5 Questions with Ali Aitken and Marcella Franco

Ali Aitken

Marcella Franco: What is your favourite line in the show?
Ali Aitken: There’s no shortage of men, I promise to find you a dozen before evening.

What is the most challenging part of the production?
For me I think it will be remembering which character I am at which point in the play…

What was your first theatre experience?
I developed a love of theatre at a very early age, I remember seeing Christopher Biggins as Winnie The Pooh and Mia Farrow as Peter Pan when I was about 3. The rest, as they say… My first acting role was the lead in a school play about Christopher Columbus when I was six or seven (I always was a bit of a tomboy). The line that’s stayed with me is “I’ll to my books’, no idea why. That and the fact that someone stole my trick dagger.

The entire play takes course over 1 day, what is the craziest day you have ever had?
I think the craziest day I had was one Saturday in Hong Kong – in the morning I performed in a children’s show as part of a festival, raced across town to another theatre where I stage managed a musical, back to do another kids’ show and then stage managed the evening performance. The show I SM’d didn’t know about the other one until the evening performance, it was a bit of a rush to get back and I didn’t have time to take my make up off properly. I was the Lion in The Wizard Of Oz so the make up was quite noticeable!

Of all the food mentioned in the play, which dish is your favourite?
You can’t go past a good roast.

Marcella Franco

Ali Aitken: Who is your favourite character in the show and why?
I know I might be bias, but my character Beatrice Rasponi is my favourite. She is intelligent, cunning, passionate, courageous, ambitious and also compassionate when she needs to be.

What has been your favourite role so far?
Maria from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, I had the pleasure of playing her last year and she is great fun.

What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done on stage (or screen)?
Wearing an orange sequinned bra and pink feathered shorts, I was making my way to the stage from the dressing room, in full view of the audience, tripped over some chairs, they rolled into other chairs, I quickly then popped back up and a cloud of pink feathers filled the air. What an entrance.

Why should everyone come and see this show?
Besides the fact that it’s hilarious, it’s a show that deals with gender roles, love, family pressures and status. All things which we are still battling in today’s society.

Is this your first experience working in the Commedia Del’Arte style?
I have participated in a workshop before but yes this is my first experience performing Commedia Del’Arte. Trying to take on the physicality, whilst wearing a mask, whilst pretending to be a man has come with it’s challenges but has also been very rewarding.

Ali Aitken and Marcella Franco can be seen in The Servant Of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni.
Dates: 14 – 25 Mar, 2017
Venue: King Street Theatre

Review: Making Love (King Street Theatre)

kstVenue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Feb 14 – 25, 2017
Playwright: Jess Scott Driksna
Director: Martin Ashley Jones
Cast: Philip D’Ambrosio, Jess Scott Driksna, Shannon Daniel Fallows, Eleanore Knox, Matthew Oberg

Theatre review
It might look like the 1990’s but the story takes place in a sci-fi future. Robots have become indistinguishable from humans, and are being sold to us as spouses and lovers. Jess Scott Driksna’s Making Love envisions a time when we finally give up on each other, and choose instead to live with compliant beings customised to fulfil our every desire.

It is a logical development of course, as technology continues to take over every function. We know that the events in the play are probably many lifetimes away, but Driksna’s predictions are entirely reasonable. Today, 50 million people are estimated to use the dating app Tinder, and many men in Japan have already declared themselves in serious relationships with virtual girlfriends who exist only on their computing devices and in the imagined ether. We might think of technology as synthetic, and hence contrary to the organic flesh and blood quality of how we conceive of relationships, but our behaviour demonstrates the readiness at which we meld the two.

Driksna’s writing inspires many fundamental and exciting questions about humanity at this advanced stage of civilisation, and even though his ideas are interesting, execution requires greater refinement. The play needs a trimmer plot, and characters would benefit from shorter, sharper dialogue. The script does offer some witty banter, but direction of the piece, which involves long sequences of actors sitting on a couch doing little more than reciting lines, and occasional corny physical humour, is less than exciting.

