Review: The Sylph (Harlos Productions / The Old 505 Theatre)

Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Apr 18 – 29, 2017
Playwright: Jodi Rose
Director: Colleen Cook
Cast: Gertraud Ingeborg

Theatre review
The legacy left behind by the celebrated 19th century ballerina Marie Taglioni, can be found in the world of dance, but in Jodi Rose’s The Sylph, we come to meet with her in a play. Stories from her life are relayed directly, to an audience curious about Taglioni’s biography. When we see dancers, they are picture perfect. What we see is effortless, often sublime, with all that happens behind the scenes kept tightly under wraps.

The monologue provides information about Taglioni’s history, but there is little in terms of drama that could be gleaned. There are no great eruptions of emotion, no spicy scandals, and few dark secrets. It is a meaningful existence from a distant past, discussed with a simplicity that is perhaps underwhelming for a generation accustom to much more outrageous tales of unrelenting impropriety by famous types.

Gertraud Ingeborg is in the starring role, impressive and convincing with her physical expressions as ballet expert. The graceful beauty she brings to the piece is commendable, along with an undeniable strength in her presence that keeps us engaged. It is a flattering image of both actor and character that the show presents, under the directorship of Colleen Cook, who demonstrates an elegant and effective use of space, but the plot structure would benefit from greater effort in manufacturing a sense of tension for The Sylph‘s storytelling.

Female geniuses are consistently obliterated from our history books and our consciousness. Works like The Sylph are important in finding redress to this injustice. To know that women have achieved as much as, or more than, our male counterparts, is crucial to how we see ourselves today and how future generations will be able to live out their potentials. For women who wish to be great mothers and wives, there are plenty of success stories, but for the rest of us who desire anything else, we need every opportunity to encounter our predecessors.

www.old505theatre.com

Review: Belle Of The Cross (Harlos Productions / Sydney Independent Theatre Company)

sitco2Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Nov 18 – 29, 2014
Playwright: Angelika Fremd
Director: David Ritchie
Cast: Gertraud Ingeborg, Colleen Cook
Image by Katy Green Loughrey

Theatre review
Sydney’s Kings Cross is completely unique. Always controversial, vibrant and newsworthy, the area is a tiny geographical spot, but its infamy reaches far and wide. Residents of the precinct range from the very wealthy to the impoverished, including the homeless who often gravitate towards its parks and colourful alleyways. Angelika Fremd’s Belle Of The Cross is not biographical, but Belle is a composite, created from Fremd’s observations of “streeties” in the neighbourhood during her eight years at the Cross. The play is poetic, atmospheric and emotional, with only a light narrative thread holding scenes together. The writer depicts the extraordinary community with affection and dignity, rejecting contexts of mental illness that might cause a reductive reading of her subject matter.

Direction of the work by David Ritchie is sensitive to the considerations of the script, and he builds a sense of grace into the production, but its unrelenting gentleness prevents sufficient dramatic tension from taking hold. Scene changes tend to be overly subtle, with indistinct shifts in time and mood. Gertraud Ingeborg’s performance in the title role personifies warmth and sincerity. Her focus is impressive, and even though the stillness in her presence gives weight to the show, a lack of tonal variation results in a character that does not seem to develop adequately. Belle is an interesting personality that we have a lot of curiosity about, but the play needs to provide more insight to satisfy our desire to know her.

We all have times of loneliness, but Belle’s struggle is to do with isolation and aloneness. Although she is quite content with her own company, we must question our capacity and willingness as neighbours and community to furnish an environment that is safe and nourishing. Homelessness is a complex issue, one that crosses paths with a society’s stance on human rights and its economic ideologies. Belle Of The Cross gives a voice to the often seen but rarely heard, and is therefore essential and important, if we believe ourselves to be civilised.

www.sitco.net.au

5 Questions with Gertraud Ingeborg

gertraudingeborgWhat is your favourite swear word?
I don’t swear that much, I’m much better at it as a character, like as ‘Belle’. But ‘damn’ might have to do it!

What are you wearing?
Leotard (because I just went to a ballet class), leggings, a black soft top and flat shoes.

What is love?
Love, there are some many types of love, for a man, your children, your dog, your family. It’s all about caring, I think and giving.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
At the Old Fitz. The Irish play, Howie the Rookie, 3 stars

Is your new show going to be any good?
Yes, of course it will be, the writing is very good and so is the directing by David Ritchie and Colleen Cook who is going to do a great strip! My acting – of course it is good!! (At least my director thinks so).

Gertraud Ingeborg is starring in Belle Of The Cross, with Harlos Productions.
Show dates: 18 – 29 Nov, 2014
Show venue: The Old Fitzroy Hotel

King Lear (Harlos Productions)

rsz_lear0622Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Oct 2 – 13, 2013
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Director: Scarlett Ritchie
Actors: Gertraud Ingeborg, David Ritchie
Image above from 2006 production

Theatre review
Harlos Productions’ abridged 60-minute version of King Lear comprises key scenes from the play, joined by a narrator’s summary of events in between. The abbreviation of the plot obviously removes a lot of its development of tension and emotional involvement from the original experience, but what is created with just two players, is a theatrical entity that focuses squarely on the art of performance and storytelling. In the hands of Gertraud Ingeborg and David Ritchie, it is clear that the art form in question is a noble one.

Borrowing from Japanese and Chinese performance styles, both actors articulate their parts distinctly, almost operatically. Their stylistic gestures connect them to the audience, as they guide our eyes into the trajectories of the story. They often speak their lines directly into the fourth wall as though in the form of a narrator, inviting us to admire the beauty in their every movement and enunciation. Indeed, Ingeborg and Ritchie present to us, a craft that is effortless, confident, and thoroughly accomplished. Ingeborg in particular is manifestly comfortable and lively in all her roles, taking on each part with enthusiastic ease, and delighting us with a presence that can only be described as riveting.

Scarlett Ritchie’s direction brings out the best in both actors. We are shown the full range of their impressive skill, which gives the show an exciting feel of constant variation, and that variation is elemental in engaging the audience’s emotions. Props and costumes are minimal, but all items are utilised effectively. The director makes us read those inanimate objects in a specific way, and uses them to accurately shape our perspectives.

Even though the end of the piece is emotionally powerful, and Shakespeare’s epic story is ultimately told successfully, it is the art of theatre creation that triumphs in this production. In one hour, we see clearly the meaning of art, and realise the reverence that we must have for serious art makers.

www.venue505.com/theatre