Review: The Local (Insomniac Theatre)

insomniacVenue: Exchange Hotel (Balmain NSW), Mar 8 – 20, 2016
Playwright: Richie Black
Director: Maggie Scott
Cast: Jamie Collette, Steve Maresca, Andrew Mead, Cecilia Morrow, Michael Wood
Image by GiGee Photography

Theatre review
It is not an original set up, with the larrikin underdog bemoaning the loss of community and the over-development of his favourite watering hole. We cannot resist the sentimentality of an Australian story that capitalises on our longing for innocent times, but Richie Black’s The Local offers more than the predictable. The playwright spares us the funny guy with a heart of gold narrative, and with brilliant wit, creates an entertaining work of bright, biting humour. There are hints of social commentary in The Local, but its main intention is to amuse, which results in an unusually light perspective of the subject matter, but the production is nonetheless satisfying.

Design aspects are virtually absent, giving the impression of an uncomfortable roughness, but the show is tightly rehearsed, and director Maggie Scott’s attention to detail with characterisations make for a vibrant and energetic staging. The cast establishes a confident and spirited chemistry that delivers consistently delightful comic timing, with Steve Maresca and Cecilia Morrow especially memorable for a sense of playfulness they bring to their roles. Both actors are vivacious, each with bold approaches to performance that keeps us attentive. As Ben Munro, Jamie Collette is required to play a more grounded part in the ensemble, but he takes every opportunity to bring animation to his interpretation, while single-handedly maintaining plot coherence. The comedy in The Local is big and brash, and although not without sophistication, the play does not call for understated performances, and the actors’ extravagances prove to be infectious.

It is a parochial Sydney story, but told with intelligent dialogue and sharp humour. The personalities could not be more ordinary, but their individual quirks are amplified to form the core of an effective comedy that accurately reflects a slice of contemporary life. The Local can afford to be more poignant in what it is able to say about our culture, our economy and our ambitions, but perhaps it is its insistence at declaring the glass half full that makes it true blue Australian.

5 Questions with Georgia Woodward and Bob Deacon

Georgia Woodward

Georgia Woodward

Bob Deacon: Would you rather have two mouths or four hands and why?
Georgia Woodward: Definitely four hands. There are many occasions in my life where I wish I was able to carry more.

Rove McManus is just about to interview you on Rove Live. He would tell the audience as your introduction “My next guest…”
If fresh off the plane from the US where she was working on the New NBC TV Show “The Waiting Room” with co-star, Amy Poehler.

What’s the best piece of acting or life advice you have received? (please use rhyming couplets where possible)
To define what success means to you. That’s how you will get through. Being true to you.
Don’t change to fit the game. Then if you don’t get the part, you have only yourself to blame.
Accept that the industry is tough and won’t stroke your hair and tell you your good enough.
Accept that you are an actor, with no money, but you are surrounded by art (I want more money) and that’s good enough.

If your co-star, your director and yourself were starving escaped convicts in the Tasmanian wilderness, who would you eat first and why?
I would like them both to eat me first. One, because I would not survive in those conditions and two, they’re better people.

What will the audience enjoy most about this show?
I think the audience will love watching these characters sit in their living room and solve all world problems. Spoiler alert! Alex and I do get pretty down and dirty. We may sing and plan for our future.

Bob Deacon

Bob Deacon

Georgia Woodward: What’s the rehearsal process for Last Drinks been like so far?
Bob Deacon: We have been holding our rehearsals in a pub which is very inspiring for a play set in a pub. We sometimes drink beer in the pub after rehearsals, usually a local draft beer. Sometimes we eat some pub grub. Our director Luke has been strong in resisting urges to turn the play into a pub rock musical. The other actors are Chris whose hobbies include entertaining/creeping us out with his The Joker monologues, and Steve who unfortunately had his script stolen after the first rehearsal.

