5 Questions with Travis Jeffery and Hoa Xuande

Travis Jeffery

Hoa Xuande: Before you read Tonsils And Tweezers, going purely from the name, what did you think the play would be about?
Travis Jeffery: I had absolutely no idea what the play was about before I read it. I love the title, but the only thing it gives away is two of the characters names, and even that’s not crystal clear. Will O’Mahony is a very intelligent human and writer so I gathered the title wasn’t going to be literal, but the thought did cross my mind that ‘hey maybe it’s just set at the dentist’.

What kind of kid were you at school?
I was the funny chubby kid at school. Or at least I tried to be funny, I was definitely chubby. My passport photo was taken in 2009 when I was around 107 kgs, these days when I whip it out at the airport I occasionally get laughed at… at least I’m getting laughs 😦

What are the similarities or differences between you and your character?
The importance of friendship is definitely something myself and Tonsils have in common. My friendships are one of the most important parts of my life, whether it’s on or off stage it’s wonderful knowing you have people that will be there for you, including you, Hoa Xuande. At the heart of Tonsils And Tweezers is two best friends trying to help each other work through something traumatic, it’s their friendship that drives the play.

What do you think your character’s name actually is and why?
Interesting question Hoa, lets go with Peter. Purely because in one of the rehearsals James Sweeny, who plays Max, called me Peter when he wasn’t cut off in time. Or maybe his name really is just Tonsils, like Cher!

Where do you go to get your dance moves?
I learnt my moves at the school of hard knocks! Don’t be fooled into thinking I woke up one morning and they were there. Years of hard work and dedication has been put into my skills. Hitting the D-Floor rain, hail or shine to keep my moves in peak condition. Actually to be honest I was born with absolutely no rhythm so dancing is incredibly hard for me, come watch the show and see for your self.

Hoa Xuande

Travis Jeffery: What do you enjoy about Tonsils And Tweezers and Will O’Mahony’s writing?
Hoa Xuande: I’ve had the chance to work with Will twice now on his plays, including the original development of Tonsils And Tweezers, and the thing that really sticks with me about his writing is how frivolous and fun his plays are until it drops you into the deep end and puts you into an emotional mess. Without trying to sound smart he creates these ideas and clues along the way, which ironically makes his plays really clever. In Tonsils And Tweezers we just get to be silly and play until we hand the audience the play’s actual intentions and emotional truth. It’s really fun to do that every night!

What’s the biggest difference between this production and the original?
The biggest difference between this production and the original would have to be the pace between the two shows. The original was put on as part of a double-bill of theatre at the Black Swan State Theatre Company in Perth so we had some time constraints so Will, who also directed the piece himself, really got us to rapid-fire the text. I mean, we really spoke quite fast! But this production has allowed me to just re-discover the text and give the play a little more ‘breathing room’ so it’s nice to be able to just take your time a bit more in this version of the production and make new choices that you hadn’t previously thought about before. It’s just been great to be able to do the same text again but in a different way!

This question has 2 parts! Part 1: What do you like most about rehearsals? Part 2: What do you like most about working with me?
Haha, well… early on in rehearsals, it was interesting to re-discover the play with Travis and Michael and because I had done the play before, I thought, “Nah, I’ll be right.” But as they kept mining the text and discovered things I had completely missed before, I found myself questioning what I actually knew and what my choices were in the previous production and whether I had even understood the play in the first place. So stepping through the play once again in these rehearsals has actually been quite a refreshing feeling. Travis, mate, I like your can-do attitude! Strong choices even if they might be wrong, or always wrong, haha! Nah, actually that was me every day!

Is it true you only own one white shirt and wear it every day?
False, my friend, I actually own more than one white shirt. Three, to be precise. One of which is being used in the show right now! But I choose to wear my ‘rehearsal’ white shirt every day for rehearsal purposes. FYI, it does get washed every week, I think!

