5 Questions with Melissa Hume and Gideon Payten-Griffiths

Melissa Hume

Gideon Payten-Griffiths: What does the ancient story of Bluebeard make you think about?
Melissa Hume: It makes me think of deception, of a beast with a glistening smile, murder, a marriage mistake, a room full of blood and bones. All of the fun, juicy stuff. It also makes me think and question the concept of doubt. The nameless young woman becomes doubtful that Bluebeard was to blame for the multiple disappearances of his past wives. The doubt is enough for her to agree to marry him. What causes her doubt of his guilt? Is it his wealth, pressure from her family, or his kind, seemingly generous manner?

How does performing in a men’s change room and toilet make you feel and affect your devising process?
Performing in a men’s change room and toilets makes me feel like a theatre rebel! I’m really excited about it because there are so many interesting aspects and items to play with (toilets, taps, showers!) that you don’t usually have in a normal theatre. I’ve performed in site-specific works before and it’s always been an amazing experience. Often the preconceived ideas to how an audience should act are lifted, so it makes it all so immediate and exciting. It affects the devising process because the seating arrangement, architecture, layout and acoustics of the change room/toilets is really different from our rehearsal spaces. So these things need to be kept in mind when we devise and we also need to keep it somewhat flexible and adaptable.

Why are you an artist/performer/actor?
The idea of dying is frightening and the idea of living is also frightening. Somewhere amongst all of that is meaning, and I’m trying to find out what that meaning is through the lens of stories. There’s also nothing that makes me feel quite alive as when I’m working on and performing in a show.

5 desert island necessities?
Toothbrush. Floss. Tampons (such a luxury item). An avocado tree. Bear Grylls.

If you were not an artist/performer/actor, what would you be doing?
I’d be on a desert island with Bear Grylls.

Gideon Payten-Griffiths

Melissa Hume: Bluebeard; Or, The Marriage Mistakes Of A Nameless Bride will be performed in the men’s toilets and change rooms at Bondi Pavilion. Tell me more about this and your experience with non-traditional venues?
Gideon Payten-Griffiths: Unusual contexts and audience relationships has become a big part of my practice. The unexpected can simply thrill the audience or keep them active. It can transform the viewer’s everyday experience of that space or the normally relatable; with this you might talk about what lurks underneath, reveal the unseen. Site specificity can exploit a fusion between art and ‘real life’, offering a beauty and/or an unsettling quality which can provoke or open up the audience. Suspending the everyday creates joy. A men’s change room and loo makes me think of social conventions, competition and intimacy which could reveal (darker) aspects of the (male) psyche. For women entering the space there layers of permission, trust and disgust heightening questions of gender and the roles we play, romance and the mystery of the other. This amplification of the binary has me thinking about seen and unseen sides to the same story. Responding to the physical aspects of this space is also inspiring; the hardness, greyness, moisture, seclusion, compartments, obscured vision, neon lighting. In playing clarinet and other sound in the space, the reverberation, the source of sound and the ambient sounds of Bondi have great potential.

How do you think the audience will be able to relate to this adaptation of the fairytale Bluebeard?
I think we are exploring Bluebeard in terms of what it says about emotional needs, desire, intimacy, fear, trust, aspiration, reputation, gender expectations; all sorts of things we all experience that are in there alongside the far out, suspense, horror and eroticism of a good serial killer tale. Or is it? There is no script, we are re-making this story from scratch and still creating; it will be a contemporary view. It may have some abstraction which might further allow the audience to relate in their own ways. I think we want to resist the simple moral conclusions of a fairytale; that a young woman should be less curious or that Bluebeard is pure evil. It’s a story of courtship and life-altering choices. Meanwhile, we’ve been asking what drives people to extremes, what makes a ‘bad’ person and what is the source cause of horrifying acts; where is the killer in all of us? By the way, its not just a fairytale! These stories of violence happen, today, just around the corner…

