5 Questions with Kyle Kazmarzik and Matt Minto

Kyle Kazmarzik

Kyle Kazmarzik

Matt Minto: If you could sit down with anyone in history and have a good chat, who would that be?
Kyle Kazmarzik: Fairly recently in history, but Robin Williams. A legend, my idol, a beautiful soul and bloody hilarious. A chat would be difficult from the laughing but I just would have loved to meet him.

Has it been difficult juggling multiple roles?
Not really. Each has their own difficulties and distinctive characteristics which make it easier to flip between them.

What is the one role you are dying to play in your career?
It changes from time to time. Maybe Macbeth. Or Jim Carey in a biopic. But I’d kill to play a role in Star Wars, a dark jedi like Darth Vader or Kylo Ren.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would that be?
New York City.

Name 3 of your favourite actors?
I’ve already mentioned Robin Williams. And Jim Carey. I mean the list goes on and on. But to name a third, I absolutely adore Amy Adams. And a sneaky fourth: Kristen Wiig.

Matt Minto

Matt Minto

Kyle Kazmarzik: If you weren’t an actor, what would you be doing?
Matt Minto: I’m quite interested in psychology, so something in that field.

What’s your favourite play that you reckon you’ll NEVER be in?
A Streetcar Named Desire.

Half the show is in 1958. If you could travel back in time, when would you go?
Late 1960’s, London.

Have you ever ‘corpsed’, or almost ‘corpsed’ during a show?
Yep, I’ve corpsed way too many times. The worst was in a production of Macbeth where I spent, what felt like 10 minutes, shaking with suppressed laughter.

Which do you find more challenging, 1958 Oliver or 2016 Oliver?
They both have their challenges but probably 1958 because of the fact it’s a time period I have no direct experience of.

Kyle Kazmarzik and Matt Minto can be seen in Darlinghurst Theatre’s The Pride by Alexi Kaye Campbell, part of Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2016 Festival.
Dates: 5 February – 6 March, 2016
Venue: Eternity Playhouse

5 Questions with Toni Scanlan and Jamie Oxenbould

Toni Scanlan

Toni Scanlan

What characters do you play in Good Works?
Toni Scanlan: Mrs. Kennedy – who is a working class woman with a strong connection with Catholisism and who has a daughter who challenges and disregards the social and religious expectations of the church.
Mrs Donovan – initially from a poor background and is now a social pillar of society. She is a glamorous, controlling woman who completely understands her role in her adopted community.
Sister John – A nun.

Nick Enright , the writer of Good Works, is a theatre legend. Did you ever meet him or work with him?
I met Nick through a couple of his friends who became mine – which inadvertently led me to being cast in his first production of Daylight Savings at the Q Theatre. I remember saying to him after the first read of the play on that Monday morning, “Don’t worry Nick I’m a better actor than I am a reader”. He just laughed this warm wonderful thing. Nick’s are the best “deathbed anecdotes” I have ever heard. Told to me by two of his closest friends. I’ve been telling them now for some time. They make me feel less worried about dying!

What’s you earliest memory of performing?
Earliest memory of performing was at the drinks party Mum held at home for the Chairman and bosses from the “shipping and export” department at Wesfarmers. This is the 60s. Mum’s high heels, shorts, mid-drift top and castanets. Humming a Spanish tune. This was my idea – my mother was completely unaware of what I was about to do.

Name your 3 most memorable shows, either as audience or performer?
1. Richard III performed by a Georgian Company. I was at Drama School in London. This was at the Round House. The play was, of course, spoken in Russian, I had never read it and it was the clearest Shakespearean play I have ever seen to this day.
2. An Evening With Erik Satie. In the tiniest theatre (max 30 people) on Isle de Cite, Paris – one man, one girl, a piano and 50 minutes. Heaven!
3. All My Sons was a major thing for me. I’ve now performed in a few plays by Arthur Miller and they are all up there with, arguably, some of the best work Ive done but there was something about this production… the cast and the director, Iain Sinclair, it was incredibly special and I will never forget it.

What’s your dream role?
Easy. Bessie Berger from Awake And Sing by Clifford Odets. Any takers?