Did you ever have a nickname that you hated? Do you have one now?
I’ve had plenty of nicknames or more like mis-pronunciations of my name that’ve probably turned into a nickname at some point in time. The strangest reading of my name once was ‘hon’ and I was like, ‘Interesting, don’t know where the ‘n’ came from but I’ll take it!’ It’s pronounced ‘hwa’ by the way, like a karate chop! That phrase has become attached to my name every time I introduce myself now, haha! But no, never really hated any nicknames. Do I have one now? Don’t know, probably, but Xanadu’s been making the rounds because it looks similar to my last name!

Travis Jeffery and Hoa Xuande can be seen in Tonsils And Tweezers by Will O’Mahony.
Dates: 12 – 29 Jan, 2018
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre

5 Questions with Zoe Jensen and Emma O’Sullivan

Zoe Jensen

Emma O’Sullivan: What do you find the most challenging about performing?
Zoe Jensen: The thing I find the most challenging is pretty basic: it’s the absolute fear that I will second-guess myself in the moment and drop a line, or forget some blocking, or (worst thing ever) lose my shit and start laughing and not be able to pull it back! Thank goodness though most of these things aren’t issue if you practise often enough!

What’s your secret for getting into character?
Everyone’s got their own way of doing it. What I find works for me is to spend at least half an hour before the show going over the big moments in the play for my character. Clarifying this to myself. I find that once I’ve found those 2 or 3 moments, I can drop into it a lot easier. Also just being in the space, walking around and warming up, going over lines or speeches, even just listening to some music – these are all extremely helpful tools.

What’s your dream role?
My dream role would be to play a super bad-ass cold-hearted private detective, and solve some really messed up crimes. (This is what I would love to do in real life but I don’t have the patience to go to uni and do some science thing for years and years, so playing a character who does this would be the BEST THING EVER!) One day…

Tell us about your show Orange Is The New Crack?
Our show is a silly silly silly little show, that will make you laugh A LOT and forget about everything outside of the theatre 😊 There’s no big morals, or messages or anything like that. It’s just myself, Jane and Michael reverting back to childhood and playing a funny make-believe game. I assure you it’s very entertaining!

Why should people go and see Hijacked Rabbit?
Four new pieces of Australian Work?!?! That’s incredible! And they are all under an hour, and have really talented actors, writers and directors behind them, and you can have a drink and a HUGE laugh. It’s such a fun, chilled, entertaining night 😊

Emma O’Sullivan

Zoe Jensen: What do you find the most challenging about performing?
Emma O’Sullivan: There’s a tonne of great challenges for me when performing. One big challenge is making sure I leave whatever day I’ve had at the door. Some days a billion different things happen before I’ve even headed in to the theatre, I try my best to make sure they don’t bleed into the story I’m about to tell onstage.

The second big challenge for me is if I’ve got the luxury of doing heaps of runs of a show then finding that sweet spot between all my preparation and keeping it fresh as a new pair of sneakers every night, you know? You don’t want to go nuts and do stuff like throwing a chair across the room mid scene to keep it fresh – I just want it to be nice and aired out for each audience. Trusting the work I’ve done and then going out there and performing it like; I haven’t done it for the last 2 months, and I didn’t trip over and rip my pants in act one the night before and just go for it. Each show may be the last one I ever get to do so I try to just go for a ride.

What’s your secret for getting into character?
I just try to get the hell out of my own way. Before each show I warm up like there’s no tomorrow, then just sit somewhere for 5 minutes. I just close my eyes, breathe and try to tune out any noise from the day – and any thoughts that are useless for the task I’ve got ahead of me. I started doing that a few years ago and it really seems to help me.

Now, tell us a about Hijacked Rabbit and how you’re involved?
Hijacked Rabbit is this rad season that Jackrabbit Theatre have put together. They’ve selected four one-act, really punchy and tasty pieces of theatre to show at Blood Moon Theatre in Kings Cross from October 31st- November 11th. It’s such a fantastic opportunity to get some theatre onstage that ranges from balls-to-the-wall comedy through to some seriously heartfelt moments.

I’ll be performing in Hit which is written and directed by Lincoln Vickery. The cast also includes heaps of serious talent including Adam Sollis, Seamus Quinn and Elle Harris. It’s such a treat getting to see them all work. The show is honestly like nothing you could ever imagine and is such a blast to perform in. And on every other night I’ll be performing in a one-woman show I’ve written called It’s Mars Time, directed by Charlotte Devenport. I literally cannot wait to do it!