Acting is unfortunately stilted and under-rehearsed, although leading lady Eleanore Knox does leave a good impression with her concluding scene, in a soul-baring speech about loneliness in cutting edge times. As our consciousness shrinks into a size that fits into our smartphones, we become increasingly insular. People are distractions from an all-important self that exists only between one’s own body and a small magic screen. There is no need to understand others, there is no need to embrace other bodies. Everything can be made to fit one person’s vision of the world, and we think that each one of our tiny bubbles is good enough.

www.kingstreettheatre.com.au

Review: Losing You (Twice) (King Street Theatre)

kingsttheatreVenue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Feb 7 – 11, 2017
Playwright: Kate O’Keefe
Director: Paul Gilchrist
Cast: Kate O’Keefe
Image by Liam O’Keefe

Theatre review
Kate O’Keefe learned about her brother Daniel’s depression shortly before he disappeared. The anguish in losing a loved one, and the feelings of guilt, are immense, but there is little one can do that is constructive, except to talk. O’Keefe’s Losing You (Twice) is a manifestation of grief. It is conscious of the effect it could have on its audience, and does incorporate elements of activism and public service, but the work’s real concern is catharsis.

We are present to witness and to assist in O’Keefe’s healing, captivated by the authenticity of her revelations, along with the emotional power that she embodies. As performer of the piece however, O’Keefe can tend to push too hard with what she wishes to convey. Director Paul Gilchrist is aware of the show’s effectiveness when the story is seen at its most honest, but how we experience truth can become diluted when we see a person in pain indulge excessively in their sorrow. In real life, we have to suppress emotions in order that trauma can be made verbal. On this bare stage where every effort is made to strip off theatricality and pretence, the performer’s ability to be without embellishment is key, and very demanding, even if it is a real story.

Ultimately we never for one second, question any of the suffering, or the validity of O’Keefe’s efforts at turning it into art, which are sublime. In Losing You (Twice), we come face to face with the fragility of existence, and the meaning of empathy for us as individuals and communities. Not all of us will encounter such horrific events, but we have to be mindful of people who walk next to us with their own wounds. Life often seems to be easier for others, but the truth is that everybody hurts.

www.kingstreettheatre.com.au

Review: Hiding Jekyll (Mon Sans Productions)

monsansVenue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Dec 6 – 10, 2016
Playwright: Liviu Monsted
Director: Liviu Monsted
Cast: Wills Burke, Nic D’Arrigo, Jordan Gallegos, Nathanael Hole, Dale Johnson-Green, Liviu Monsted, Jordan Rafter, Vitas Varnas

Theatre review
It is the Jekyll & Hyde story turned pantomime. The protagonist’s infamous condition is clearly fertile ground for comedy, so there is no surprise that Liviu Monsted (writer, director and lead actor) has identified it appropriate for lampooning. The sense of humour in Hiding Jekyll is very specific, and not to everyone’s tastes, but the production is certainly full of passion in its bid for a style of presentation, that had gone out of fashion when Mel Brooks ended his directorial career more than 20 years ago.

The jokes are cheesy, and the gags hammy, but the cast looks to be enjoying their experience. One person’s meat is another person’s poison, and it is probably true that there is no one thing that is universally funny. The cast is energetic and committed, but chemistry is lacking and timing poorly measured, with strange pauses between lines that prevent the show from ever gaining momentum. Performer Dale Johnson-Green however, leaves a good impression in the role of Enfield, with one of the more naturally animated, yet sensitive, approaches in the show.

