner with any famous person from the past, who would it be? 
Is it annoying to say Marilyn, because honestly that would be my first choice. I’m desperate to speak to her. Other than that, Hatshepsut. She’s one boss ass bish! 

Marilyn’s from LA and Arthur’s from New York, so where would you rather live, LA or New York?
Young Meg would say New York in a heartbeat. And I would say present Meg would say it too, just a little more hesitant. I need space and love nature, so I’ll say LA. That is my final answer. Which is lucky considering I’m moving there in 3 weeks, HA!

Danen Young

Meg Hyeronimus: LA or NY?
Danen Young: Oooooh that’s tough. I’d have to say NYC in terms of a city to live in. There is sooooooooo much happening in such a small amount of area, and it literally never sleeps. Which is absolutely perfect for a night owl like myself!!

Dinner guest?
I would have to say Nikola Tesla. Such an incredible mind that was not as successful and far reaching as he should have been. The memory of his great work was stomped on by Thomas Edison and I would just want to say sorry for that!!

How different has it been directing this time around?
There have actually been a lot of things that are similar about directing this time around. The difference mainly being the length, and the challenges we’ve faced in terms of developing a rhythm for the show. The short and sweet version of the play was probably a bit nailed into us, so breaking free of this emotional and muscle memory was the first big hurdle. In terms of staging, lighting, and sound the show is coming together fairly in the same, but on a larger scale; so the lighting plots are more complex, there are more sound cues, and more blocking to figure out. But being on a small budget, and having restrictions on how much set we can have, means that we’ve kept the set minimal, to focus on the characters, relationships and memories that Jasper has so beautifully written into his script. Rehearsals are still super fun and full of cheeky banter!

Why produce this play?
Firstly, because the script is amazing. For actors, the words just pull you along, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. But I think it’s also a very interesting take on memory, and celebrity culture in this highly connected world of social media. How can we really know who these people were? Whose word can you trust as an authority on what these people were like? Does it really matter? Is it possible to know someone if you’ve never met them? I can’t really answer these questions, but I want to say that the overwhelming feeling I’ve had whilst directing this play, is that our memories are who we are, but in the end, it’s the memory of us in the minds of other people that define who we are.

Describe the show in 3 words.
Sincere. Ethereal. Heartbreaking.

Meg Hyeronimus plays Marilyn Monroe, and Danen Young directs Arthur & Marilyn, by Jasper Lee-Lindsay.
Dates: 29 May – 2 Jun, 2018
Venue: Blood Moon Theatre

Review: Hamlet At The Bottle-O (Blood Moon Theatre)


Venue: Blood Moon Theatre (Potts Point NSW), May 15 – 26, 2018
Playwright: Pat H Wilson
Director: Adrian Barnes
Cast: Nick Mercer
Image by Marek Wojt

Theatre review
Like most of us who pursue careers in the arts, Nick is an actor who has to hold down a “real job” to pay the bills. Managing a bottle shop may not be his favourite occupation, but he does it well, in between sneaky practice sessions for imminent auditions. There are five short scenes in Pat H Wilson’s Hamlet At The Bottle-O Or The Wineshop Monologues, with Nick relaying amusing but inconsequential stories about colourful personalities and quaint occurrences at his workplace.

The one-man show features actor Nick Mercer, charismatic and highly energetic in a simple work that demands little more than an enthusiastic familiarity with the text. Mercer proves himself an engaging presence, but the material is limiting in terms of character development, and the proficiency that we encounter never progresses beyond its somewhat basic requirements. The cordial man behind the wineshop counter has a simple job ringing up your purchase, and the performer too, on this occasion, needs only be pleasant, and he passes with flying colours.

We are more than the jobs we do, but often it is how we are employed that determines our identity in the eyes of the world. People can be useful to society in a myriad ways, and it is what we contribute that allows others to form an understanding of who we are. It is however, equally important that the individual knows the self beyond the face that they present on the outside. Most know Nick as the affable bottle-o guy, but Nick knows that he is capable of very much more.

www.bloodmoontheatre.com