Oh, and then of course there’s your show Orange Is The New Crack written by James Sweeny and Gate 64, written and performed by Jane Watt.

And your one woman show, It’s Mars Time, where does the inspiration come from for your character of Judy?
It comes from loads of different points of interest for me. One of them is the fact that some people (including myself) are just not natural born leaders. I honestly find it hilarious having to really figure out any sort of leadership position I’m in as I go along. Sometimes doing it right and sometimes getting it so so wrong. But what I’m really interested in is watching someone deal with that in a super heightened situation such as; being in a leader in a WWIII bunker, and being severely under-experienced for the job. There’s a comical amount of people in leadership positions in the world who – like Judy – are not natural born leaders and have to just deal with it. It can be hilarious to watch but the results can also be a real tragedy.

I’m also really intrigued by people who have extremely heightened survival instincts. And I love that they’ll prepare for a war no matter the circumstances, they’re survivors and just do what they need to do. I’m fascinated by their natural instincts to get organised, and get prepared for a tragedy at any given moment. You name it – they’ve got a plan for it.

And which show is better do you think, Orange Is The New Crack or It’s Mars Time?
(Laughs) Both of the shows are brill! But lucky for everyone they’re on the same night as a double bill, so the they/I don’t have to choose 😉

Zoe Jensen and Emma O’Sullivan are appearing in Hijacked Rabbit, an anthology of 4 comedies.
Dates: 31 October – 11 November, 2017
Venue: Blood Moon Theatre

Review: Hijacked Rabbit (Jackrabbit Theatre)

Venue: Blood Moon Theatre (Potts Point NSW), Oct 31 – Nov 11, 2017
Playwrights: Emma O’Sullivan, James Sweeny, Lincoln Vickery, Jane Watt
Directors: Michael Abercromby, Charlotte Devenport, Lincoln Vickery
Cast: Michael Abercromby, Elle Harris, Zoe Jensen, Emma O’Sullivan, Adam Sollis, Seamus Quinn, Jane Watt
Image by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
Hijacked Rabbit features 4 separate hour-long comedies, each with its own style and characteristics. The plays are individually surprising, although some are funnier than others, and not all are equally meaningful. A matter of personal taste would determine how an audience member responds to the varying comedic approaches, but this is an amusing collection of ideas, presented with infectious enthusiasm.

The one-woman piece Gate 64, written and performed by Jane Watt, sees Winnie, who resides at an airport, talking to her captive crowd, comprised of passengers awaiting a delayed flight. Exploring delusions and memories, fantasies and hopes, Watt demonstrates impressive talent in both artistic capacities. As playwright, she is witty and gently profound, and as actor, she is simultaneously sensitive and daring, tremendously likeable as a result of the extraordinary vulnerability she brings to the role.

Watt again appears in Orange Is The New Crack by James Sweeny, accompanied by equally funny players Michael Abercromby and Zoe Jensen, for some excellent scenes of hilarious tomfoolery. It is this accomplished trio that takes us through the delightfully messy story from ancient times, of sugar-peddling women, their junkies and other dependants.

Although not always executed with finesse, the plays prove themselves to be fantastically imagined. Hit by Lincoln Vickery is a dynamic, fast-paced story about hit men and gay love. It’s Mars Time by Emma O’Sullivan is inspired by the troubles of our times, and the desire to flee this anguished existence.

Each segment of Hijacked Rabbit offers moments of brilliance, and we are enchanted whenever a glimmer of genius is revealed, within these rambunctious, jaunty proceedings. It is the raw talent on show that has us excited, and on this occasion, proves itself to be more than satisfactory.

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Review: Idiot Juice (Jackrabbit Theatre)

Venue: The Factory Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Aug 29 – Sep 2, 2017
Playwright: Charlie Falkner
Cast: Charlie Falkner, Alex Malone, James Sweeny
Image by Luke McMahon

Theatre review
Charlie Falkner’s creation provides a simple structure for Idiot Juice, with three siblings hawking “medium juice” at a funeral, claiming that it provides visions of the dead for an hour, with each dose consumed. Within this context, performers improvise jokes in accordance with its predetermined plot trajectory. With death positioned at the centre of the action, we find ourselves on fertile ground for dark comedy, and opportunities are certainly present for poignant existential reflection, but the trio keeps things resolutely light.

