Review: Chorus (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Aug 28 – Sep 21, 2019
Playwright: Ang Collins
Director: Clemence Williams
Cast: Jack Crumlin, Madelaine Osborn, Nicole Pingon, Ella Prince, Eliza Scott, Chemon Theys
Images by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review
Agamemnon is a pop star enjoying considerable success, but like the mythical king she has named herself after, accomplishments come at a very high price. Ang Collins’ Chorus talks a little about stardom, but is more concerned about a motherhood that never lived up to its promises. The play’s purposeful juxtaposition with the Greek legend also prompts us to think about gendered differences in the way we discuss morality, and how we are more permissive of one gender over the other, especially in matters pertaining to parenthood. It is a powerful context that Collins has formulated, with intriguing characters and exciting dialogue delivering an enjoyable theatrical experience. The story’s climax does however feel slightly underwhelming, due in part to the writing’s subtle approach. In preventing itself from turning exploitative, Chorus unfortunately loses some of its drama when we arrive at the crucial moment of revelation.

Performances are strong, with Ella Prince an appropriately assertive presence in the main role, bringing a wrathful intensity to a personality who has some very serious issues in need of resolution. Chemon Theys is memorable as love interest Cass, and persuasive in her portrayal of an unapologetic Instagram celebrity. The baby’s father is played by Jack Crumlin, marvellously complex and authentic with the emotions he depicts as the deeply conflicted Chris.

Much pleasure is derived from the cast’s wonderfully tight ensemble work, inspired by traditional Greek theatre, but given a contemporary twist, complete with live video projections by Sarah Hadley, that magnify the sense of grandeur introduced by the chorus as stage device. Emma White’s set design is elegant in its minimalism. Lights by Veronique Bennett are dynamic, able to add a hint of extravagance to proceedings. As director and sound designer, Clemence Williams’ sensual calibration of atmosphere makes for an absorbing production that holds us captive for the entire duration.

Agamemnon has every right to reject being defined as a mother, but this does not absolve her of responsibilities. We can be persuaded that love cannot be forced, but not doing one’s best to care for their offspring, is surely unequivocally immoral. We should all be encouraged to dream big, and we should learn to better celebrate those who dare to go out on a limb. Life turns hollow, when one is held back by fear and doubt. To be held back by duty however, is quite another thing. |

Review: The Other Side Of 25 (Bontom Productions)

Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Feb 5 – 9, 2019
Playwright: Becca Hurd
Director: Ellen Wiltshire
Cast: Becca Hurd
Images by Jasmin Simmons

Theatre review
Amory is 27 and pregnant, but tells us that babies are not her bag. Life is taking her on a journey, and she believes that to fall pregnant, is to take a pause from her meaningful experience of something much greater. Becca Hurd’s The Other Side Of 25 is indeed about the meaning of life, and quite accurately, its protagonist discovers that there is little as wonderful about existence, as it is to be of service to loved ones. It is soon revealed that Amory is surrogate, on behalf of her sister who has a medical condition that causes problems with child-bearing.

The one-woman show format compels its playwright to make deeply personal revelations that in turn, inspire our own reflections on big questions surrounding convention and inventiveness, the mundane and the sacred, ephemerality and legacy. Its unpretentious honesty allows a deceptively simple story to be told, in a style that is strikingly casual, by director Ellen Wiltshire who catches us unawares with the philosophies that the show contains. Hurd herself performs the piece, with a disarming immediacy that makes us imagine that everything must be autobiographical. Her instinct for the stage insists on our undivided attention, and we follow her every progression in relaying Amory’s story.

When we stop to think about procreation, the amount of reasons that can dissuade an individual from taking the plunge can be daunting. Amory’s decision to carry her sister’s baby is one of logic, but the vast majority of pregnancies occur in a space of emotion and intuition. We can delude ourselves into thinking that we have complete understanding about our individual paths in the world, but in a moment of control being usurped, Amory finds herself unwittingly transported. What was once a hindrance, turns in a flash, into something to be cherished above all else.