The Jekyll & Hyde conceit will forever be relevant, and is therefore always primed for a retelling. The uncontrollable evil that resides within, is deeply familiar but also a mysterious and neglected stranger. We may not all share a common funny bone, but what is irrevocably true is our understanding that human nature comprises both good and bad, and it is important that we know when the bad guy takes over.

www.monsansproductions.com

Review: Is It Time (King Street Theatre)

emuprodVenue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), May 25 – Jun 5, 2016
Playwright: Martin Ashley Jones
Director: Barry Walsh
Cast: Lauren J. Jones, Denise Kitching, David Luke, Sarah Plummer, Ross Scott, Sylvia White
Image by Thomas Adams

Theatre review
Discussions about end-of-life decisions are invariably dynamic. Each of us has a stake in the topic, and our points of view tend to be fiercely adversarial, even though the matter is contentious precisely for its manifold ambiguities. Martin Ashley Jones’ Is It Time makes a courageous proposition about the way we should be allowed to be in control of our own deaths. It makes a pro-euthanasia argument, but avoids cliché with some of its more radical ideas that are rarely presented in public discourse. Jones’ story is confronting and controversial, with well-crafted characters and vibrant dialogue that will facilitate healthy debate on the subject. The script can be further finessed, especially in passages where diatribes become too obvious, but it is a passionate work that will encourage thoughtful and spirited interaction in its audience.

Direction by Barry Walsh brings excellent lucidity, in emotional and logical terms, to the play’s ideas. There is little doubt as to what Is It Time wishes to say, but the show can often lack nuance in its representations. The issue is a complex one, but we jump to its conclusions almost too easily. Walsh’s pace is admittedly enjoyable, but it also feels rushed at points, and important details become lost in the process. Performances are characterised by clarity and enthusiasm, and even though a greater sense of moral struggle would add drama to the piece, the production succeeds in engaging us by asking important, burning questions. Sylvia White and Ross Scott lead the cast with heartbreaking honesty and beautiful chemistry. Their control over poignant sections of the play is considerably stronger than in moments of comedy, and we do take time to warm up to their personalities, but they get us to an ending that is ultimately very satisfying.

Fighting over the right for a dignified death is problematic for many reasons, including the fact that many who argue against euthanasia have not encountered terminal illness at close proximity. For those who only see death as a distant and abstract concept, taking away a suffering individual’s final cardinal choice is a not a difficult task. Is It Time demonstrates that art has the unique capacity to provide space for the issue to be explored, in a way that is humane and sentimental, but simultaneously objective and pragmatic. There are few opportunities for us to come face to face with our mortality, but at the theatre, where it is secure and sacred, we can interrogate the inevitability to reach a deeper understanding of that sunset we will all see one fateful day.

www.kingstreettheatre.com.au

5 Questions with Lauren J. Jones and Martin Ashley Jones

Lauren J. Jones

Lauren J. Jones

Martin Ashley Jones: What are the best and worst aspects of playing Rosie?
Lauren J. Jones: Rosie is quite confident and sassy at times and she also has a lot of love to give. I love the dynamic of her character. However, I’m finding that the greatest challenge is getting back into the mindset of a 19 year old who, whilst being quite mature is still young.

What do you love about Rosie?
I love that at 19 years of age Rosie handles such an intense, sad and conflicting emotional experience with such grace and maturity. She is a fun loving girl who really does want the best for the people she loves.

What have you loved about this process?
I’ve loved working with older actors and dealing with a subject matter that is not something I have ever had to really think about with before. It’s been eye opening and thought provoking to say the least. The cast and our director Barry Walsh have all been such a joy to work with too!

What have you been doing previous to this?
From 2009-2013 I lived in London where I went to drama school and worked as an actress. Since then I have continued acting but am also currently in my final year of a BA in TV and Film Production at JMC Academy. Whilst continuing acting I am beginning to branch out into directing and writing, mainly for film which has been fun!

What do you prefer, acting or directing?
I love them both… equally I think! In regards to acting I love being able to explore a character, really working out their characteristics and mannerisms etc. As a director though I love being able to look at all of the characters and the world as a whole and really being able to have my own interpretation on a whole script as opposed to just one character.

Martin Ashley Jones

Martin Ashley Jones

Lauren J. Jones: What’s been your favourite role and why?
Martin Ashley Jones: I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenges and rewards that I have experienced in all of the roles I have been privileged to be able to play but Macbeth was a sensational role and I think that the time of my life in which it came along was very special in so many ways. I’d love the opportunity to play him again at some stage.