Each comedian brings to the stage a distinct style of humour, with James Sweeny’s brassy approach proving invaluable in holding our attention captive. Alex Malone’s whimsy prevents the show from turning predictable, and Falkner’s self-effacing impulses are key to his charm. It is a cohesive group, and when the chemistry works, their show vibrates with a sense of unmistakable excitement, but an inability to maintain a consistently tight rhythm at several points, exposes unfortunate deficiencies in dexterity and confidence.

To be able to laugh at death, requires that we interrogate and excavate the deepest of our humanity. It forces us to examine how we apportion value, to identify the things that matter in life, or more accurately, to question those that reveal only frivolity. Idiot Juice is about gullibility, and how we are easily fooled into adopting ideals that are nothing more than myth or romance. As the saying goes, only death and taxes are certain in life, so everything else must only be a manifestation of the subjective imagination, and what we become, has a lot to do with choices.

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Review: Front (Jackrabbit Theatre)

Venue: The Depot Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Jun 28 – Jul 15, 2017
Playwright: Michael Abercromby
Director: Michael Abercromby
Cast: Jack Angwin, Charlie Falkner, Elle Harris, Andreas Lohmeyer, Mary Soudi, Lincoln Vickery
Image by Tom Cramond

Theatre review
They are called Rough Cut Punt, a band that is going places, fuelled by big dreams, and even bigger egos. In Michael Abercromby’s Front, we meet four young men, talented but naive, trying to foster a career with only passion as guidance. Before too long, things begin to unravel, of course, in this age old tale of a partnership gone sour. Its narrative might be predictable, but the show is nonetheless enjoyable. Front is a story we have heard before, but its themes of betrayal and of innocence lost, will always retain their pertinence.

It is a tight and energetic production that Abercromby has directed. Scenes move past efficiently, with transitions, of time and space, handled remarkably well. The stage is effectively demarcated, by lighting designer Liam O’Keefe and set designer Shaynee Brayshaw, to offer a sense of vigour and action to keep us involved. Our frontman is played by Lincoln Vickery, whose vulnerability prevents us from being alienated by his poor behaviour. Vickery can seem a reluctant villain, but his charisma holds our attention even when the going gets tough. Charlie Falkner is relied upon to provide the comedy, as band guitarist and resident stoner, with his impeccable timing giving the production a much needed lustre. Also memorable is Mary Soudi as a recording executive, vicious and vile, accurately presented for some of the play’s more dramatic moments.

Like most people who fear being ordinary, artists are aghast by the thought of being generic. Rough Cut Punt wants to have a good time, but it knows that its survival depends on finding something original. Front may be an entertaining work, but we want it to say something new, so that its effects can last beyond the curtain call. Its prologue and epilogue are one and the same, both expressing the artist’s zeal for the vocation, but we see success eluding our protagonist, as he continues to ignore his craft.

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Review: Sex Object (Jackrabbit Theatre / The Depot Theatre)

Venue: The Depot Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Apr 19 – 29, 2017
Playwright: Charlie Falkner
Director: Michael Abercromby
Cast: Charlotte Devenport, Charlie Falkner, Andrew Hearle, Grace Victoria
Image by Omnes Photography

Theatre review
Ben is addicted to pornography, an increasingly widespread problem resulting from recent technological advancements, that have allowed unprecedented access to explicit sexual content. Unable to conduct a healthy relationship with his girlfriend, he decides to break things off, but Ron’s father has just passed away, and timing is a real issue. Charlie Falkner’s Sex Object may not be very sure about what it wishes to say, but its dialogue and characters are certainly amusing. We go on a delightful ride with the youthful foursome, entertained by the things they say and do, and even though we end up at a place quite unexceptional, the journey is ultimately a pleasing one.

