Review: Vampire Lesbians Of Sodom (Brevity Theatre)

brevityVenue: Kings Cross Hotel (Kings Cross NSW), Feb 25 – Mar 7, 2015
Playwright: Charles Busch
Director: Samantha Young
Actors: Jamie Collette, Skyler Ellis, Nick Gell, Pollyanna Nowicki, Olivia O’Flynn, Eliza Reilly

Theatre review

Queer culture and art are intrinsically anarchic. They are concerned with destabilising the status quo, not just for the things we talk about, but also for the ways in which they are discussed. Charles Busch’s Vampire Lesbians Of Sodom is a comedy that imagines an absurd narrative, and places it in an absurdist theatrical structure. There are rules to making a show work, and while they are not entirely disregarded in Busch’s writing, there is a thorough subversion of conventions that results in a highly unusual text that not only makes us laugh, but also encourages a more enlightened and evolved way of looking at social dynamics.

Adding to the already decadent flavour of Busch’s script, is a burlesque sensibility brought on by the incorporation of Musical Director Matthew Predny’s original compositions. The songs are sharp-witted and rousing, helping to propel our glee to dizzying euphoric heights. Also wonderful is Benjamin Brockman’s lighting design, successfully transforming a very ordinary venue into a theatre buzzing with a sordid and libidinous fecundity.

Central to the show’s themes is a playful but resolutely emancipated view of gender and sexuality, and emanating from that, a kind of paradigm that challenges the heteronormative imperative that affects every life. Director Samantha Young does exemplary work with the comedy as well as the politics of the piece. Part John Waters and part Mel Brooks, she brings a powerful and specific sense of humour that will prove to be curiously amusing to some, and uproarious for others. There is an intense and adventurous spirit that seeks to explore the limits of performance, philosophy and taste, conjuring a night of wild entertainment that pushes the right buttons.

The cast of six is cheeky and exuberant, with a unified comedic tone that truly delights, although it must be noted that each impressive player is given ample space to showcase their distinct and considerable talents. Eliza Reilly as Madeleine Astarte is sure-footed and engaging, adding an unexpected polish to the very bawdy material. Her Mae West-style delivery of punch lines is charming and effective, and the actor displays a natural flair for timing that endears herself to the audience with seemingly little effort. Astarte’s arch nemesis La Condessa is played by Nicholas Gell, whose very energetic and extravagant performance never feels out of place no matter how over the top he pitches it. It is a rare opportunity to witness an actor be completely ridiculous, and enthralling us with the hammiest presentation one can possibly imagine.

Edgy theatre is easier to dream up than to actualise (especially in conservative spaces like the Sydney theatre scene), but this version of Vampire Lesbians Of Sodom is certainly mad, bad, and dangerous to know. There will be some who find it too frivolous, and yet others who think it too gruff, but this is not a show that aims to please everyone, for it knows its crowd, and caters only for its own kind.

5 Questions with Benjamin Brockman

benjaminbrockmanWhat is your favourite swear word?
It is a mixture of Cum-Dumpster and Bitch-Tits the hyphen makes it dirtier.

What are you wearing?
Emotionally I am currently wearing me heart on my sleeve but physically I am naked wrapped in my leopard spotted sheets, I feel like Cruella de Vil if Cruella de Vil had a sex change and moved to Dulwich Hill.

What is love?
What’s love got to do got to do with it? (Tina, bless) But if you must know Love is Lust over a longer period of time with some glitter thrown on top and baked at 220 for a few months (I am in an on and off relationship with theatre, and let me tell you just between us he is a very ruff top)

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Shit, I haven’t seen other shows in a long time other then my own shows and I don’t mean to be biased but my own work is at least 26 out of 5 pretzels. I just watched The Theory Of Everything, 5 out of 5 pretzels.

Is your new show going to be any good?
I think you meant to ask me where to buy tickets, because this show is going to be the hottest thing you will see this year! Ingredients include: Bubbles, music, lesbians(fem and butch), Cher, Glitter, Skin, more Glitter, High Heels, Sequins, Hairy Cleavage, Spice Girls, Vampires, Non Hairy Cleavage & a 2000 year old Hyman did I mention CHER?! How could the show not be any good?

Benjamin Brockman is designing set and lights for Vampire Lesbians Of Sodom by Charles Busch.
Show dates: 25 Feb – 7 Mar, 2015
Show venue: Kings Cross Hotel

Suzy Goes See’s Best Of 2014


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



Photography by Roderick Ng, Dec 2014


Best of 2018 | Best of 2017 | Best of 2016Best of 2015Best Of 2013

Review: Wittenberg (Brevity Theatre / Sydney Independent Theatre Company)

rsz_wittenbergVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jan 7 – 25, 2014
Playwright: David Davalos
Director: Richard Hilliar
Actors: David Woodland, Alexander Butt, Nick Curnow, Lana Kershaw

Theatre review
Wittenberg is a play that examines the struggle between theology and philosophy. We are positioned along with Hamlet (in his younger years) in the centre of the action, caught between reason and religion. David Davalos’ text is a dense one. Western literature is referenced relentlessly, creating a post-modern structure based on citations of classical concepts, characters and quotations.