Jamie Oxenbould

Jamie Oxenbould

You play several characters in the play, can you briefly tell me who they are?
My characters are Alan – a friend of Tim, one of the two central boys, who we meet in a gay bar in 1981. Iain Sinclair (our director) described him as a gay Mr Miyagi (Karate Kid reference for those in the dark). Brother Clement – who is a homophobic, sadistic teacher at the country Catholic boys school where our two central boys meet. Barry Carmody – who owns the local pub. A bit of a boofhead, besotted with Rita the firecracker barmaid and also partial to giving boys a beating. And Mr Donovan – the town’s lawyer and church elder who represents the puritanical, patriarchal side of rural Australia in the 1960’s.

Nick Enright , the writer of Good Works, is a theatre legend. Did you ever meet him or work with him?
I did meet him a few times. And I also worked with him acting in The Three Sisters at the Old Fitz many years ago. A true gentleman, a bit cheeky and a very charming actor. He was an icon of the industry and I would have loved to have been taught by him at some stage.

What’s your earliest memory of performing?
I did a play called Charlie’s Aunt at high school. I must have been about 16. It was a very corny farce and I got my first taste for laughs. I’ve been on the hunt ever since.

Name your 3 most memorable shows, either as audience or performer?
La Fura Dels Baus. A Spanish company that toured here in the 80’s. Just wild anarchy and visceral madness in the Hordern Pavillion. There were chainsaws and blood and weirdness. You had to run out of the way of the performers or risk injury. To a youngster starting out in theatre it was a real eye opener. Nicholas Nickleby – The STC did it in the 90’s (?). It was about an 8 hour production with a massive cast and just a fabulous piece of storytelling. I laughed and cried for the whole Dickensian ride. As a performer I would say Fully Committed at the Ensemble Theatre. It was the first one man show I did and basically after doing that you lose your fear of doing anything.

What’s your dream role?
Either King Lear or Mary Poppins. I’m going to go with Mary Poppins.

Catch Toni Scanlan and Jamie Oxenbould in Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s production of Good Works, by Nick Enright.
Dates: 31 October – 29 November, 2015
Venue: Eternity Playhouse

Review: Good Works (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

darlotheatreVenue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Oct 31 – Nov 29, 2015
Playwright: Nick Enright
Director: Iain Sinclair
Cast: Taylor Ferguson, Lucy Goleby, Anthony Gooley, Stephen Multari, Jamie Oxenbould, Toni Scanlan
Image by Helen White

Theatre review
In Nick Enright’s Good Works, we are often confused about time and characters. It is a deliberate ploy to have us focus on what people are doing to each other, regardless of when things had taken place or who those people might be. It probes us to consider if contexts matter when we are unkind. It talks about how we treat children, and how behaviour is perpetuated beyond the illusion of growing up. The play’s plot structure is perhaps its most interesting feature. The story and its themes are not unusual or spectacular, but through its highly inventive way of communication, we are required to relate to its ideas on a level of intimacy. If we do not have certainty about characters, we can only understand events by applying them conceptually, to our selves.

Director Iain Sinclair’s construction of space through Hugh O’Connor’s complex multi-tiered platforms is theatrical magic. The constant profusion of movement, visual depth and dimension is an aesthetic joy, and also an effective mechanism for providing demarcation for minute scene transitions. Sinclair’s knack for creating dramatic tension and his ability to extract meaning from them, ensures that the play unfolds with a gravity necessary for its poignant messages to hit home.

It is a strong cast that presents this challenging work. Each player is required to embody a range of ages and personalities, and although not every scene is equally powerful, there is no questioning the authenticity and thoughtfulness of their approach to individual parts. Lucy Goleby leaves an impression with studied stillness on a stage buzzing with energetic activity. Her eyes are, on more than one occasion, our sole focus as they convey quiet but intense emotion. Taylor Ferguson brings remarkable exuberance and strength to a character who faces multiple setbacks. The resilience and fallibility of humanity that she demonstrates is touching, and beautiful.

