Review: Overflow (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Sep 9 – 25, 2022
Playwright: Travis Alabanza
Director: Dino Dimitriadis
Cast: Janet Anderson
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
For an hour in a nightclub toilet, Rosie shares her thoughts, reflections and memories. It is perhaps not surprising that she has so much on her mind, being a young trans woman, who has had to navigate everything in life with extraordinary dexterity. It is perhaps not surprising also, that we find Rosie stuck in a public loo, hiding from the constant presence of threatening forces on the outside, as trans people remain some of the world’s most persecuted.

Travis Alabanza’s Overflow is a passionate one-person show, very much of our times. Trans people have always existed, but with the confluence of activism and technology, we find ourselves with a new voice, discovering access that had hitherto been unavailable. Alabanza’s verbosity represents floodgates being finally open, and in Overflow, they talk exhaustively about injustice and struggle, as well as emancipation and inspiration. It is the perspective of a new generation of transness, one filled with jubilation and with anguish.

Alabanza’s keen observations and irrefutable candour, are the ingredients to Overflow‘s immense power and intensity. There is a haphazardness to the work, as an inevitable result of the conceit, involving a person in the midst of trauma trying to find coherence, but under the directorship of Dino Dimitriadis, those fragmentations turn poetic, for a theatrical experience that is perhaps unexpectedly beautiful, in its expressions of frustration, fear and fury.

Janet Anderson plays Rosie with exceptional commitment, and irrepressible sass. It is an exhilarating performance, highly convincing with her depiction of challenges faced by trans communities everywhere. Delivering poignancy at select key moments, Anderson’s vulnerability is perhaps slightly too sparingly mobilised, although the intention of portraying Rosie as self-possessed and spirited, is certainly sagacious.

Flawlessly designed, this production of Overflow is an unequivocal treat for the eyes and ears. Set design by Dimitriades uses the claustrophobic scenario to create a tight enclosure, so that our attention is always kept sharply in focus. Costuming by Jamaica Moana conveys the precise era of where we are right now, along with Rosie’s brassy youthfulness. Lights by Benjamin Brockman are an astonishing pleasure, invoking the exuberance of club life, along with its dangerous and foreboding sides, to connect with our complex and contradictory instinctual responses. Sound and music are precisely and imaginatively rendered by Danni A. Espositol, who works intricately with Alabanza’s text, to amplify our emotional reactions for every detail of the play, in an exploration of humanity at its fundamental levels.

With new freedoms, come new forms of retaliation. In some ways, trans and gender non-conforming people have in recent years, found more room to be, but it seems our adversaries are concurrently triggered, and emboldened. Where we had previously felt the palpability of potential threat, that lurking sense of menace has turned into substantiated violence, most notably in places like North America, where more than one trans person is being murdered every day, keeping in mind that we are only an estimated 1.5% of the general population.

It is a legitimate worry that our numbers are too small, to be able to change enough hearts and minds, for the revolution to be completed. The creativity and fortitude we possess however, allow us to reach not one person at a time, but the masses, on the stage and on infinite internet screens. We are the wisest and the most captivating, and in Overflow it is clear that our message of defiance is not to be denied.

www.darlinghursttheatre.com

Review: Benched (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), May 25 – 29, 2022
Playwright: Jamila Main
Director: Amy Sole
Cast: Jamila Main
Images by Darlinghurst Theatre Company

Theatre review
Jamila sits on a bench, and with each guest that joins them, they tell an autobiographical story, depending on which prop the guest chooses. It could be a sneaker, a frisbee, a pair of googles, a volleyball or a football. In Benched, the stories are about sport, or more precisely, they are about physical activity, as it relates to the artist, who had in recent years, become disabled.

Each yarn lasts approximately 15 minutes, and is presented directly to the guest who steps on stage. For those who sit within the auditorium, we have the pleasure of witnessing Jamila performing to six different guests, telling and partially re-telling these stories, about loss and despair, inspiration and awakenings.

