5 Questions with Mathew Costin and Joseph JU Taylor

Mathew Costin

Joseph JU Taylor: How does knowing that these characters are real people and that their own words form the dialogue change how you approach the characters?
Mathew Costin: It has meant that you really have to find ways to make the overall story work through a much more limited range of behaviours – to find a balance between communicating the message of the play and living truthfully in their shoes

What has been the biggest challenge in rehearsal?
Making the characters dynamic and compelling.

Has the process of developing Talking To Terrorists changed your perception of what terrorism is?
Yes, in that no matter where these ‘terrorists’ come from, we could swap them around, change only the names of places and people – and the stories would still be believable.

Were you surprised at all by any sense of recognising aspects of yourself in characters that have a violent history?
The answer to this question is more about recognising that our ‘passive’ actions as a member of a society that supports unjust treatment of powerless people – makes us all terrorists. They don’t all have a gun or a bomb in their hand. Sadly, as Australian’s, we share a violent history already, even in this generation.

What do you hope an audience will come away from after watching this play?
I hope the audience has a desire to experiment in really engaging with the people they used to fear, judge or dismiss.

Joseph JU Taylor

Mathew Costin: How does knowing that these stories are real people and that their own words form the dialogue change how you approach the characters?
Joseph JU Taylor: You always try and find some personal truth in the lines of dialogue of any script but knowing that the characters in Talking To Terrorists are real people and that the playwright has constructed the story using the words of these people gives an additional layer of responsibility. It’s an enormous honour to be given the opportunity to breath life into the words of this play – it’s also a great challenge!

You’re playing five different roles, is there a specific character you are most drawn too?
That questions a little like asking a parent to choose their favourite child! No, it’s impossible to pick a favourite, I am just so pleased to give voice and body to them.

Has the process of developing Talking To Terrorists changed your perception of what terrorism is?
It certainly has. It is so easy to see things in black and white, especially against the onslaught of the 24 hour news cycle. We are given a very specific narrative for world events and one that still paints the sides as largely “good” versus “bad”. This play gives voice to those that have been led into the world of terrorism as well as those that are the victims. It also highlights the political nature of information manipulation. Talking To Terrorists was written over ten years ago but the stories resonate strongly in 2017.

Were you surprised at all by any sense of recognising aspects of yourself in characters that have a violent history?
Yes, and that is very much the point. There is a line in the play that encapsulates how much circumstance drives action: “The difference between a terrorist and the rest of us really isn’t that great”. Anyone has the potential to do terrible acts and it is a great folly to assume immunity to fault.

What do you hope an audience will come away from after watching this play?
I hope it will stimulate discussion, that the play will help people humanise all of those that are caught up in the impact of terror. The vast majority of people on any side of the arguments are victims. The biggest threats to cohesive existence is the refusal to discuss and listen. We need to talk to terrorists.

Mathew Costin and Joseph JU Taylor can be seen in Talking To Terrorists by Robin Soans.
Dates: 23 May – 3 June, 2017
Venue: King Street Theatre

5 Questions with Gabriel Egan and William Jordan

Gabriel Egan

William Jordan: What one book would you go to the ends of the Earth to track down, and why?
Gabriel Egan: Berossus’s Babyloniaca. It’s been lost since the third century BC. I’d require an open cheque book for a thorough investigation, and with little to no hope of recuperation it would be an advantageous way to travel the world.

If you were locked in a room for an entire night, who would you choose to be locked up with?
Donald Trump. I’d like to talk US green cards and a scholarship to study at the Susan Batson Studio in New York. He seems like a reasonable man, maybe we could come to some type of arrangement. I’ve always been lucky with fiery redheads.

Your character, Simon, is a self-professed adventurer; what’s your most memorable adventure?
I slipped into Arq night club once. It was like Narnia’s wardrobe. What a jungle – it took me three days to find the revolving porthole to the outside world…

Simon can’t survive without a cigarette, what’s your worst habit?
Acting. It takes up all my time and pays nothing!

If you were caught with your pants down, would you be wearing briefs or boxers?
Free-balling baby! Everyone’s just hanging loose these days… right..? Or I have always been partial to a leopard print g-string!

William Jordan

Gabriel Egan: What book would be your first choice to throw right out a second story window?
William Jordan: The Oxford English Dictionary! Cause it’s on Google now.

If you were locked in a room for an entire night, what would you need with you to survive until morning?
Coffee and keilbasa. A deadly combination. Also like the book by Harry Houdini to churn the mix.

Your character, Timothy, owns a bookstore – what kind of store would you own?
I would love to own a little second hand book shop like Glee Books. That’s something Timothy and I have in common!

Do you think you’d get along well with a guy like Timothy?
He would definitely be my drop in mate.

If you had to hide a dead body, how would you do it?
Cut it up and put it in a fridge? YUCK!! My vomit trail would give me away… I know, sit it on a toilet and lock the door! People would be too polite to enter.

Gabriel Egan and William Jordan can be seen in Down An Alley Filled With Cats by Warwick Moss.
Dates: 25 Apr – 13 May, 2017
Venue: King Street Theatre

Review: Down An Alley Filled With Cats (Throwing Shade Theatre Company)

Venue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Apr 25 – May 8, 2017
Playwright: Warwick Moss
Director: Tom Richards
Cast: Gabriel Egan, William Jordan
Image by Andrew Langcake

Theatre review
Simon and Timothy are a couple of dishonest types, who let greed take control of their destinies. It is true that most of us use material gain as a guiding force to navigate through daily life; many of our decisions are made with monetary benefit in mind, and little else is allowed to interfere. Down An Alley Filled With Cats by Warwick Moss takes place in a bookshop, where knowledge and intellect occupy physical space but the printed pages fail to form a positive influence on the men who read them.

The play is interested in the relationship between philosophy and the actualities of existence, but that idea is a mere suggestion that backs down from the show’s need to be a straightforward comedy about crooks trying to outsmart each other. The production is tentative and under-rehearsed, but its players, Gabriel Egan and William Jordan demonstrate a strong conviction that sustains our attention, with Jordan’s more nuanced approach providing much needed texture to an often unimaginative staging of the work. Laughs are delivered sparingly, but the narrative, and its several plot twists, are relayed with sufficient clarity.

Good and bad are simple dichotomies, presented as absolute oppositions that demand our moral propriety. When we choose right from wrong however, grey areas are discovered, or perhaps manufactured, and one person’s morality becomes another’s transgression. Evil exists, but they are always in other people. Bad people are never ourselves. The way we justify any action is always completely reasonable at the time, and in order to satisfy selfish desires, conscience is easily brushed aside. In Down An Alley Filled With Cats, even the learned do sin. When all the books in the world offer us no salvation, humanity must be at a point beyond hope and repair.

www.throwingshade.com.au

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