Have you always written?
Pretty much yes. I have always been doodling and scribbling away at something. Just finishing Is It Time has been a real accomplishment for me as I’ve got quite a few unfinished projects floating around so I am stoked for the play to get from my head to the page, to the stage!

Where do you see yourself in the future within the arts?
I’ll continue to perform and write. I’d like to direct some more and I’m not sure whether it’s my age or my frustration with the abandonment of the arts by the government but who knows, I may even get a bit political!

Why did you choose not to direct or act in Is It Time?
At various stages I was always going to do one or the other or maybe even both but because of the scheduling and another personal commitment that arose I was unable to do either. I’m very excited though to now watch the play not having anything to do with the production. I feel it’s in safe hands and I now get to see totally from the perspective of the audience.

There are some very challenging themes in the play how do you think the audience will react to these?
I haven’t concentrated on how the audience will react to any aspect or theme within the play. I have written a story about family, friends and some of the complexities and challenges that we all face in one way or another throughout our lives. I realise that there is subject matter that may polarize people but then so do stories in the news everyday.

Lauren J. Jones can be seen in

Review: The Bald Soprano (King Street Theatre)

kingstreettheatreVenue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Mar 15 – 26, 2016
Playwright: Eugene Ionesco (translated by Donald M. Allen)
Director: Barry Walsh
Cast: Timothy Hope, Ellie May, Luciana Nguyen, Matthew Neto, Cheng Tang, Rhiannon Watson

Theatre review
The play is set in a nondescript living room, awash in beige and old furniture, with no cause for excitement except for an inordinately large number of clocks greeting the audience. Eugene Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano is an absurdist, and perhaps surreal, piece that addresses the potentialities of theatre from a very fundamental standpoint. It explores the very nature of people on a stage, and how theatre practitioners are moved to act in the pursuit of an endeavour that might be termed artistic.

Ionesco removes notions of stories, characters and logical coherence, to locate a theatrical entity that can make sense without the reliance on narrative and other conventions for communication. Quite similarly, director Barry Walsh’s focus on time, with ticking sounds and aforementioned clocks, takes our attention to the way we might create meaning to fill up the very passage of time in our daily lives. The personalities on stage appear to be regular English folk, and like us, they try to go about their business as though full of reason and fortitude, yet there is no disguising their alien-like demeanour in the absence of rational dialogue. Without proper context or a sense of regular storytelling to guide us, ordinary people (or in this case, middle class suburbanites) begin to dissolve into a strange melange of movements, interactions and emotions, allowing us to observe human behaviour as though from an alternate universe. We are encouraged to find an understanding of the self through a process of detachment. For a moment, we become the aliens, looking in on Earth with fresh eyes to study the human process, and to realise the Dada ridiculousness of it all.

Walsh is adept at creating an atmosphere of awkwardness, which in itself is an intriguing sensation to experience, but also curiously relevant to the play’s essence. There is a gently comic quality to the scenes that he composes, but chemistry between actors can seem lacking in key moments where bigger laughs could be delivered. Performances are effective when the players become adventurous and are able to momentarily spin out of control, but there seems a tendency for them to feel needlessly restrained most of the duration. Timothy Hope as Mr Smith is the most mischievous in the cast, and leaves an impression with exaggerated manoeuvres that not only entertain, but are also in line with the spirit of the work.

Through strangeness, we approach truth. When encountering the bizarre, our instincts respond by identifying scant elements that provide familiarity, in order that we may formulate personal associations that resonate. How we read any instance of obscure artistic expression, relies heavily on the constitution of each individual audience member, thus presenting an opportunity for self-reflection. The act of theatre attendance is one of community, so the construction of meaning also occurs in the meeting of minds, and hence a collective reality can be manufactured. It is human to experience and interpret, and with The Bald Soprano, there is certainly plenty of room for both those pleasures.

www.kingstreettheatre.com.au