The show is energetic, full of effervescence, and we are kept engrossed in each of its very chatty sequences. Director Michael Abercromby is determined to have interchanges occur with great exuberance, which holds the audience’s attention well, but it is doubtful if we ever find an opportunity to invest anything deeper than cheerful laughter. Falkner’s own performance as Ben is charmingly idiosyncratic, like a Millennial Woody Allen, struggling to make sense of his own world, while exposing the dysfunctions that we all share. Playing Gustav is the very funny Andrew Hearle, long-limbed and manic, prancing around the stage with uncontainable enthusiasm, and proving himself to be an awfully infectious presence.

The play beats about the bush, wishing to talk about sex in the modern era, but is unable to get deep and dirty with its ideas. Taboo subjects are by definition seldom discussed, and as such, we often lack the ability for their articulation. Not only do we lack the language, we lack the philosophy, because silence hampers how we communicate and how we think. It is clear that Sex Object wishes to interrogate something contemporary about our sexualities, at a time when technology and commerce are allowed to penetrate all that is intimate and private, but what it actually does say is insubstantial. In its inevitable and unintended prudishness, we receive instead a barrage of jokes, like children discovering sex, unable to appreciate it for its profundity, indulging instead in its many awkward and silly, although not unenjoyable, thrills and spills.

www.jackrabbittheatre.comwww.thedepottheatre.com

Review: Sweet Phoebe (Jackrabbit Theatre)

jackrabbitVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Nov 1 – 12, 2016
Playwright: Michael Gow
Director: Suzanne Pereira, Anthony Skuse
Cast: Charlotte Hazzard, Alastair Osment
Image by

Theatre review
There is something superficial about Fraser and Helen’s relationship in Sweet Phoebe. They spend most of their time talking about work, using it as a distraction from issues at home. When a friend’s dog comes to live, their life begins to unravel, revealing problems they had previously chosen not to acknowledge. Michael Gow writes about how we get caught up in unimportant things. Middle class existences in wealthy Australia are preoccupied with inconsequential and frivolous obsessions that allow deeper parts of ourselves be ignored, until they become urgent for attention, culminating in crisis points, leaving us crying for help.

As Helen, Charlotte Hazzard presents truthful emotions that give the pair’s small world a sense of volatile authenticity. Alastair Osment’s theatrical approach highlights the artificiality and showy shallowness of Fraser. Both actors bring to the piece, a fine balance of comedy and tragedy that is often entertaining and quite gripping. Directors Suzanne Pereira and Anthony Skuse ensure that dynamics between characters are explored with sensitivity and a resonant accuracy. A plot twist does however, turn the production slightly predictable and banal towards its end, causing its conclusion to arrive deflated.

The play contains sharp humour and pointed commentary on modern couples, asking questions about the nature of intimate relationships in today’s climate of rationality and independence. As traditional values and religious beliefs fade away, it becomes necessary to understand the evolution of our psyche as it pertains to these unions, if we are to learn how to keep marriages working. There is little evidence in Sweet Phoebe that the couple should remain together, aside from the practicalities of property co-ownership. Where signs of romance do emerge, they materialise in negative ways through jealousy and anger, and while they do engage in sexual intercourse, it seems that their connection is less than extraordinary.

It is hard to make a meaningful life, when we are surrounded by things that matter little, or when we forget that time is finite. We should not be foolish with what we choose to pursue, and our decisions must never cause harm to others, but as our times become increasingly narcissistic, the likelihood of creating rich existences can only diminish.

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5 Questions with Charlotte Hazzard and Alastair Osment

Charlotte Hazzard

Charlotte Hazzard

Alastair Osment: What do you think Sydney audiences will enjoy most about Sweet Phoebe?
Charlotte Hazzard: It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what Sydney audiences will enjoy most about Gow’s play. I think the fact that it is set in Sydney will resonate with audiences. He paints such an unexpected, unpredictable and genuine picture of the private homes of others that Helen and Frazer find themselves and I think that’s thrilling – what sits indoors. That’s hopefully just one of the many.

How would you describe your character Helen in five words.
Open. Willing. Bubbling. Observant. Fire.

What made you decide to be an actor?
I was very shy when I was younger and so my mother forced me to do speech and drama classes and it quickly turned into a real passion. I was also mentored by a wonderful actress through high school and she made me really believe that I could pursue this career path.

