Review: Round Heads And Peak Heads (Actors College Of Theatre & Television)

acttVenue: Bondi Pavilion (Bondi NSW), Nov 5 – 9, 2015
Playwright: Bertolt Brecht
Director: Lex Marinos
Cast: Simon Benjamin, Campbell Briggs, Alex Brown, Cait Burley, Sarah Anne Carter, Abbie Coco, Keegan Fisher, Joseph Hallows, Reilly Anne Keir, Richard Littlehales, Angelika Nieweglowski, Jake Scherini, Amy Shapiro, Romney Stanton

Theatre review
Bertolt Brecht premiered Round Heads And Peak Heads in 1936, when Hitler was leading Germany. The play talks about racial persecution, without specifically naming the Jews, and how ethnic minorities are used as a scapegoat of sorts for people in positions of power. It explores the dynamics between greed and justice in a way that is not far different from discourse today, although its cautious language (as a result of censorship) is certainly much more indirect than we are used to.

The production, directed by Lex Marinos, is an energetic one, with variations in texture that occupy our senses, but a more explicit adaptation to current political climes and social concerns would make it more engaging. Performances are uneven in the 14-strong cast, with some talents outweighing others. Cait Burley is a striking Isabella De Guzman, with intense and raw emotion accompanying a studied physicality that displays a daring adventurous spirit. Romney Stanton and Campbell Briggs have interesting roles that they sink their teeth into, both providing colourful portrayals energised by impassioned creativity. Also noteworthy are Angelika Nieweglowski and Alex Brown, who exhibit interesting presences and excellent commitment to their charmingly idiosyncratic roles.

Life is often not fair. Ability does not guarantee success, and hard work does not always see commensurate returns. We exist in predetermined structures that will identify and subjugate the weak, but fortunately in this lucky country, some semblance of democracy exists, and individuals are able to attain their heart’s desires against all odds. What the secret ingredients are, is anyone’s guess, but it is the very definition of success that needs to be evaluated and re-evaluated every step of the way.

www.actt.edu.au

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

Review: Neighbourhood Watch (Illuminate Educate)

illuminateVenue: Bondi Pavilion Theatre (Bondi NSW), May 28 – Jun 6, 2015
Playwright: Lally Katz
Director: Susanna Dowling
Cast: Skyler Ellis, Gertraud Ingeborg, Steven Kreamer, Odile Le Clezio, Andrew Lindqvist, Linden Wilkinson, Anne Wilson

Theatre review
In Lally Katz’s Neighbourhood Watch, two women find a special but unexpected connection, and their bond helps them grow into individually stronger persons. The relationship gives their lives greater meaning, and their story is a reminder that the social aspects of our being is crucial to the way we evolve and progress. Ana and Catherine are women who have needed time to find independence and self-worth, and Katz’s writing makes no bones about using them to inspire girls and women. We often define ourselves in relation to men, in fiction as well as in reality, and the play brings focus to how we let that transpire, and then how we can find emancipation.

Direction of the work by Susanna Dowling is very polite. There is a quietness to the production that hinders the wit of the writing, but although energy levels are low, its main characters are vivid enough for the audience to absorb all that the show wishes to impart. The play is set in many different locations, so scene changes are tricky, and not always handled with enough elegance. Spacial use requires greater inventiveness to prevent distractions and plot confusion. On a brighter note, music is beautifully utilised in the production, with composer Steven Kreamer’s work adding a sophisticated and emotional dimension to proceedings

Lead characters are performed well, although disappointingly restrained. The story is about intimacy, but there is insufficient vivacity between personalities, and they never feel close enough for the narrative to become poignant. Ana is played by Gertraud Ingebors, whose dry sense of humour charms the audience. Her work is convincing and evocative, but the actor seems to have trouble finding enough chemistry with colleagues. Anne Wilson is a likeable Catherine, with a warm and tender presence, but some of her depictions of heavier emotions call for greater authenticity. Like Wilson, Skyler Ellis is immediately endearing in the supporting role of Ken. The part is considerably lightweight by comparison, but Ellis steps up to the mark at every opportunity to showcase his excellent comedic abilities.

The characters in the story connect, but the production feels distant. There is enough lucidity for everything to make sense, but in a cool and slightly detached manner. The shattered dreams and broken hearts in Neighbourhood Watch do not translate with great passion and urgency. Although we hear the message, we want also to understand how it feels to be the people on stage. The live medium of theatre bears the right circumstances to affect its captive audience like no other art form can, and it needs to use that rare and uniquely exciting proximity to spark something visceral, so that its revelations can impress even deeper.

www.illuminateeducate.com.au

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

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Photography by Roderick Ng, Dec 2014

Click here to see Best Of 2013

Review: The Way Things Work (Rock Surfers Theatre Company)

rocksurfersVenue: Bondi Pavilion Theatre (Bondi NSW), Nov 5 – 29, 2014
Playwright: Aidan Fennessy
Director: Leland Kean
Actors: Ashley Lyons, Nicholas Papademetriou
Image by Zakarij Kaczmarek

Theatre review
Aidan Fennessy’s The Way Things Work is about betrayal, corruption and greed. It is also about maleness, focusing on its ambitious manifestations that can often be dishonourable and undignified. The six men in Fennessy’s play are deeply flawed, and their stories reveal them for the low lives that people are capable of becoming. Constructed of three acts, each with a different pair of characters in almost entirely separate scenarios, the script is a dynamic one, with carefully plotted points of tension, drama and danger. The narratives in The Way Things Work are thoughtful expressions that reflect its author’s social concerns. It might not be easy to relate to the contexts Fennessy presents, but his acute observations of the human condition allows us to connect with the material at hand.

Direction of the three long scenes by Leland Kean is challenged by the casting of only two actors, Ashley Lyons and Nicholas Papademetriou, who each take on three parts. Kean manages to create enough differentiation between each segment to keep us engaged, but the cast is not always a perfect fit for every set of characters they tackle, resulting in a show that is unevenly realised. Nevertheless, the production’s use of space is accomplished, and the powerful physicality of both players is used effectively to create lively action from the written pages. Both Lyons and Papademetriou have affable presences that endear us to their time on stage, even though what they put on display is fairly alienating. They are particularly compelling as a couple of Greek-Australian brothers in the second act, with charming idiosyncrasies and a brilliant chemistry that delivers some breathtaking scenes of confrontation and savagery.

Kean’s stage design is a strong feature that provides a confident backdrop, with an appealing aesthetic that relates to some of the themes and concepts, but the three pieces of furniture used to create spacial configurations are very pale by comparison. Also unsuccessful is lighting design that seems to lay dormant during each act, and atmosphere becomes lacklustre without sufficient flourishes in illumination to accompany tonal shifts in the story. The space is persistently dimly lit, which can detract from energy levels in plot and performance. The production’s inadequacy on this level is surprising and confounding.

Our sons’ lives are shaped by families, schools, and communities. How they grow up relies on the environment in which they live, and the men that they become is a consequence of the societies we construct. It is tempting to view adults as self-made individuals responsible for all their own choices, but our personal circumstances cannot be divorced from the people who surround us. Men are not all violent and selfish, as the play might suggest, but there is certainly good reason to examine the reasons behind how we behave, if only to gain control of elements that will improve civilisations for the betterment of humankind as a whole. The Way Things Work talks a lot about power, and our system of government is implicit in its discussions. The media portrays many of our leaders as vile and despicable, but we need to take a closer look at what it is that bestows upon them that privilege and sovereignty.

www.rocksurfers.org

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