Benched is revelatory and powerful, but also painful. It is about a young life that has to change course drastically and unexpectantly, involving an abundance of disillusionment that befalls its subject, not only prematurely, but at a level of intensity rarely surpassed. Jamila Main’s theatrical creation places front and centre, the struggles of one person whose challenges are yet to be a matter of recollection; they are going through it in real time on stage, even though their reflective attitude is admirably generous.

As much as Main’s show is about their personal experiences, the passion they demonstrate about Benched being a mouthpiece for wider disabled communities, is unmistakeable. Indeed, to raise awareness around the lack of opportunities and representation for those who live with disabilities, is a worthy cause, and in this show, we see how much of the world can benefit, from understanding things through those perspectives.

As a writer Main’s degree of honesty is almost self-sacrificial, and certainly immediately resonant. As a performer, they are thoroughly likeable, with an uncanny ability to read and manoeuvre the crowd, which is an important quality for this most intimate of theatre styles. Directed by Amy Sole, the show is extremely sensitive, but also gently humorous, with a spirit of inclusiveness that feels unparalleled and sadly, exceptional. Benched is ultimately a small work, but everything that it does, reveals all the possibilities that we have been ignoring, not only in art, but also in living.

www.darlinghursttheatre.com

Review: Stay Woke (Darlinghurst Theatre Company / Malthouse Theatre)

Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Mar 26 – Apr 17, 2022
Playwright: Aran Thangaratnam
Director: Bridget Balodis
Cast: Rose Adams, Brooke Lee, Dushan Philips, Kaivu Suvarna
Images by Phoebe Powell

Theatre review
Sai is joining his brother Niv at a snow resort. The two have always had a difficult relationship, but introducing Sai’s girlfriend Kate to the mix for the first time, is only making things worse. The young men are Asian-Australian with roots in Sri Lanka, and Kate is white, with very little familiarity about cultures beyond her ethnocentric existence. Niv has no tolerance for ignorance, so even though Kate means well, her social illiteracy causes incessant altercations to occur inside the chalet.

Aran Thangaratnam’s Stay Woke brings focus to the current process of reckoning, as we find ways to understand and undermine the white supremacy that has faced scant opposition these last few centuries. The comedy places one white character in tight quarters with three people of colour (including Niv’s romantic partner Mae), who now know better than to just let things slide. It is a challenging time, and the play helps make tangible, the difficult conversations that are taking place, as minorities devise strategies to confront the hegemony.

Thangaratnam’s writing is generous in spirit (there is no real vilification of Kate or any other white people), but its passion is unmistakable. The politics in Stay Woke are carefully considered, and its humour is well rendered, although some of its dialogue could benefit from being more conversational. Direction by Bridget Balodis too, lacks a convincing naturalism in early scenes, but as the stakes escalate, tensions are marvellously harnessed, in this mesmerising theatrical work about race relations and familial connections.

Production designer Matilda Woodroofe delivers a stunning set, complete with oversized windows revealing falling snow. Rachel Lee’s lights are invitingly warm, beautiful and nuanced, as they quietly transform with the show’s oft shifting moods. Sound design by Daniella A Esposito is ambitious, and perhaps too detailed in what it tries to establish for the staging, frequently drawing undue attention to itself, instead of providing gentle enhancement to the story being told.

Actor Dushan Philips brings great intensity to Niv, with a brand of overwrought expressiveness that feels entirely appropriate for the bombastic character. Kaivu Suvarna is a more subdued presence, but effective in cultivating an air of authenticity for the stage, as the more diplomatic Sai. Playing Kate is Rose Adams, who can be exaggerated with some of her comedy, although excellent at providing a clear interpretation of her role’s qualities. Brooke Lee is perhaps the most convincing of the cast, able to convey a sense of truthfulness for all their moments, whether comical or dramatic.