Richard Hilliar’s direction is confident and precise. He places equal emphasis on dramatics and content, ensuring a show that appeals intellectually and is also fabulously entertaining. Hilliar does his best to make sense of the lines, which are frequently academic and cerebral, and while some of us might find it challenging to absorb everything, the direction succeeds in keeping us engaged at all times.

Design elements of the production are simple, elegant and effective. The set in particular, works well with the space and the performers. Lighting is creative but also unintrusive. It is a pleasure to see the Old Fitzroy stage given some three-dimensionality and lightness.

Performances are consistently strong, and all actors seem to be very thoroughly rehearsed. Intentions are clear, and their control over their tricky lines are very accomplished. David Woodland’s performance however, is completely show stealing. His portrayal of John Faustus is charismatic, committed and irresistibly convincing. He has a fearless approach that effervesces unceasingly, and he resonates strongly at every turn. We hear his points of view clearly, and we empathise with his vulnerabilities. His co-actors are not weak by any stretch of the imagination, but the show becomes unintentionally asymmetrical in its intellectual arguments due to the overwhelming persuasiveness of one side.

Ultimately, this is not a play that seeks to change anyone’s core beliefs, but it reminds us of the other, and the values it holds close. Wittenberg is about the plurality of our existences, and the constant negotiations we endure in making sense of our daily lives.

5 Questions with Ashley Bell

ashleybellWhat is your favourite swear word?
‘Fuck’ has a multitude of uses, and I’m a big fan of versatility.

What are you wearing?
A knitted green and gold Gorman dress. So blatantly Australiana! However I feel wool was a bad choice on such a muggy Sydney day. Sweat’s sexy, right?!

What is love?
“…Baby don’t hurt me.”

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The last show I was meant to see was Summertime In The Garden Of Eden last week by Sisters Grimm/Griffin Theatre, but something came up and I didn’t get to go which was such a shame because I heard it was amazing! Lots of glitzy drag, exotica and American deep south references, with lots of cultural and gender reversals. It sounds like something I’d be right into, design-wise, so I’m thinking of re-booking so I don’t miss out!

Is your new show going to be any good?
Of course! The cast and crew are enthusiastic and passionate, and we’ve got a great script and great talent ready to show Sydney what they’ve got.

Ashley Bell is Costume Designer for Wittenberg.
Show dates: 7 – 25 Jan, 2014
Show venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre

5 Questions with Lana Kershaw

lanakershawWhat is your favourite swear word?
*Bleep* face – if well articulated it’s a delightful blend of vulgarity and humour.

What are you wearing?
Some hideously gorgeous 80’s-inspired-patterned-florescent-lycra-bike-pants, and a black shirt (or what I like to call ‘evening attire’).

What is love?
Love is a deep and unrelenting longing, whose momentary satisfactions justify a lifetime of desire.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The last show I saw was King Lear at The Old Fitz. It was a lovely production, with some really beautiful and poignant moments. Five stars!

Is your new show going to be any good?
The Brevity team are working to develop a show that audiences will find engaging, entertaining, and enjoyable. It’s a fantastic script, and I’m honoured to be part of the company that is introducing it to Sydney.

Lana Kershaw is appearing in Wittenberg.
Show dates: 7 – 25 Jan, 2013
Show venue: The Old Fitzroy Theatre

Fully Committed (Brevity Theatre)

fullycommittedVenue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Sep 26 – 28, 2013
Writer: Becky Mode
Director: Alexander Butt
Actor: Nick Curnow

Theatre review
This work is a vehicle for showcasing the talents of actor Nick Curnow, and the incredible versatility of his voice. The main character is Sam, who works in a windowless basement office, but he speaks to forty different characters on phones and intercom, and all are played memorably by Curnow. The experience of watching this production feels as though at a magic show, where the audience is kept fascinated, amused and gobsmacked for the entire duration.

The actor switches characters at lightning speed, and we marvel at his ability in portraying such an astounding range of people, as well as his extraordinary memory, which in the absence of other actors, is the only thing he can rely on. Like an athlete on stage, we admire the skill, technique and sheer hard work he has obviously put in for this production.

A strong feature of the show is the relentless air of frenzy that permeates it. Most of the characters are on edge, upset, or nervous, and the sense of urgency and tension is created very well by the actor and his director Alexander Butt. There are, however, a few comic moments that seem to have been sacrificed for the sake of speed and excitement. The script’s humour might have been more fully realised if the intensity of the piece is allowed to slightly relax at times.

It is noteworthy that the sound cues in this staging are crucial to the plot, and they are beautifully executed. One could imagine the sound booth being as intense as the action on stage with the incessant rings, beeps and buzzes that need to be produced perfectly in order for the play to work. This is entertaining, impressive and exciting theatre, with an actor who is perfectly cast. The next performer who takes on the show faces an onerous task, as it is difficult to imagine anyone possibly doing a better job of it.