There is not much point to life if we do not try to do good, but Good Works shows us the conflict and complications that occur in communities when flawed individuals try to do their best within their inevitable limitations. We examine how it is that we can come to conclude which decisions are best, without resorting to convenient solutions that religions are keen to provide, and we question if there is possibility for behaviour to be anything else than emulation. Whether Enright’s play is pessimistic or otherwise, would depend heavily on one’s own outlook on life.


Review: Project #Oüahn (Baühs)

bauhsVenue: 46 Foveaux Street (Surry Hills NSW), Oct 21 – 26, 2015
Playwrights: Gabriella Imrich, Christina Marks, Eliza Scott
Director: Christina Marks
Cast: Gabriella Imrich, Eliza Scott
Image by Diana Popovska

Theatre review
On stage are two young women, best described as anxious and frustrated. They speak in symbols, and their art is abstract. What they do is rarely explicitly named, perhaps to avoid things becoming undermined by convenient labels that can never completely address their thoughts. Instead, what we have is a series of physical and verbal enunciations that provide unmistakeable visceral sensations and clear indications about the way we experience our bodies, the construction of identities, and the political forces that dominate and disenfranchise. Project #Oüahn is a subversive work about subversion. The work aims to challenge, and because of our inevitable participation in prevalent ideologies, we do find ourselves in uncomfortable spaces in its 60-minute duration. It is hard to tell if the piece communicates universally, but its intention is not to create an “us and them” dynamic with its microcosm. There are moments of division, but its interest is ultimately about self-determination and self-empowerment. Its message is one of independence, but also of love, even if much of its language is militant and tough.

We do not find a conventional narrative structure, but the two actors Gabriella Imrich and Eliza Scott begin by setting up a visual reference to the madonna-whore complex. Their surfaces appear to be different as day and night, but as they wage war and undertake torment on each other, we soon discover that they are two of the same. It is a representation of the internal dialogues that we have and the socially complicit nature of how we monitor and police our own thoughts and behaviour. There is a precision to the performers’ motivations, that makes sense of the work’s abstractions in spite of their deliberate ambiguity. Chemistry between Imrich and Scott is flawless, and the production forges ahead with a confidence that is assertive and powerfully convincing. Christina Marks’ direction balances mystery and revelation, for a show that intrigues at every point, but is satisfying throughout. Sound design by Enola Gay is to be noted for adding a sophisticated yet dramatic dimension to proceedings.

The final section of the production is as memorable as any theatrical moment can hope to be. A mesmerising sequence that expresses divine beauty and tranquil strength, embodying an affirmation of life, lived with wisdom and courage. The art that we make is never worth more than when it is progressive. Project #Oüahn is a selfless exploration into the meaning of freedom that will touch anyone whom it is able to connect with, but freedom, like all that is worthwhile, will only discharge its magical prowess for those who know to receive it.


Review: Ride & Fourplay (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

darlotheatreVenue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Sep 4 – Oct 4, 2015
Playwright: Jane Bodie
Director: Anthony Skuse
Cast: Aaron Glenane, Tom O’Sullivan, Emma Palmer, Gabrielle Scawthorn
Image by Robert Catto

Theatre review
Ride & Fourplay are two plays by Jane Bodie about male-female relationships in Australia today. Bodie’s writing is obsessed with the mundanity and ordinariness of life, and where most writers choose to romanticise and dramatise those boy-meets-girl stories, these versions are in no rush to make their point. They linger and indulge in moments to let us observe human dynamics, and to analyse the inner workings of our emotions. As a result, Bodie’s are scripts that probably hold more value for performers than they do for audiences. Under Anthony Skuse’s direction, emphasis is placed squarely on how the cast brings life to the words. Other theatrics are kept to a minimum, and at a three hour running time, our stamina and patience for brooding reflections are thoroughly tested. Although its characters are not in any way exotic, we do not necessarily find it easy to relate to their many concerns. They are too much like us, and our own foibles fail to appear fascinating when portrayed in such a plain and direct manner.