Who is your character in the show and what qualities do you like about him?
As an acrostic poem… sure!
Daniel runs his suburban family pub ‘The Avalon’
Ask him how it’s going?
No good, he’d probably say
It’s only customers are his two larrikin mates
Everything he does is for those mates and his old man
Last drinks may be called soon

Brave New Word is a theatre company dedicated to new writing, how are you finding working with them?
The team is super! They are very supportive of emerging artists and committed to putting on truthful and thought-provoking local productions. I feel very lucky to be working with them and expect to see big things from them in the future. Before I started working with Brave New Word I used to sit in my room for hours listening to ABBA songs, but since then I haven’t listened to one ABBA song. That’s because working with them is as good as an ABBA song. It’s as good as “Dancing Queen” (please watch Muriel’s Wedding if you missed this reference).

What do you eat for breakfast?
I am ridiculously rigid in my eating habits. Breakfast is two pieces of toast heavily spread with Australia’s favourite yeast extract. If I have no bread in the house, I duck up to the local convenience store and scoff into a blueberry muffin. Breakfast during special occasions like Christmas and birthdays is always enough chocolate to make me feel ill and regret my actions.

Why should we come and see the show?
Audience member 1: “Remember that time we went and watched a double bill of new Australian plays, and one was about a pub that was actually set in a pub, in a pub? Like, literally, the theatre was in a pub?”

Audience member 2: “Yeah that was mad! I loved it! The acting, the story, the whole production… all of it was fantastic!”

Audience member 1: “And remember I found $50 in that bush on the way home?”

Audience member 2: “Yeah, good times!”

Georgia Woodward and Bob Deacon will be appearing in Last Drinks & Two Mouths Four Hands, with Brave New Word Theatre Company.
Dates: 17 – 26 November, 2015
Venue: Exchange Hotel Balmain

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.

5 Questions with Brendon Taylor

brendontaylorWhat is your favourite swear word?
“Godverdomme”. Or “klootzak”. Anything in a foreign language sounds much better than English and the Dutch have some great sounding swears.

What are you wearing?
An excellent, full and glossy beard thanks to Captain Fawcett’s Beard Oil (private stock).

What is love?
Love is all around me. Love is in the air. Love is a battlefield. What’s love got to do with it?

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Sparrow Folk, a glam/folk duo comprised of 2 girls and their ukeleles. Check them out at, they deserve all of the stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Definitely. Although don’t come and see it if you don’t support independent theatre, if you don’t like comedy, puns, wordplay, Oscar Wilde, enjoying yourself, or if you’re a klootzak.

Brendon Taylor is appearing in The Importance Of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde.
Show dates: 5 – 17 May, 2015
Show venue: Exchange Hotel Balmain

Review: Jerry And Tom (Insomniac Theatre)

insomniactheatreVenue: Exchange Hotel (Balmain NSW), Apr 9 – 30, 2015
Playwright: Rick Cleveland
Director: Maggie Scott
Cast: Boris Bkric, Steve Maresca, Andrew Mead
Image by GiGee Photography

Theatre review
Rick Cleveland’s Jerry And Tom is a fairly uncomplicated comedy about two family men who also happen to moonlight as ruthless hitmen. We go from one humorous scenario to another, depicting their gruesome murders, all with a charming Bronx-type accent. Maggie Scott’s direction is a simple, no frills approach that focuses on character dynamics and chemistry. Pacing of the piece is jaunty and very light, with a delightful clarity in the way its plot is conveyed. The comedy is consistent but mild, and given the exaggerated context, a greater sense of irony would probably provide the show with a stronger edge.