Review: Unfinished Works (Bontom Productions)

bontomVenue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Mar 23 – Apr 2, 2016
Playwright: Thomas De Angelis
Director: Clemence Williams
Cast: Deborah Galano, Kyle Kazmarziks, Lucy Goleby, Contessa Treffone, Rhett Walton

Theatre review (of a preview performance)
Thomas De Angelis’ Unfinished Works talks about art and the selling of art, but it is also concerned with how young people discover adulthood, and the challenges it presents. Strong themes and engaging characters give the play its allure, but its ideas are not always as clever as they wish to be. Dialogue and plot structure also require further refinement and deeper thought, but its concluding, and climactic, scenes are fortunately the most effective and powerful of its two-hour duration.

There is an earnest and provocative spirit, introduced by director Clemence Williams, who explores the text with great honesty and is always conscious of giving proceedings a dimension of emotional intensity. There could be more humour in the way characters interact, and a less innocent approach to the portrayal of their individual foibles, but Williams’ work is thoughtful and energetic, and a delight to connect with. Bringing visual sophistication is designer Charles Davis, who finds simple but smart solutions to accompany the production’s examination and representation of the art world. His set and lights are minimal in style, but very charming indeed.

Lucy Goleby does an astonishing job as Frank, the complicated art star with a lot of weight on her shoulders. Goleby’s portrayals of fear and cynicism feels thoroughly authentic, and the assertive confidence that persist alongside all her insecurities is fascinating to observe. The pairing of vulnerability and strength is beautifully inhabited by the actor, and it is that palpable humanity she depicts that keeps us engrossed. The other leading lady of the piece is Contessa Treffone who plays Isabel, a young woman finding her place in the world, defining her self against family and negotiating grey areas of ambition and sex. Treffone shows strong focus and conviction, and although slightly twee in tone, she is more than capable of holding our attention. The chemistry between both women is full of sparks and a real joy to watch. Unfinished Works does not explicitly discuss the issue of feminism, but there is no need to, because the women it places on stage are prime examples of how we are and how we should be seen; independent, intelligent, ambitious, and frightfully flawed.

5 Questions with Lucy Goleby and Contessa Treffone

Lucy Goleby

Lucy Goleby

Contessa Treffone: What is Unfinished Works about in one sentence?
Lucy Goleby: It’s the story of a successful artist, her agent, and an architect student with artistic ambition wrestling with the question of whether good art demands self-sacrifice and suffering.

Frank was originally written to be a male role. How have you found playing a role specifically written for a man?
It’s been a fascinating process. Although we changed the pronouns on day one, it’s taken me a while longer to wean myself off relying on a hyper-masculine energy. Male roles are inherently different from female roles and yet this is where I think we’ll eventually reach gender equality in performance – by writing complex and contradictory characters who are human first and gendered as a changeable afterthought.

Isabel has a bit of a talent crush on Frank in the play. Who is someone you have a talent crush on?
I think we all have a talent crush on Meryl Streep. The woman is superhuman in every way.

Rumour has it you are quite the jack of all trades. Tell us three hidden talents of Lucy Goleby, in 15 seconds, go!
1) I recently assembled, and now work at, a treadmill desk. 2) I play an excellent game of hide and seek. 3) I mend most things with dental floss.

Who would win in a battle, one hundred duck sized horses or one horse sized duck?
I’ll go with the 100 duck-sized horses – the more brain power, the better!

Contessa Treffone

Contessa Treffone

Lucy Goleby: What excites you about Unfinished Works?
Contessa Treffone: 1) The people. There is way too much talent in the one room not to get excited. 2) Creatively exploring the fundamental questions that I believe any artist asks themselves everyday; What is good art? And how does one make good art? 3) Deborah Galanos’ rehearsal snacks.

Who would play you in the biopic of your life?
Abbi Jacobson or Kristen Wiig. They can battle it out for the role.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Eliminate guns and plastic.

If you could claim any piece of art or invention as your own, what would you choose?
It would be so delicious to say that I actually painted Gustav Klimts, The Virgin. Or to be the brain behind batteries that store solar energy would be pretty brill!

What temptation can’t you resist?
Sean Connery and good gin. Preferably together.

Lucy Goleby and Contessa Treffone are appearing in Unfinished Works by Thomas De Angelis.
Dates: 23 Mar – 2 Apr, 2016
Venue: Seymour Centre