Stay Woke makes good points about who we are and how we should evolve, but there is a politeness to its pronouncements, that feels strangely conservative. For our art to be politically effective, it is necessary that we have the capacity to accommodate chaotic disruptions and unpleasurable assertions. We live in an awkward time, when so much of normalcy is being interrogated and deconstructed. For those who are used to experiencing big changes, we know that discomfort is a sensation that needs to be embraced, for without it, the old status quo remains triumphant.

www.darlinghursttheatre.com | www.malthousetheatre.com.au

Review: A Chorus Line (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

Venue: Sydney Opera House (Sydney NSW), Feb 13 – Mar 11, 2022
Music: Marvin Hamlish
Lyrics: Edward Kleban
Book: Nicholas Dante, James Kirkwood
Director: Amy Campbell
Cast: Max Bimbi, Molly Bugeja, Angelique Cassimatis, Ross Chisari, Nadia Coote, Tim Dashwood, Lachlan Dearing, Mackenzie Dunn, Maikolo Fekitoa, Adam Jon Fiorentino, Natalie Foti, Ashley Goh, Mariah Gonzalez, Brady Kitchingham, Madeleine Mackenzie, Rechelle Mansour, Natasha Marconi, Rubin Matters, Ryan Ophel, Tony Oxybel, Ethan Ritchie, Suzanne Steele, Harry Targett, Angelina Thomson
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
Originally conceived in 1975 by Michael Bennett, the legendary musical A Chorus Line involves an ensemble cast of nineteen, several unforgettable songs, and dance sequences that have become an indelible part of our collective cultural memory. It is the simple story about Broadway director Zach at a casting call, auditioning a throng of dancers, for eight places in his new show. A Chorus Line is a tribute to the innumerable artists who have dedicated their lives to a passion, that never yields commensurate rewards. The show is an opportunity for talents to show their wares, with each member of cast provided individual moments of glory, as well as working in groups for some of the most exciting and complicated choreography in the musical format.

Director and choreographer Amy Campbell’s ambitious revival, is a breath-taking experience. Even though the lacklustre book remains tedious, it is always an unequivocal joy when the performers are in motion. Campbell’s love for the art of performance, and for those who do it, is palpable. Her show is faithful to the look and feel of 1970s New York, complete with slinky modern jazz flourishes that transport us back to a time of decadent glamour. Each second of dance is complex, detailed and powerful, a real sumptuous feast for the eyes.

Peter Rubie’s lights are at least as visually impressive. They enhance perfectly every scene that unfolds, sometimes quiet and subtle, sometimes flamboyantly bombastic, but always stylish and surprising. Whether accompanying bodies active or still, Rubie’s work is consistently imaginative, never settling for the obvious. The beauty he delivers is truly sublime. Christine Mutton’s costumes too, are noteworthy, in bringing both realism, and vibrant, balanced colour, to a staging that will be remembered for its unparalleled resplendence.

The pivotal role of Zach is played by Adam Jon Fiorentino, whose use of voice marvellously regulates atmosphere from start to finish. Angelique Cassimatis delivers the singularly most poignant anecdote, as Cassie, complete with jaw dropping intensity in her iconic number, “The Music and the Mirror”.  We fall for all of the cast, as they are foregrounded one at a time, but it is their work as a cohesive whole, that has us spellbound. Together, they are formidable.

Much has changed over these five decades, since the inception of A Chorus Line. For one, we are no longer tolerant of authority figures like Zach irresponsibly demanding their subordinates, to reveal secrets or to relive trauma, in the company of strangers. Women and men, in the arts especially, have started to reject the delineations between gender constructs, and in the process are learning to meld the false differences of us and them. The theatrical arts however, remain a pure vehicle for communities to congregate, to debate, and to share. Since time immemorial, we have formulated ways to listen to each other, to understand our neighbours, and to reach consensus, hard as it might be, because we always knew that on our own, we are doomed to fail. There are no queens and kings in A Chorus Line, only a united front that can weather anything, and keep the dreams alive.

www.darlinghursttheatre.com

Review: seven methods of killing kylie jenner (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

Venue: Darlinghurst Theatre Company (Darlinghurst NSW), Apr 7 – May 2, 2021
Playwright: Jasmine Lee-Jones
Director: Shari Sebbens
Cast: Vivienne Awosoga, Moreblessing Maturure
Images by Teniola Komolafe