All four actors are however, impressive. They take the opportunity to explore the painstaking naturalism, and achieve a great deal of authenticity with the material. They do their best to engage without compromising the style of the production, and even though results are ultimately underwhelming, there are many points of frisson that showcase their abilities. Tom O’Sullivan and Gabrielle Scawthorn display extraordinary emotional vulnerability that provide interesting dimensions to their narratives. Their portrayals are detailed studies of the subtle ways we think and act in response to the people around us who matter. Emma Palmer is captivating in Ride, with a broken heart and a lost soul. We recognise the ordeal she goes through, and admire the actor’s thoroughness at understanding her role’s psychology and all that is required to make Elizabeth complex and true. Aaron Glenane plays Jack, a slightly unusual man with a warm charm that helps us forgive his misdeeds. Glenane has the challenging task of turning what is frankly an outrageous circumstance into one that is endearing and uplifting. It is an unpleasant plot twist that he has to deliver, but he does so convincingly.

The production is free of frills, but ambience is beautifully manufactured by its team of designers. Alistair Wallace’s sound and Christopher Page’s lights rarely steal our attention but the mood in the theatre is consistently rich with sentimentality and a gentle electricity, derived from a very sensitive approach to the show’s quiet aesthetics. Hugh O’Connor’s big raked platform facilitates an intimacy that results from giving the actors no place to hide, doggedly exposing their every flinch and gesture. The vast space around them however, causes obvious problems with acoustics, even though the overall vista is a very satisfying one.

It is in our nature to love and be loved, but we do not need to think only in terms of the (in this case) girl-boy dynamic. Love takes many forms, yet we spend an inordinate amount of time and effort in the pursuit of things like romance, marriage, fidelity, and sex. We are drawn in by its terribly seductive power; it is a mysterious libido that scientists and philosophers have tried to explain for centuries, but it is a riddle that refuses to be solved. It is an uncontrollable force that goes round and round, and even though its chief motive is pleasure, its increasingly predictable manifestations can sometimes land us in scarce more than weariness.


5 Questions with Gabrielle Scawthorn and Aaron Glenane

Gabrielle Scawthorn

Gabrielle Scawthorn

Aaron Glenane: In Fourplay, Tom describes Alice as strong, driven, unpretentious and classic. What are 5 qualities that sum you up?
Gabrielle Scawthorn: It is hard to strike an appropriate balance of confidence and self deprecation when answering this. You inevitably sound like a Debbie Downer or a Bell End so I turned to my nearest and dearest and asked for one each from them. They say the following;
Hugo (partner): Vivacious
Rob (brother): Assertive
Stephen (Papa): Determined
Teghan (best friend): Filthy
Qiao (my local dumpling supplier): Loyal

Alice is most excited to tell Tom about a breakthrough she has at work. What is the most exciting news you’ve ever told someone?
When I was 17, mid completing my year 12 exams, I got selected for a TV show on Channel V. The camera crews came to my house to break the news of my acceptance, the same night I wasn’t allowed to go to a school dance because I had to cram for a history exam the following Monday. After I got the news I ceased all study and went to the school dance to inform my history teacher I would not be doing the exam on Monday because I was moving to Sydney the next day to party and interview rockstars. She took it very well but asked me to stop drinking at school dances.

You’re very proud of your amazing red hair. Who is your most inspirational red head?
William Wallace.

You’ve mentioned having a few A-list encounters. What is your favourite “star struck” story?
Thank you for this leading question Aaron. (I think Aaron has heard this story roughly 4.5 times). There’s no easy way to say this. I straddled Dame Helen Mirren. I was seeing a show on Broadway and on the way to my seat I was straddling everyone so they didn’t have to get up and mid straddle on one particular lap I looked up and Helen Mirren was between my legs! My seat was right next to hers! I brokered a conversation by saying “I’m so sorry to bother you but seeing as I have already straddled you”, the dame was on game and replied, “Yes, we’re already friends aren’t we?”. Then we watched the show together in perfect harmony.

Alice is on a search for true love and connection. What is your definition of love?
Love is when you meet someone that you can take off all the shit we have to wear publicly to get through a day, all the bravado, all the expectation of what we’re “meant to be” and instead you just be and really get to know someone and once disclosing your true self that other person accepts and reciprocates your offering of absolute authenticity and looks forward to waking up to you. That to me is love… and payment upfront.