What is your favourite role you’ve played in your career to date.
Tough… I’m going to answer this without considering this play…

Last year I worked on Angela Betzien’s War Crimes and played a character called Jade. Was my favourite because of many things cast/crew/sisterhood/everything but also the character is a total badass. She’s 16 years old and has been through hell and back- but despite all that she is the ultimate warrior. Never the victim, relentless, full of strength, life and love. I was really inspired by her.

What has been your greatest challenge with the text so far.
This has been such a wonderfully challenging play. There is a lot of white space on the page and also in the lives of the characters- there a not a lot of answers in the script but instead a lot of clues of what this pair are dealing with. With how they deal with each, their language and how they evolve through the play. Excavating and discovering these characters and their relationship with the very little purposely given has been a welcomed challenge. Michael Gow has also written without punctuation and when I first picked up the text I was like wow! What a freeing gift! but one of the other challenges, because although there is no punctuation it has been quite purposefully composed and discovery is still ongoing.

Alastair Osment

Alastair Osment

Charlotte Hazzard: Why did you decide to become an actor?
Alastair Osment: It’s the only thing I wanted to do when I left school… and to be honest it’s the only thing I was ever good at. My parents encouraged me to do a trade after high school . So after I completed my 4-year apprenticeship to become a qualified electrician I went off to WAAPA to study acting.

What has been the greatest challenge so far with this text?
This play was deliberately written without punctuation to allow the actors playing it to find the thoughts and syntax through discovery, rather than it being prescribed. That’s a great freedom… but also a massive challenge because I’ve found I’ve had to explore every ‘wrong’ way, to get to the ‘right’ way of delivery/sense.

Have you ever lost a dog?
A few times actually! Our childhood dog, Heidi, used to escape by slipping through the handrails on the upstairs veranda and jumping from the 1st floor!! Insane. We always found her again… but she kept on making those death-defying leaps.

What type of dog did you having growing up?
We had a Blue Heeler named Jude. And later we had a Fox Terrier named Heidi.

How would you describe your character Frazer in 5 words?
Passionate, Determined, Aspirational, Front-footed, Proactive.

Charlotte Hazzard and Alastair Osment are appearing in Sweet Phoebe by Michael Gow.
Dates: 1 – 12 November, 2016
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre

Review: Dirty People (Doonbrae Productions / Jackrabbit Theatre)

depotVenue: The Depot Theatre (Marrickville NSW), May 4 – 8, 2016
Playwright: Charlie Falkner
Director: Michael Abercromby
Cast: Charlotte Devenport, Sam Delich, Charlie Falkner, Sam Davenport, Zoe Jensen
Image by Tom Cramond

Theatre review
Charlie Falkner’s Dirty People is a delightful romp about the selfie generation. Its dialogue is clever and idiosyncratic, with hints of originality that gives the work remarkable character. There are moments of self-conscious social commentary that attempt to add a sense of gravity, but Michael Abercromby’s direction is more memorable for astutely delivering every nuance of comedy discoverable in the script. Abercromby’s style is vibrant and adventurous, with an infectious sense of humour that ensures an enjoyable time in the theatre for all concerned.

Although slightly rough around the edges, the youthful ensemble performs the work with excellent conviction. Their presentation is well-rehearsed, and chemistry is strong in every scene. They craft distinct personalities that convey the plot effectively, each one bringing their own charm to the stage. As an actor, Falkner demonstrates good timing and creates a rich interpretation of his part using a wealth of unexpected subtleties. Sam Delich brings a broader approach to get the laughs, and proves himself to be an endearing presence in both his roles. There is a good sense of cohesion in the cast, which is a pleasant surprise considering the diverse comedic tones they each embody.

Although Dirty People misses the opportunity for a more critical take on the state of the world today, it offers effervescent entertainment that is often silly but never stupid. Its satire is fun-loving, and even though thoughtfully conceived, it does not burden us with the disappointments of real life that are its inspiration. The nature of people is full of dirt, but how we aspire to find grace and decency is the key to an enlightened existence.

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