Theatre review
Twitter is blowing up, and Cleo is unable to go to sleep. The idea that an extraordinarily privileged white woman could be declared a “self-made billionaire” is not just absurd, it is proving completely enraging to the young Black student living in her tiny English flat. When Cleo whips out her phone, and starts to tweet her feelings in response to the announcement of Kylie Jenner’s newly minted status, her words come fast and furious. For those who have nothing to lose, anonymity in the Twittersphere is especially useful, in challenging authority and for exposing injustice. Speaking truth to power is incredibly seductive, as we see in Jamine Lee-Jones’ very twenty-first century play seven methods of killing kylie jenner, until one discovers that the incendiary capabilities of social media, can work in all directions.

Playwright Lee-Jones is so ahead of the curve, one is tempted to label her, an original. Her ability to distil incredibly complex concepts pertaining to discussions around race, feminism and queerness, that have been swirling like confused wildfire in recent years, into a coherent and powerful 90-minute two-hander for the stage, feels so much to be a sort of inconceivable genius. The way Lee-Jones is able to focus all our messy arguments into something persuasive and lucid, is completely remarkable. Also very noteworthy, is the wit that she introduces into every scene, no matter how heavy things get, that demonstrates a deep understanding of how theatre operates. The laughs are incessant, as are the searing hard facts that Lee-Jones exposes unapologetically.

Bringing scintillating life to Lee-Jones’ words of wisdom, is Shari Sebbens’ meticulous yet spirited direction of the work. There is an exuberant boldness to Sebbens’ approach that delivers to the audience an exceptionally jubilant experience; her show is full of infectious joy yet, importantly, we are never let off the hook. Every morsel of difficult truth is driven home with a fierce stridency. seven methods of killing kylie jenner however is not a didactic exercise. One can hardly imagine its tone to be conducive for the conversion of any adversaries, but for preaching to the choir, it is pure gospel.

Actor Moreblessing Maturure inhabits Cleo with unparalleled authenticity, making it impossible to discern any disparity between the performer and the role she brings to the stage. There is not one ounce of fakery in Maturure’s depictions. The intensity with which she conveys every political assertion, coupled with the sheer perfection of her comedic timing, delivers to us a theatre that is nothing less than life affirming. Also very dynamic is Vivienne Awosoga, who plays Kara, the lighter-skinned queer counterpart, offering crucial balance to Cleo’s sometimes sanctimonious beliefs. Awosoga exhibits impressive versatility, for a character who has to traverse a wide range of emotions and intentions within the duration. The pair’s glorious chemistry (along with so much else of the production) is one for our herstory books. They are splendid together, so impossibly tight in sensibility and rhythm, keeping us hopelessly captivated and wishing that their show would never end.

Cleverly paced video projections by Wendy Yu, that display text and imagery from Twitter, play a significant part in the storytelling. Along with sounds by Kim ‘Busty Beatz’ Bowers, the production never fails to stoke our passions, and to have us riled up at will. Kate Baldwin’s lighting design accurately and sensitively calibrates tone or mood for each sequence, while Keerthi Subramanyam’s set and costumes work with our imagination, to establish time and place for this tale of the Twitterati.

It has taken a long time for a show of this nature to materialise in our city. It has taken so much effort for culture to shift in so many quarters, in order that two Black women could appear on a prominent stage, be supported by other women of colour behind the scenes, to make grand pronouncements aimed at taking down the white supremacy that has plagued this land.

There is no guarantee however, that this seminal occasion will not just be a flash in the pan, that everything would revert to old ways. The worry that all energies have been depleted is not unfounded, as what seems on the surface to be an auspicious beginning, has in fact required years of investment and sacrifice. On the other hand, activists have always been tired. In fact, we become activists precisely because we are tired, of all the nonsense that fills our days. Being tired is not new to us, and our capacity for hope continues to lay beyond the bounds of human possibility, online and in real life.

www.darlinghursttheatre.com | www.greendoortheatrecompany.com

Review: I’m With Her (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Nov 9 – Dec 1, 2019
Lead Writer: Victoria Midwinter Pitt
Director: Victoria Midwinter Pitt
Cast: Gabrielle Chan, Shakira Clanton, Lynette Curran, Deborah Galanos, Emily Havea
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
Named after a prominent slogan from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, I’m With Her features nine remarkable women, and their tales of resistance in relation to patriarchal structures that have tried to stand in the way of women’s achievements. Indeed these are success stories, representing only those who had made it in spite of immense opposition, but through them we observe not only the struggles that women everywhere encounter, but also how some of us have been able to emerge victorious.

