Review: Space Cats (Brevity Theatre)

brevityVenue: Bondi Pavilion (Bondi NSW), Feb 25 – Mar 7, 2015
Book: Samantha Young
Lyrics: Samantha Young
Music: Matthew Predny, Emele Ugavule
Director: Samantha Young
Cast: Olivia Charalambous, Skyler Ellis​, Gautier Pavlovic-Hobba, Aaron Tsindos, Samantha Young

Theatre review
Laika the dog, left Russia in a spacecraft and finds himself on a planet where the Queen Cat reigns supreme. She is on a mission to rid her world of everything undesirable, and has slaughtered everyone, except for her minions, Bruno and Mars, and one final offender, Bin Cat, who sits in prison waiting to be executed. Clearly the Queen has no tolerance for any sort of behaviour that may contradict her own, and it is the themes of compassion and understanding that provide this mini-musical its impetus, along with temperate but well-meaning ideas about governance and social diversity.

Samantha Young’s work as writer and director is subversive, but her tone is relentlessly light and joyous. The show is a euphoric application of the musical genre, using its shallow and frivolous propensities to excellent comic effect. Original songs with lyrics by Young and music by Matthew Predny and Emele Ugavule are inventive, always with a cheeky attitude, but they are not uniformly strong. It is understood that this one night presentation is a preview of sorts, with a more refined “end product” to eventuate in the near future. There certainly is a great deal of potential and promise in this outrageously quirky germination of a production that seems to have many effective elements in place, awaiting further development and polish.

The cast of five is a compelling ensemble, with excellent chemistry and a cohesive humour that projects a confidence generously outweighing the prematurity of their material. Aaron Tsindos’s camp sensibility is a highlight at many points, delivering waves of laughter with a Kenneth “Carry On” Williams style of flamboyance in his role of Bruno. Playing Laika is Skyler Ellis who tunes his portrayal of earnestness from sincere to corny with intuitive accuracy, and whose singing voice impresses quite effortlessly. All performances are delightful, with a clever blend of energy and irony for a tongue-in-cheek, and sometimes raunchy, approach that many would find irresistibly amusing. Space Cats is about love, with passion emanating from every one of its facets, and although the production is missing finesse at many points on this particular occasion, we leave the auditorium convinced that love can actually conquer all.

www.brevitytheatre.com.au

5 Questions with Samantha Young and Aaron Tsindos

Samantha Young

Samantha Young

Aaron Tsindos: Where did you come up with the idea for space cats?
Samantha Young: This is where I mention you right? So we were doing The LoveBirds up at Darwin Festival in 2012 (a cabaret written/directed/performed/everythinged by the divine Simone Page Jones) and we decided one lunch break to annoy Simone by putting on a show that was the direct opposite of hers. So we decided cats were the opposite of birds and somehow space was the opposite of love, at least aesthetically. And we all laughed a lot. Anyway, then I just never got over it.

Have you done much work in cabaret and musical theatre?
Yessum, actually not musical theatre because those guys are next level talented. However I’m increasingly passionate about creating cabarets because they sit at the intersecting centre of a lovely venn diagram of theatre, sex, politics and music. I have been writing, directing and performing in cabarets since 2009.

Where did you first meet Aaron and how impressed were you with him?
We met in Adelaide in a self contained apartment the day before LoveBirds rehearsals started. Over the next couple of months I learnt that you; like milkshakes, talk a lot, were realllly into GoT at the time and that was so boring for me, had tight hips and would do almost anything for money. I realised we would be lifelong friends when I paid you $100 to eat a golf ball sized globe of Wasabi and you did it even though we had dancing rehearsals all afternoon. That was a good day for me.

What’s your favourite/ideal cat? Be specific.
I hate cats. I don’t know why I’m making a musical about cats. My ideal cat is a dog.

If you could be any kind of cat what would it be? (The cat can have super powers)
A dog with a pink glittery coat, that could sing like a sweet coloratura soprano and would roam the streets of Rome, busking for my supper.

Aaron Tsindos

Aaron Tsindos

Samantha Young: What was your first impression of me?
Aaron Tsindos: The first time I met you was during a cabaret/musical (Lovebirds) for the Adelaide Fringe. You would often talk of how you would spill food on yourself regularly and I discovered this to be true. One time you offered to pay me $60 to eat a MASSIVE chunk of wasabi – I did it and we have been friends ever since. I also love you and you’re a pretty good friend… I guess….
*Sam’s edit: It was $100 Aaron, I remember because it was $100 from me and $100 from Simone so you were rolling in the fat dollar billz*

What is your honest opinion of wearing metallic lycra bodysuits?
I’ve worn some pretty crazy costumes before. Basically I have no integrity left, so my honest opinion about wearing lycra is… I’m fine with it.

Is your headshot reeeaaallly what you look like?
My headshot is fairly close to what I look like. I’m way better front on. My profile is intense…

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?
I’m not 100% sure where all the lonely people come from. There is a place called Lonesome town where the broken hearts stay. So it might be there? I dunno. Ask Eleanor Rigby.