Aaron Glenane

Aaron Glenane

In Fourplay, Alice says, that you can tell a lot about a person from where they live. Aaron list three things that are currently in your living space that sum you up.
The plant on my bedside table because I need a bit of nature nearby. There’s a poster of James Dean on my wall saying “Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.” The photo frame of my family back home in Victoria.

List three things that are currently in your living space that sum you up perfectly but you wouldn’t necessarily want people to know about.
I have a pair of Where’s Wally underwear. In my DVD collection I own The Notebook…which I bought! I have a “groin guard” which I use at Krav Maga training. But, to the untrained eye it could be misconstrued as something else entirely.

You have often put yourself in a similar acting calibre as Daniel Day Lewis, when off of the screen he is a shoe cobbler. What obscure profession could you see yourself in?
Hahaha I wouldn’t dare say I was in the same league! I’d lose my mind if I was in the same film as him. He’s a master. My first job was being the waterboy for the local basketball team in Ballarat. Maybe the Cleveland Cavs have a vacant position alongside Matthew Dellavedova.

You question Alice’s smoking. What’s your worst habit/vice?
My worst habit is “wishful thinking with the ticket inspectors” and “wishful thinking with how much petrol I’ve got left in the tank.” They kind of speak for themselves don’t they.

Alice asks if you have ever cracked a joke? Aaron what’s your best joke?
An actress, a costumer and a stage manager found an old bottle in a pile of junk backstage. The actress rubbed it against her sleeve, and poof! A genie appeared.
“You got me fair and square,” the genie said. “So you each get one wish.”
“I want a world tour in a starring role,” the actress declared.
“Granted,” said the genie, and poof! The actress was off on her tour.
“I want a yacht and unlimited funds to cruise the exotic ports of the world,” wished the costumer.
“Granted,” said the genie, and poof! The costumer was off on his cruise.
The stage manager rubbed his chin, thought for a minute and said, “I want them back after lunch.”

Gabrielle Scawthorn and Aaron Glenane are the stars of Ride & Fourplay by Jane Bodie.
Dates: 4 September – 4 October, 2015
Venue: Eternity Playhouse

Review: Detroit (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

darlo2Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Jul 17 – Aug 16, 2015
Playwright: Lisa D’Amour
Director: Ross McGregor
Cast: Lisa Chappell, Ronald Falk, Claire Lovering, James O’Connell, Ed Wightman
Image by Gez Xavier Mansfield

Theatre review
When people hit “rock bottom”, they are forced to evaluate values, and in the case of Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit, an opportunity to build a new life presents itself at the most troubling of times. Sharon and Kenny are ex-junkies trying to get their act together, but no easy solution exists, and all we see is their struggle to make every day count. The story is one of resilience, about the human ability to make the best out of nothing, and ironically, also about our tendencies at making the worst out of what we do have. The script is a surprising and quirky one, with an unusual sense of humour that begins unassumingly but gains momentum with every scene, leading to an explosive conclusion that ties up the many loose ends that it scatters along the way.

The production begins almost too enthusiastically, with actors keen to entertain while establishing a context that should probably look and feel more pedestrian at that early stage. Performances by the very striking women of the cast are consistently animated, which works well when subtexts are being communicated, but at other times can come across overly farcical. Dark social comedies require a delicate balance, but early comic moments tend to obscure the atmosphere of depression that the play wishes to convey. As the plot progresses into a wild and surreal space, the extravagant performances become congruous, and very engaging indeed. Ed Wightman’s tender portrayal of Ben provides the authentic centre of the production. His plight is readily identifiable, and the actor wins our empathy with a subtle vulnerability that he makes perceivable in between charming interpretations of comic sequences. Addict in recovery, Sharon is played by the exuberant Claire Lovering who is delightfully funny in every scene, but the ambiguity of her character prevents us from achieving an understanding of her circumstances with sufficient depth.