Based on first-hand accounts by some of our favourite Australians, from Julia Gillard to Marcia Langton, as well as some lesser known but equally accomplished others, the work offers valuable inspiration to those who encounter roadblocks everyday on account of our gender. Created by Victoria Midwinter Pitt, the three-hour show is infrequently sentimental, but always powerful with what it says in terms of our capacity to weather storms and overcome obstacles. There is a uniformity in how each monologue unfolds, that reflects the similarity of experiences, and the journeys we have to make, in order to attain fulfilling lives.

Although repetitive in its form, I’m With Her is composed of anecdotes from highly compelling individuals, performed by an exceptionally sincere cast. Shakira Clanton’s emotional intensity, along with a precision in her motivations, give resonance to everything she utters. Similarly affecting is Emily Havea, who brings valuable zeal to the show. The whimsical Gabrielle Chan is memorable for her wonderful sense of humour, and Lynette Curran’s ability to convey vulnerability keeps us on the edge of our seats. Deborah Galanos is robust in her portrayals, and as with all the other actors in I’m With Her, presents an indelible impression of strength and resilience.

Audio-visual design by Mia Holton is noteworthy for delivering breathtaking imagery via a series of cleverly assembled projections. Further enhancing theatricality is sound and music by Tegan Nicholls, punctuating the journey with aural cues that help us absorb nuances as they arrive. Kelsey Lee’s lights are delicately calibrated, to guide us through shifts in mood and attitude, as we traverse these profound testimonies.

Many of these, are women at the top of their game, but it is important we remember that these games are often themselves the problem. One of the personalities we meet is Sister Patricia Madigan, who wishes for women to one day be ordained as priests, but we must not ignore the fact that even if a female pope should eventuate, the church is still Catholic. Having more women in power will certainly improve things for everyone, but we must not pretend that any tactic that retains old systems that thrive on the subjugation of vast numbers of people, is the way to solve our problems. As we continue with trying to get more women replacing men at positions of influence, it is imperative that we think up new ways to organise our lives. Glass ceilings can be broken, but the end game is to have all of us elevated.

www.darlinghursttheatre.com

Review: Rainbow’s End (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Aug 10 – Sep 1, 2019
Playwright: Jane Harrison
Director: Liza-Mare Syron
Cast: Frederick Copperwaite, Phoebe Grainer, Lily Shearer, Lincoln Vickery, Dalara Williams
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
Jane Harrison’s Rainbow’s End sees three generations of women from the Dear family, living together by the Goulburn River, navigating the challenges of being Aboriginal on colonised land. Things are hard, but these characters are upbeat, as though demonstrating a defiance in their very nature, that refuses to be subdued. The lighthearted quality of Harrison’s play makes for a charming portrait of Indigenous resilience; it resists our desire for a narrative that foregrounds these women in pain, choosing only to show us how they are able to overcome unremitting disadvantage.

Directed by Liza-Mare Syron, the production is full of spirit, with an enjoyable mischievousness that ensures we respond with a sense of admiration, for the Dear women and their people. Lights by Karen Norris are particularly well conceived, a dynamic element relied upon to provide visual variation. Actor Lily Shearer is a cheeky elder as Nan Dear, bringing considerable warmth to the piece. The vivacious Dalara Williams contributes exuberance in the role of Gladys, memorable for the ironic humour she renders as the unlikely monarchist. Teenage Dolly is played by Phoebe Grainer, whose innocence is a defining factor of this story about Yorta Yorta women in the 1950’s. Grainer is a charming performer, effective in making the play feel authentic, thus prompting us to question the progress of race relations in this country, more than 65 years later.