Why would anyone make a show about cats in space?
I think that there is a space cat in all of us. You have tapped into the zeitgeist of cats, the soul of cats and found a beautiful universe filled with passion and ecstasy. You may just be the only one who is sensitive enough to hear the little space cats in all of us; sometimes they tell me to burn things.

Samantha Young is directing Aaron Tsindos in Brevity Theatre’s Space Cats.
Dates: 25 July, 2015
Venue: Bondi Pavilion Theatre

Suzy Goes See’s Best Of 2014

sgs-best2014

2014 has been a busy year. Choosing memorable moments from the 194 shows I had reviewed in these 12 months is a mind-bending exercise, but a wonderful opportunity that shows just how amazing and vibrant, theatre people are in Sydney. Thank you to artists, companies, publicists and punters who continue to support Suzy Goes See. Have a lovely holiday season and a happy new year! Now on to the Best Of 2014 list (all in random order)…

Suzy x

 Avant Garde Angels
The bravest and most creatively experimental works in 2014.

 Quirky Questers
The most unusual and colourful characters to appear on our stages in 2014.

♥ Design Doyennes
Outstanding visual design in 2014. Fabulous lights, sets and costumes.

♥ Darlings Of Dance
Breathtaking brilliance in the dance space of 2014.

♥ Musical Marvels
Outstanding performers in cabaret and musicals in 2014.

♥ Second Fiddle Superstars
Scene-stealers of 2014 in supporting roles.

♥ Ensemble Excellence
Casts in 2014 rich with chemistry and talent.

♥ Champs Of Comedy
Best comedic performances of 2014.

♥ Daredevils Of Drama
Best actors in dramatic roles in 2014.

♥ Wise With Words
Best new scripts of 2014.

 Directorial Dominance
Best direction in 2014.

♥ Shows Of The Year
The mighty Top 10.

♥ Suzy’s Special Soft Spot
A special mention for the diversity of cultures that have featured in its programming this year.

  • ATYP

End

sgs-best2014a

Photography by Roderick Ng, Dec 2014

Click here to see Best Of 2013

Review: This Is My Box (Rue de la Rocket)

ruedelarocketVenue: Bondi Pavilion Theatre (Bondi NSW), Jul 16 – 19
Playwrights: Karli Evans, Erin Taylor, Karena Thomas
Director: Erin Taylor
Cast: Karli Evans, Karena Thomas

Theatre review
This Is My Box features two women in very colourful exercise gear exorcising demons. Their costumes do not change, but the actors go through many different characters in this hour long piece. They portray familiar everyday personalities from different walks of life, but they are all unified by their inanities. This is a work about the people we are afraid of becoming. They come from every social class, but are all less than intelligent. Their lives are filled with mundanity and they do not seem to have any mental capacity to escape their respective hells. This is probably a work about all of us, even though it may initially seem to be about “those people”.

The script is superb. It has all the hallmarks of a thoroughly devised work, relying on much more than words, where every moment is made absurd, and with a plot trajectory that is never predictable, yet everything seems to make sense. The narrative is about instincts and emotional reactions, rather than logic and story. Characters and scene changes are distinct, which gives the production a formal grounding, and its theatrical structure. There is a lot of fooling around, but the disciplines that conspire to create this coherent whole are clear to see.

Both performers are compelling, and all their roles are hilarious. Their use of voice, movement and face are exaggerated but appropriately so. It is almost like clown work, except with social commentary. Karli Evans is slightly more proficient with her physicality, while Karena Thomas tickles our funny bone with some very dynamic facial expressions. It is a high energy performance, by women with impressive and confident presences.

Erin Taylor’s direction is sensitive to the strengths of the players. She appears to have a deep understanding of the women’s abilities, and strives to expose all of their best features in these manic 60 minutes. Taylor commits to a specific sense of humour that is probably not of the widest appeal, but the conviction harnessed on stage is absolutely euphoric. The work is critical of many Australian women, but it is never mean spirited. It embodies a kind of sisterhood that is self conscious but generous. It is about girls who do not want to turn into their mothers but are wise enough to realise some inevitabilities.

www.ruedelarocket.com

Review: Awkward Conversations With Animals I’ve Fucked (Unhappen)

unhappen

Venue: Bondi Pavilion Theatre (Bondi NSW), Jul 16 – 19
Playwright: Rob Hayes
Director: James Dalton
Cast: Heath Ivey-Law

Theatre review
This actually is a play about bestiality, and Bobby actually has awkward one-way (of course) conversations with a variety of animals. Rob Hayes’ script is unapologetic and obviously offensive, and completely bizarre. Of course, the scenarios painted are almost never realistic but they are confronting nonetheless. The thought of a man having a series of sexual encounters with animals is unsavoury enough, but to listen to his post-coital confessions and confidences is thoroughly unnerving. However, to take this play at face value would be absurd (there is nothing realistic about a monkey prostitute or sex with a grizzly bear, no matter how perverse one’s sexual tastes may be). Bobby and his stories are allegories for our sexual lives, and its reverberations. What makes us tick, if and why it matters, and quite naturally, the moral implications of our appetites.