The show is amusing, and unpredictable, with scenes flowing into each other with little indication of what is about to occur next. There is a polish to the production that makes viewing pleasurable, but for all its dramatic events, it does not seem to be able to provoke much thought about its grave themes of poverty and social decay. Detroit, the city, has been going through ruinous transformations, of which great lessons are certainly attainable, and staging a work with the same name only raises expectations for considerable profundity. There is much to be explored in this play named Detroit, but on this occasion, some of it remains uncovered.


5 Questions with Claire Lovering and James O’Connell

Claire Lovering

Claire Lovering

James O’Connell: Who is Claire Lovering?
Claire Lovering: Well, there’s a Claire Lovering in Arizona that plays soccer a lot and tweets about it. There’s a physiotherapist called Claire Lovering who lives in Perth. There’s a Claire Lovering in England, I sometimes get her emails about her son’s Summer Cricket Schedule and last month she organized a clown for his tenth Birthday Party. She seems like a really great Claire Lovering. There’s also an actor called Claire Lovering in Sydney who writes strange answers to questionnaires about herself. I’m the physiotherapist.

Word on the street is that you’re the cast go to for baked goods. What kind of tasty treats have you been whipping up through rehearsals?
Thanks James. That’s correct. I have been baking a lot. I like to make bliss balls, which you’ve named “Clairy Balls”. Cheers for that. I also like to experiment with making these whacky granola bars… I’ll throw in all sorts of crazy ingredients in a pot and then I’ll press it into a tin and fob it off as a slice of sorts. It’s a well-known fact that I’m what Jerry Springer would call “a feeder”.

Tell us about Mazzy Star, Hooters and panic attacks in the condiments aisle?
Ah, you mean how I like to procrastinate by conducting extended improvisations in character? So to “try” heroin, I listened to Mazzy Star (heroin music, apparently) for three hours lying on a furry blanket. It went well, thanks for asking. For a white trash American dining experience we went to Hooters of Parramatta in costume and ate buffalo shrimp and drank Budweiser beers. It went well, thanks for asking. I also did a food shop in character. Sharon is “crazy broke” but that doesn’t stop her from trying to host a barbeque for the neighbours. So I went to Coles in costume with Sharon’s shopping list and set an appropriate budget and went through aisle by aisle putting everything in my trolley for her dinner. By the time I got to the mustards Sharon had no money left and was crouched under the trolley having a panic attack. So yeah, it went well, thanks for asking.

You saw Detroit at the National Theatre in London. Tell us about that and how you then felt being cast in the Australian premiere.
Yes, I saw Detroit back in 2012 when I was in London. I was blown away by the naturalism of Lisa D’Amour’s writing and the detailed complexity of the characters. I also remember thinking that Sharon would be a great role to play. She’s hilarious, a dreamer, an idealist, but also so vulnerable; we meet her at a pivotal time in her life where things could go either way for her. She’s in a dangerous place in her addiction recovery and a danger to herself and others. An opportunity to work on that range of material in one role doesn’t come along for actors all that often. So you can imagine my utter delight that three years after first seeing the production I have the privilege of playing her in the Australian première. No pressure.

Favourite line in the play?
There’s a moment in the play where there’s a silence and then Sharon starts singing “Don’t stop believing” to everyone but she gets the words wrong. I’m enjoying it far too much and expecting a cut back note any day now.

James O'Connell

James O’Connell

Claire Lovering: Your character Kenny talks about Strawberry Shortcake. Do you like biscuits? If so, have you been happy with the selection provided so far?
James O’Connell: When I hear Strawberry Shortcake my mind goes straight to the 80’s toys and cartoons. I think Kenny was a secret Strawberry Shortcake fan and maybe even kept a doll under his bed though he’d never admit it. I love biscuits. I devoured the cast rehearsal allocation and then some. The selection was good – you can’t go wrong with assorted creams, but I’m hoping the in-season selection might step up a bit. Wouldn’t it be great to do a show sponsored by the Byron Bay Cookie Co? More white choc and macadamias than I’d know what do with!