Rainbow’s End is an Indigenous story told by Indigenous Australians. In it, they demand improvements for their communities today, as the Dear women had done a lifetime ago. We are accustomed to the idea that progress is linear, but there is much evidence to show that we do not operate that way. As white supremacy makes a less than taciturn return to fashion, we have to take all precautions to ensure that its racist agenda, is faced with obstruction at every opportunity. It pretends to do good, when in fact it keeps doing bad, always using lying words to restrain us. They talk about intentions to make things better, but their actions only reveal the opposite. We must insist on recognising the truth, and not be swayed by their language. We must not be manipulated into thinking that where Indigenous Australia is today, is anywhere near good enough.

www.moogahlin.org | www.darlinghursttheatre.com

Review: Once (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Jun 26 – Aug 4, 2019
Book: Enda Walsh
Music & Lyrics: Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová
Director: Richard Carroll
Cast: Joe Accaria, Stefanie Caccamo, Cameron Daddo, Victoria Falconer, Toby Francis, Conrad Hamill, Drew Livingston, Abe Mitchell, Rupert Reid, Alec Steedman, Joanna Weinberg
Images by Robert Catto
Theatre review
Guy meets girl, and girl decides to spend all her days helping insecure guy fulfil his dreams. Once is only about a decade old, but already feels like a story from an archaic era. The musical is however not unappealing, with an avalanche of beautiful melodies, and the now famous concept of having its cast double up as musicians for the show’s entirety. It is quite a spectacle, watching eleven performers playing instruments, singing and acting. Entertainment value for Once is predictably high, even with all of its unrelenting cliches.

Directed by Richard Carroll, the production is thoroughly sentimental, to emphasise the romantic nature of the central relationship, although it does seem to diminish the potential for greater humour through the plot. Set design by Hugh O’Connor elegantly transforms the stage into a very believable Irish pub, with Peter Rubie’s lights bringing a dusty melancholia to proceedings. Remarkable work by sound engineer Dylan Robinson translates all the live music into honey for our ears, making the sounds of Once a truly memorable feature.

Lead performers Stephanie Caccamo and Toby Francis are exceptional singers, both deeply impressive with their renditions of these saccharine show tunes; we are left wanting to hear their voices forever. Their acting however is rarely convincing, with chemistry between the two a conspicuous absence. Charisma is compensated by several of its supporting performers, most notably, Victoria Falconer and Drew Livingstone, who create adorable characters that try to bring a sense of effervescence to the stage. On occasions where movement director Amy Campbell has the opportunity to work her magic, everything comes to life, but those moments are few, in this frequently sombre presentation.

Once allows us to celebrate the extraordinary talent of those who live amongst us. There is so much that our artists are capable of, if only they have all the platforms necessary to demonstrate what they do best. When we first meet the protagonist, he had all but given up hope of finding an audience for his wonderful songwriting. This is sadly an all too common truth for so many. Humans are creative by nature, but the way we live today, so often negates those capacities, in favour of conventional systems that require the repression and impediment of our best tendencies. Artists need self-belief, and they need to be supported, especially when the going gets tough, as it invariably does.

www.darlinghursttheatre.com

Review: Small Mouth Sounds (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), May 3 – 26, 2019
Playwright: Bess Wohl
Director: Jo Turner
Cast: Amber McMahon, Sharon Millerchip, Yalin Ozucelik, Jane Phegan, Justin Smith, Dorje Swallow, Jo Turner
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
The story takes place at one of those spiritual retreats, where people spend days not talking, trying to access a state of deep meditation. Six characters in Bess Wohl’s Small Mouth Sounds gather at one such facility, each with their own set of problems, seeking prodigious revelations that could mean an instant moment of salvation, to release them from considerable pain. These personal tragedies, with all their human vulnerability and desperation, form the basis of Wohl’s comedy. Cynical but also honest, the play is distinctive for its scant dialogue, relying instead on actors’ physical capacities to chart a journey, through their amusing presentation of sequences that alternate between absurd and meaningful.