Performances are polished and compelling, with all three actors showing good commitment and enthusiasm. Boris Brkic has a laid-back charm that makes his portrayal believable, and a keen sense of timing that allows a hint of authenticity to elevate his role Tom from mere caricature. Jerry is played by Steve Maresca whose infectious enjoyment of the stage connects with us, and although the actor’s serious side is quite obviously less developed than his funny side, he holds his own against more seasoned counterparts. Andrew Mead plays the remaining characters with excellent energy, although more versatility is required for a greater differentiation between personalities. There is a general cautiousness that feels too safe for the material at hand. We need a playfulness to meet with the reckless attitude of the narratives, but the performers seem too careful or apprehensive perhaps, to give the show the wild abandon it deserves.

Music from the television series Dexter underscores most of the blacked out scene changes, but unlike Dexter, we explore very little of the “dark passenger” that compels Jerry And Tom to do the things they do. Without enough psychological bite, the show ends up feeling a little too frothy, and after 90 minutes of senseless killing, we try to find meaning but discover emptiness instead. The production is not always satisfying, but the good work of karma does prevail in the story, and sometimes, that is all than we can bargain for.

Review: Fallout (Smoking Gum Theatre)

smokinggum1Venue: Exchange Hotel (Balmain NSW), Mar 18 – 27, 2015
Playwright: Lauren Pearce
Director: Finn Davis
Actors: Michele Conyngham, Ian Ferrington, Jim Fishwick, Louise Harding, Moreblessing Maturure, Patrick Trumper

Theatre review
It is admirably audacious that artists go out on a limb, almost as part of their job description, to experiment in public and to risk failure in spectacular style for all to see. The nature of theatre as a commercial experience requires that strict deadlines are to be adhered to, so that a show has to have at least a semblance of readiness on its advertised opening night. Smoking Gum Theatre’s Fallout needs, among other things, more time in its creative process. Lauren Pearce makes her debut with an apocalyptic script, ambitious with big ideas, but her characters are not sufficiently formed, and its structure is not yet settled.

Most things can be said to have room for improvement, especially in art where nothing is perfect, but Fallout is a distance away from being able to communicate its intentions. Direction by Finn Davis does not deviate from the writing, and he show signs of an adventurous spirit in the way he choreographs physical movement for the piece. Performances are apprehensively grounded. It is a very quiet approach that shows little inventiveness, but actors Moreblessing Maturure and Patrick Trumper demonstrate good focus and conviction. Design is a challenge in the makeshift venue, and the creative team’s efforts are evident especially Angela Toomey’s video projections, which add a touch of polish to the production.

Outside of our education institutions, young artists have to brave the same conditions as all other theatre practitioners. Any paying audience will have expectations, and it can be a cruel world for those who achieve less than desired. Fortunately, it is rarely a dramatic case of sink or swim, because the factor of time is crucial to all artistic practice. It is the body of work over the expanse of a career that matters, and it is longevity and tenacity of the last persons standing that will make an impact.

5 Questions with Moreblessing Maturure

moreblessingWhat is your favourite swear word?
I would have to say fucking, except it has to be pronounced a certain way. Silent ‘F’ replaced with a soft ‘P’ sound then the rest kinda sounds like ‘uggin’. In summary it’s how you would imagine Alf Stewart saying it.

What are you wearing?
I would like to have you all believe that I’m wearing trackies and a pyjama top because I’m about to sleep but lesbehonest, actually no, we’ll go with that.

What is love?
Ooowwooaaahhhh woo ooohh. Well it’s the decision to always make the effort no matter if it’s reciprocated, noticed or appreciated.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Wow it’s been too long. It would be Missing Pages by Lainey Molloy and Bianca Zouppas shown at ATYP Theatre had me sitting on the edge of my seat hyperventilating as stuttering Lewis Carol was trying to remember why he was at the trial. 6.53 stars easily.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Look. I’ll be honest, it’s not going to be just any good, it’ll be the best goods in town. You’ll have to laugh otherwise you’ll cry. Tickets will sell like whatever came AFTER hotcakes.