I hear you’ve quit sugar. How’s that going for you?
Great follow up question. My partner and I did the 8-week thing that we kind of turned into a 6.2 week thing. That said, I’m totally off the soft drink and Milo and that’s a big step for me. I was a 30-block full strength kind of guy and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I feel there’s a lot of judgment around soft drink consumption, if you’re struggling with it or embracing it I hear you. No one wants to admit they are a guzzler but all that black gold on the shelves of Coles and Woolies must be going somewhere! And Milo who knew that was full of sugar? I was devastated. In the play Kenny’s grappling to stay off heroin and crack, I’m substituting Coke and Milo.

You have enjoyed many television appearances since graduating from VCA in 2012. Is there a common theme amongst those guest roles?
Stalker, meth cook, shonky mechanic, convict, homeless man and facially disfigured returned soldier. You need it? I got it. I’ve spent a lot of time in make up trucks getting covered in grime. Getting a bit serious for a minute – I never judge a character. I’m interested in that person, what makes them tick and what, if anything, went wrong. Like Sharon says to Mary in Detroit -‘I’m as beautiful on the inside as you’. I love playing people up against it, putting myself in their shoes and understanding what in their lives has landed them where they are. Circumstances we are exposed to and choices we make are the only thing that separates us as people and I think that had I been exposed to the same circumstances and made the same choices I would absolutely be in the same place as the characters I play. I’m all about respect and empathy for people in a hard place. All that aside, I’m really chuffed to be playing the issue free romantic lead heartthrob in Detroit. Um…

How do you make your poached eggs taste “so special”?
Well the trick to poached eggs is a decent slug of vinegar in water that is bubbling but not boiling. That is, you want some small bubbles rising from the bottom, not a full hectic bubble fest on the surface. Create a whirlpool and ease your egg in from a small bowl. The slight movement in the water will better form your eggs and stop them sticking. Also have 50 cent playing in the background, it helps.

If you could have a Milo with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
I met Vanilla Ice on a plane in 1986. Then in 1992 I went on Mimi McPherson’s (Elle’s sister) whale watching boat. I also saw Kevin Rudd having a coffee in Canberra once, we didn’t speak but I’m pretty sure he felt my presence. Anyway what I’m getting at is that the bar is set pretty high. I’m going to have to go with Jesus on this one though – they’re pretty sure he actually lived right? I’ve got a few questions for him and I’d love him to turn some water into Milo for me. Or John Snow, not the actor, like the actual John Snow. Wait, is he dead or alive?

Claire Lovering and James O’Connell will be appearing in Detroit by Lisa D’Amour.
Dates: 17 July – 16 August, 2015
Venue: Eternity Playhouse

Review: Venus In Fur (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

darlo1Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), May 29 – Jul 5, 2015
Playwright: David Ives
Director: Grace Barnes
Cast: Anna Houston, Gareth Reeves
Image by Helen White

Theatre review
The bedroom is not for thinking about politics, if sexual pleasures are to be had. This statement reveals the wealth of meanings that are embedded into our desires and the way we satisfy them. David Ives’ Venus In Fur is a brilliant exploration into the manifestations of our sexualities, and an examination of impulses that might run contrary to our intentions and the kinds of people we wish ourselves to be. The quality of autonomous irrepressibility of our sexual appetites often betray the public personae we convey to the world. Ives’ writing is supremely complex, but truthfully so. It is highly intellectual but never pretentious or overly academic. It is a rare articulation of the way our problematic sexual selves resist suppression and tempering, and it looks at the implications of those deeper meanings that our sex seem to express. Through a context of sado-masochism, the play investigates the chasm between private and social, how we are able, or unable, to understand our true selves, and the impact that sex can have on the rest of one’s life. Also, Venus In Fur is some of the wittiest and most outrageously entertaining theatre one can ever wish to experience.

Direction by Grace Barnes is completely masterful, with a firm grasp on all the script’s themes that constantly and unpredictably fluctuate, thus representing the inconvenient and devious ways human nature can manifest. Barnes’ work pays attention to the most minute of nuances, and turns them into poignant, sometimes formidable statements, but she also creates flamboyant sequences of theatricality that are nothing short of edge-of-your-seat stuff. There are loud political messages being said here, and there is a delicious assertiveness that accompanies them, even (or maybe, especially) if they do come into conflict with one another. When art wants to get at the truth of something, the results are often antagonistic, and in this case, the incessant exposure of our humanly contradictions is exciting and at times, rapturously so. It is an acknowledgement of all our strengths and weaknesses, and a celebration of our determined exertion to become better.