Heath Ivey-Law performs the 70 minute monologue, along with two nonspeaking actors in masks who provide the presence of animals involved. Bobby is a very demanding role. The script is wordy, and its concepts are obscure, but Ivey-Law displays impressive resilience and focus that pulls us into his weird and disturbing world. Early scenes are lighter in tone, and the show feels almost like a charming stand up routine. The notion of Bobby having sex with a dog and then a cat, is initially ridiculous but as we come to accept that what we see is more literal than we are ready to accept, the comedy becomes very unsettling. Ivey-Law is more effective at making us feel uncomfortable than he is at creating laughter, but the edginess sets in too early in the piece, and as the work descends into even darker territory, the work becomes too alienating to connect with. It must be noted though, that Ivey-Law’s performance in the later scenes is very powerful even when the abstraction overwhelms. The precision in his execution is beautiful to watch.

Director James Dalton is particularly strong with adding a visual dimension to the text. His rich imagination creates on stage, vivid and arresting imagery that is aesthetically satisfying, and also an evocative enhancement of the story we hear. The venue is restrictive but the use of lights and sound are unexpectedly innovative. Sex is the most personal of themes, so our own perspectives inform the way we read this work. Dalton allows us to approach the performance from any aspect. There is an ambivalence that communicates intelligently, but the viewer needs to be active and creative with interpretations. Awkward Conversations With Animals I’ve Fucked is never an easy ride, but a few bumps on the road will make for a most interesting night.

www.bondifeast.com.au/…

Certain Men (Encyclopaedia Of Animals)

322708_439295692788974_1011700878_o.jpg  1000×667Venue: Bondi Pavilion Theatre (Bondi NSW), Jul 26-27
Director: Christopher Brown
Actors: Brian Davison, Michael Gwynne, Tamblyn Lord

Theatre review
The audience is seated in a big circle, all facing inwards. The room is large, with no specific focal point and no stage. The actors constantly move around the space, and the audience finds itself in the midst of all the action, almost an intruder into the intimate setting, where three middle-aged men meet for a group therapy of sorts. This is a play about the issues that these men face, and the difficulty in expressing and articulating those issues. Certain Men is fascinating in its theatrical form, which aligns itself with psychological treatments that seek to deconstruct patterns and convention, in order to reach a breakthrough point of enlightenment.

The chemistry between the players feels solid, but the characters do not communicate well with each other. They talk about themselves, play lego, clean windows, sing, rap and dance; they try but do not form a strong connection. What takes place in this work is abstract and makes for challenging viewing, but it feels like witnessing real life. A sadness permeates these beings, and we get hints of their individual stories, but the main concern here are questions and not answers. Perhaps the intent of their therapy is only to ask, and not to conclude. In its artistic form, Certain Men seeks to create its own language. While not instantly gratifying, it is a commendable and necessary development away from theatre that is facile and obsolete, moving towards something fresh and intelligent.

www.encyclopaediaofanimals.net

Short Plays #3 (Tamarama Rock Surfers)

1010847_607684252597522_1882182589_n.jpg  960×640Venue: Bondi Pavilion Theatre (Bondi NSW), Jul 19 & 26
Playwrights: Kate Mulvany, Finegen Kruckmeyer, Kit Brookman, Phillip Kavanagh
Directors: John Kachoyan, Jessica Tuckwell, Pierce Wilcox, Jo Turner
Actors: Akos Armont, Danielle King, Yalin Ozucelik, Huw McKinnon, Joshua Anderson, Jonny Pasvolsky, Zak Ynfante

Theatre review
When writing a play, one should think of the stage and its audience. It is good to have a story, a message, or an idea, but writing for the theatre requires awareness of the various senses that are engaged in the act of “watching a play”, and also the various disciplines involved in the collaborative nature of the theatrical arts. Feast and Heart Of Glass are two of the short plays in this collection with distinct similarities. They both feature one male actor, and a great deal of verbiage. Akos Armont and Joshua Anderson are committed actors but are left on an empty stage with nothing more than pages and pages of words. Their stories are not uninteresting, but it is a tall order to perform without involving other elements of the live stage. Unfortunately, these two works come across too much like talented actors reading out chapters from great books, but this does not deliver the best theatrical experience.

Conversely, the two other plays provide dynamism and intrigue to the evening’s proceedings. Wolf imagines the last moments in the life of the boy who cried wolf.  Jonny Pasvolsky plays the wolf (in human form) with great confidence and delicious cunning. The showman delivers an entertaining yet dark performance, positioning himself somewhere between menace and comedy, while cleverly avoiding unpleasant territory in the presence of a child actor.

The Last Bell exploits the short form perfectly, Tension and intrigue is skilfully maintained throughout the piece, with the actors keeping their audience at the edge of its seat. Yalin Ozucelik’s enigmatic gravitas grounds the play. It is his character’s impending doom which is at the centre of the story, and he conveys powerfully that state of being with a minimum of words and movement. Kate Mulvany’s script bears a narrative structure that is thoughtfully designed, able to create dramatic impact without explicit details of horror, and emotional tangibility without being tediously sentimental. Really enjoyable theatre in the mystery/thriller genre.

www.bondifeast.com.au