Review: Morgan Stern (Company Of Rogues)

companyofroguesVenue: Blood Moon Theatre (Potts Point NSW), Nov 23 – Dec 3, 2016
Playwright: Gina Schien
Director: Goldele Rayment
Cast: Graeme Rhodes
Image by Chrissie Ianssen

Theatre review
The Gent awakes in 1972 after a deep slumber. The Edwardian era is now long gone, but there is unfinished business still to be taken care of. He returns to this mortal coil, to find resolution, as a ghost and as guardian angel to a certain Morgan Stern, who faces a set of problems not unlike the ones our Gent had had to deal with, when taking care of his own daughter, back in those less than halcyon days. It was early 19th Century when he last found himself in these challenging circumstances, and it appears very little has changed after two hundred years.

Complex and incredibly rich, Gina Schien’s imaginative writing offers extraordinary insight into the human condition and the glitches in our lives that so often surprise and derail. The language is beautiful, with sensitive attention paid to rhythms and imagery that makes the play an involving one. Dramatic tension can sometimes be lost in its poetic approach, but director Goldele Rayment’s manipulations of atmosphere and spacial configurations are cleverly calibrated, with only one actor and one swivel chair sustaining our concentration. Tegan Nicholls’ work on sound and Roderick van Gelder’s lights are both noteworthy in their efforts to transform and transport our consciousness through the production’s mystical qualities.

Graeme Rhodes delivers an astonishing performance for the one man show, completely captivating with a presence full of conviction and a mental focus impressive with its precision. His voice and physicality are both commanding, both exactingly channelled in each of the play’s sequences, to impart meaning and enthralment. We are amazed by the way his memory is able to contain so much text, seemingly effortlessly, but more importantly, his airtight authority over the material’s depths and expanses, and his ability to exercise inventiveness along with elucidating the writing’s trickier ideas, have us flummoxed, in awe.

When art talks about reality, it does so differently from science. Morgan Stern is about contradictory realities, and how it is necessary for us to be able to encompass things that are not subjectively logical into existence. The world is infinite, in scale and in possibilities, and much as we think that the stuff we know is all there is, art will tell us that the opposite is true. The stuff we know, and the stuff that is knowable, will always and forever be infinitesimal, and every life must count, however inconvenient the other may be.

www.companyofrogues.com

Review: The Typists (Company Of Rogues)

companyofroguesVenue: Exchange Hotel (Balmain NSW), July 8 – 24, 2015
Playwright: Murray Schisgal
Director: Hannah Strout
Cast: Jena Prince, Goldele Rayment
Image by Maylei Hunt

Theatre review
Work should not only be about survival and paying bills, but for those of us in the 9 to 5 lifestyle, being caught up in everything that is menial and petty, the meaning of life can become quite abysmal. No child grows up wishing for endless days of nothing but toil, yet the vast majority fall into all-consuming occupations that are neither enriching nor satisfying, beyond the monetary payments it offers. Murray Schisgal’s The Typists is a 1963 anthropological examination of modernity that more than stands the test of time. It might even be seen to have gained relevance over the years. The context of the writing is painfully realistic, but its approach is absurd, twisted, and ridiculously funny. Schisgal tells a lot of obvious truths, making us come face to face with the conundrum that hovers around us everyday.

Hannah Strout’s inspired direction of the piece is thoughtful, dynamic and wonderfully captivating. She finds impetus from the themes being discussed, and uses it to manufacture theatrical sequences that appeal to our minds and senses. Strout’s creation is an engrossing show that speaks intimately to each person’s lived experience. We are fascinated by the spectacles she builds on stage, but more than that, what seems bizarre on the surface resonates with a surprising depth. The marriage between the madness being presented and the irrationality of our daily truths, is a sensational meeting that is thoroughly exciting, while being undeniably and palpably dark.

Beautifully lit by Kevin Ng, the production is a resourceful one that creates atmosphere and punchy tonal variations with a minimal technical structure. Space is cleverly transformed to serve the purpose of the narrative and to establish a language of dramatic flamboyance. Kirby Medway’s music is often seamlessly introduced to evoke emotional responses, and to maintain the show’s comedic quality as well as its heightened style of expression. Also accomplished are performances by Jena Prince and Goldele Rayment, both artistic and earnest in their focus, even though early scenes are initiated with a stiffness that takes more time than necessary to warm up. Nevertheless, the duo make a very funny team, but it must be noted that their attention never strays away from the poignancies of the piece. Prince and Rayment’s passion for the work is genuine, infectious, and very engaging, making attendance of the play very pleasurable indeed.

People are never fully conscious of their actions and behaviour, and it takes artists to step on the brakes and bring to the fore, all that is left in oblivion. The Typists warns against wasting life and time. It is a wake up call that applies to everyone who forgets to examine choices made in the past and the present, and questions our failure to take charge of the future. In all its hilarious pessimism, the show makes the point that fate is in our hands if we decide to take its reins.

www.companyrogues.com