Anna Houston is magnificent as Vanda, an enigmatic character written so vast, she seems destined to embody all of womanhood. It is an impossible idea, but Houston’s work is boundlessly passionate and versatile, and she exceeds all requirements of the hugely demanding text. The actor is dynamic at every moment, always keeping us entertained with a bold comic sensibility, and challenging our mental capacities with a range of subtexts so acerbic and provocative, that we cannot help but be entranced. The wildness of her approach is informed by a powerful impetus that can be emotional, political, or libidinous, depending on what she wishes to portray. Houston is a captivating performer full of drama and depth, perfectly formed for this show, and the kind who can shine in any other role on any stage. Her colleague Gareth Reeves is less vibrant in the role of Thomas, but equally solid and compelling. Reeves’ depiction of sexism from a male perspective is honest and surprisingly delicate. The authenticity of his work is key to the show’s intellectual effectiveness. The presentation of sexism as convoluted and inextricable gives the production an immense feeling of texture and an impression of interminable layers that plays on our minds relentlessly. Reeves’ commitment and focus gives the show an air of confidence, which allows us to lose ourselves in the plot, and let the players take us on a ride of extremes.

Design elements are understated but necessarily so. Sound and lights contribute greatly to psychological dimensions that are always in play. Aside from a few thunderous roars and purposefully abrupt light changes, Sian James-Holland (lighting designer) and Jessica James-Moody (composer and sound designer) work quietly to add to tensions and atmosphere without drawing attention to themselves. Realistic costume design by Mel Page also serves plot and characters beautifully without too much embellishment, although some fetishistic leather items do seem to have an ebullient effect on some members of the audience.

Telling stories about the other, inevitably makes one an easy target for criticism. Men writing plays about the subjugation of women can never escape chastisement, but an artist stepping into a minefield provides opportunities to reflect on the worst and most rarely visited recesses of our being. David Ives’s perspectives are unique and refreshing in contemporary discourse on issues of gender and sex. It takes a lot of sophistication to get into discussions that flow erratically like experimental jazz music, but Venus In Fur‘s consistent resonances assure us of the validity of its many controversial ideas. There are few things more valuable in art than its analysis of repressed or forbidden subjects, especially when they address the fundamentals of all human life, like love, sex, and the struggle for who gets to be on top.


5 Questions with Gareth Reeves

garethreevesWhat is your favourite swear word?
I really can’t go past Fuck. It has some kind of instant, guttural Norse power that I love. I’ve read some research about how swearing can actually be an effective painkiller and having been front row seat at a couple of births, I attest to its power in that regard. I now have a 14 month old so I’m weaning myself off Fuck so I go to my next favourite, Bollocks, which I think was born out of a childhood diet of British comedy.

What are you wearing?
Ha. A weird mixture of my own clothing and a couple of items our designer brought in today. It’s always a great treat when you get the shoes, especially when they’re quite different to your own.

What is love?
I read an interview recently with the guy that created the TV show Will And Grace back in the day. Asked where the names came from he said “The Will to give and The Grace to receive.” I thought that pretty much summed it up. Acting too for that matter.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
I saw Bell Shakespeare’s As You Like It in Melbourne and I give it 4 out of 5. I was pumped because I didn’t know the play well and I felt like I really heard it. What a masterpiece. Zahra Newman was amazing and that speech coming out of John Bell at this time in his life? The word Oblivion rang out like a bell I can still hear.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Look, it’s an amazing play. I confess I underestimated it on first read. It’s seriously clever. Anna and I are a couple of neurotics, if we can remember to have fun and not get lost down the rabbit hole, we should have something pretty special to show you. If you can, see it, see it again, read it, then see the Polanski film. Or if you hate it the first time go to hell and I won’t see you in the bar.

Gareth Reeves will be appearing in Darlinghurst Theatre’s Venus In Fur, by David Ives.
Show dates: 29 May – 5 Jul, 2015
Show venue: Eternity Playhouse