The show is often funny, always intriguing with its creative renderings of a unique theatrical concept. A clever cast works exhaustively for our entertainment, offering up personalities that are endearing, familiar and believable. While a cohesive team, each performer delivers their own memorable nuances, for a result that is surprisingly textured. Slightly less effective is Jo Turner’s voice playing the part of the unseen Guru, perhaps a tinge too obvious with his humour. As director, Turner’s enthusiasm is more well placed. There is an effervescence to the production that appeals, even if it does take some time to turn persuasive. Early sections have a tendency to feel forced, but our engagement improves incrementally over time, and when it wins us over, Small Mouth Sounds proves an enjoyable ride.

Jeremy Allen’s set and Jasmine Rizk’s lights make for a visually vibrant staging, but it is Tegan Nicholls’ work as sound designer and composer that truly impresses. In the absence of the usual voices that occupy our auditory attention, Nicholls fills ninety minutes with an intricate mix of sounds from nature, as well as an assortment of music and effects, to help manufacture a rich and magical experience of theatre. Our imagination is guided by her detailed ear, for subconscious manipulations that take us through a gamut of emotional responses.

The seekers in Small Mouth Sounds have big issues to wrestle with, but there is little poignancy to be found in their respective narratives. No great transformations occur as a result of their fleeting commitment in the countryside. It is a realistic conclusion to the tale, one that can feel somewhat empty, although its insistent refusal of a happy ending in the form of outlandish miracles, is admirable. There is great value in keeping silent and looking inward, but to expect enlightenment in an instant, is naive. When we hope to heal, we think about returning to an idealistic state of being, before the infliction of damage. It may be however, that all we can ask for, is to be able to move forward, with the minimum of encumbrance, even whilst bearing a soul full of scars.

www.darlinghursttheatre.com

Review: Russian Transport (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Mar 9 – 31, 2019
Playwright: Erika Sheffer
Director: Joseph Uchitel
Cast: Ryan Carter, Rebecca Rocheford Davies, Nathan Sapsford, Hayley Sullivan, Berynn Schwerdt
Images by Jeremy Ghali, Nino Tamburri

Theatre review
The lives of a Russian family in Brooklyn are turned upside down, when a relative comes to stay. Ex-crim Boris’ arrival leads us to question if turning a new leaf can ever be a simple proposition, for those who have spent all their lives exposed to immorality. Erika Sheffer’s Russian Transport is a slow burn, with drama that starts to engage late in the piece. Its themes are intriguing, but the promise of philosophical resonance is subsumed by a narrative that can feel somewhat hesitant, with perspectives that are inadequately critical. The characters we encounter are fiery, but the play is oddly short of passion.

Designed by Anna Gardiner, the production bears a striking appearance, with a robustness that keeps our eyes active and involved. Joseph Uchitel’s direction ensures an energetic, quite raucous stage, but struggles to achieve meaningful cohesion between his actors for their story to really captivate. Rebecca Rocheford Davies and Berynn Schwerdt play mother and father, both actors imposing and dynamic, but are ultimately insufficiently convincing with their portrayals of two very complex personalities. Troublemaker Boris is on the other hand, a more obvious role, given appropriate vigour by Nathan Sapsford. The show is stolen by Ryan Carter and Hayley Sullivan, who bring life to teenage parts in Russian Transport. Sullivan’s ability to inject nuance into her 14 year-old Mira is commendable, and Carter’s exceptional fastidiousness and intensity as Alex, is responsible for the show’s most powerful moments.

The loss of innocence is eternally fascinating. In migrant families, that process of a teenager having to emerge into adulthood is additionally complicated, with influences and expectations coming from disparate sources, all simultaneously insisting on adherence. Alex and Mira are American kids, but Russia is in their blood. The play allows us to see the extent to which cultural heritage can dominate the development of our young. Even when we have the privilege of choosing where to raise your children, it seems inevitable that the baggage we had intended to leave behind, can so easily return to materially affect future generations. We have ghosts that are both good and bad. The challenge is our own ability to discern, before having them unleashed on our nearest and dearest.

www.fishyproductions.com | www.darlinghursttheatre.com