Moreblessing Maturure is appearing in Fallout, by Lauren Pearce.
Show dates: 18 – 27 Mar, 2015
Show venue: Exchange Hotel Balmain

Review: Of Monopoly And Women (Brave New Word)

brandnewwordVenue: Exchange Hotel (Balmain NSW), Jul 9 – 24, 2014
Playwright: Pamela Proestos
Director: Sascha Hall
Actors: Ainslie Clouston, Bianca Raess, Victoria Greiner, Mark Taylor
Image by David Hooley

Theatre review
Relationships between siblings are often neglected by storytellers. They seem too mundane for the stage, and are a part of life that many take for granted. Pamela Proestos’ script places focus on a trio of sisters and demonstrates that there is much to be explored. Each woman has distinct qualities, and as a collective, they are complex and fascinating. Their bond is exceptionally tight, and within that closeness, they relate to one another with great humour, as well as unbearable cruelty. This calls to mind a quote from spiritual writer Marjorie Pay Hinckley, “home is where you are loved the most, and act the worst.”

In Of Monopoly And Women, we see the machinations of sibling rivalry in all its glory. In the security of their home, our leading ladies live, eat and breathe together, with a no holds barred attitude. They are always their true selves, allowing Proestos to reveal facets of human nature, good and bad, that are universal and unerringly reflective of our own lived experiences. With brutal honesty, she shows us how we treat the people we love, sometimes with unbelievable impertinence, but always amusing.

Production design is thoughtfully executed although its shoestring budget is evident. Demitra Sealy’s set efficiently creates levels and spaces that assist with scene transitions, and adds visual interest with colour and texture that feel homely while also providing a look that is delightfully theatrical. Lighting by Luke Holmes is sensitively created, turning a challenging venue into an effective performance space that provides fluctuating moods.

All performances are accomplished, and the chemistry between actors are well harnessed by director Sascha Hall. It is crucial that the family ties being portrayed are believable, and the production succeeds on this level. The symbiosis of love and hate is delicately balanced and deeply interesting. There is however, a deficiency in some scenes that require a greater range of emotion and comedy. The script allows for quite extreme quarreling on one hand, and hilarity on the other, but a few of these opportunities are missed. The action is fast paced, but charming lines are sometimes not given enough emphasis for them to work more powerfully. Supporting actor Mark Taylor is memorable for giving the most natural performance in the cast, playing one of the women’s boyfriend. His character is simplest to handle, but it is noteworthy that Taylor’s work is consistently compelling.

This is a production that has its heart in the right place. The team has identified the script’s essence accurately, and they present it well, but the show needs a few more dramatic turns in performance tone to prevent its domestic scenarios from descending into a space of mundanity. Ella, Kate and Zoe are multi-dimensioned and likeable women, with inter-playing dynamics that are thoroughly explored and beautifully written. The play and its themes are enjoyable and easy to identify with, even if it exposes us for being so careless with the people we love the most.

5 Questions with Sascha Hall

saschahallWhat is your favourite swear word?
Fuck, especially using it when stubbing one’s toe. No other word feels as good.

What are you wearing?
Jeans, striped socks, a strange multicoloured top that I’m now regretting as my attention is brought to it. A blue bra and purple undies. A blue dressing gown. All class.

What is love?
Love is a many splendored thing, love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love … aaaaand I’ve watched Moulin Rouge too many times.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The last show I saw was The Government Inspector at Belvoir. I’d give it four stars because it took a while to hook me and I didnt think it was going to. By the time the curtain call came around I had decided it was one of the craziest and funniest things I’d ever seen. When I think back now, I still have no idea what on earth it was that I witnessed that day.

Is your new show going to be any good?
I’ll be honest with you, my new show is going to be a bit of alright. I haven’t left a single rehearsal without my sides hurting. We are creating what can only be described as a beautiful kind of crazy. I can’t wait to see what it can bring to an audience.

Sascha Hall is directing Of Monopoly And Women, by Brave New Word Theatre.
Show dates: 9 – 24 Jul, 2014
Show venue: Exchange Hotel, Balmain