Can you tell me your story of how you came to be a performer?
I became a performer when I realised I always was a performer. Having made, sung, danced and acted since an early age it was in my bones. Yes Mel, that meaning and life/death thing can be terrifying. Maybe something about this self-awareness and sensitivity is part of what got me to this profession, or vice versa. After school I went listlessly, and at times pathologically, in other directions. Then, in 2005 I did a training program at PACT centre for emerging artists and remembered I didn’t have to pursue one discipline but could explore the fusion of different practices. I could simply be and artist (person). I realised that being an artist was the only thing I could do – there is a special kind of joy and transcendence it brings. After we’ve taken care of the basics, it’s what we do. When we haven’t or can’t take care of the basics, it’s what we do. I think art in life used to be less about the audience vs. performer and more about a community spirituality. I’m still coming to being a performer. There’s the ongoing research into knowing and harnessing the self, my embodied energy and how to move and project it (in the endless entropy of existence). I love making and performing as an act of empathy, compassion and connection. To question, reflect, break down and see anew. To speak truth to power. To be the jester. I guess it is the sense of purpose to the work that is the real story. Let alone the fun in the play of it!

If your life was to be written as a fairytale, what would the first sentence be?
There was once a fool who lived at the top of an empty hill in a warm little invisible house and dreamed of being a real person. (I reserve the right to change the fairytale at anytime).

Do you have any pre-show superstitions or rituals?
Urinating. Hugging my colleagues (you know like energetic, inter-corporeal ensemble building, we are one, we are many, listening with my feet, seeing you with my elbow!)

Melissa Hume and Gideon Payten-Griffiths are performing in Bluebeard; Or, The Marriage Mistakes Of A Nameless Bride, part of Bondi Feast 2017.
Dates: 25 – 29 July, 2017
Venue: Bondi Pavilion

5 Questions with Harriet Gillies and Pierce Wilcox

Harriet Gillies

Pierce Wilcox: Why do you love working with me?
Harriet Gillies: OMG it’s so good, obvi because Pierce is so good at banter game and then writing it down and making me talking shit sound like good dialogue 👍

No, but seriously why do you hate me so much, do we need to step outside?
Let’s GO.

Why is our show the best show?
Because I read out listicles about renaissance babies while we play The Pirates of Penzance music and you shockingly flirt with the audience, and because we drop a bucket of water on our heads. It’s also funny and interesting and cool i think 😉

What’s the worst thing on the internet?
This is such an inappropriate question – how could you Pierce how COULD YOU?! https://www.tweeddailynews.com.au/news/apn-meet-our-brainiest/146070/

I saw you talking to the witch who lives outside the grocery store, Ol’ Grocery Crone. I know she told you your future, don’t lie to me, what did she say?
Um it sounded like the world from that movie Joaquin Phoenix is in, Her and, like, I was Scarlett Johansson’s character omg sexy robot voice Harriet! #socool #thefutureisnow #comeseeourshow #youwillloveit #yqy

Pierce Wilcox

Harriet Gillies: Why is Harriet the best collaborator you have ever had?
Pierce Wilcox: Harriet is so goddamn great that working with her makes me infinitely better, thanks to the mere reflection of her glory. Even standing next to her increases my attractiveness by 300%. Plus she lets me nap on her couch when I get sleepy in rehearsal. I’m a big sleepy boy.

How excited are you about doing our show at Bondi Feast babe?
Girl, I am pinging you know it. I am going to get the worst fucking sunburn. I’ll be a crinkly theatre lobster.

What’s your all time fave audience interaction that we have had in They’ve Already Won?
Months after a run of the show, I starting seeing someone. She admitted that she first got a crush on me because of my performance in They’ve Already Won, but also she was bi and actually liked you more. That counts as interaction.

Do you think Dev Patel is a super babe, sex god, the finest man alive, or all of the above?
Dev Patel is the closest man has come to God’s perfect image. I would like to kiss the inside of his wrist.

What are you thinking about?
One question: is love is enough to save us?

Harriet Gillies and Pierce Wilcox are in They’ve Already Won, part of Bondi Feast 2017.
Dates: 26 – 27 July, 2017
Venue: Bondi Pavilion

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

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Photography by Roderick Ng, Dec 2014

Click here to see Best Of 2013