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.


Review: The Killing Of Sister George (G.bod Theatre)

gbodtheatreVenue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Feb 24 – Mar 4, 2016
Playwright: Frank Marcus
Director: Peter Mountford
Cast: Deborah Jones, Sarah Jane Kelly, Natasha McNamara, Helen Stuart
Image by Richard Hedger

Theatre review
Sister George is a real piece of work. A radio star adored by many who know only her fictitious persona, George is insufferable for those who have to be in her actual presence. Fame gets to people’s heads, and our protagonist is a self-obsessed monster who uses and abuses all in sight, especially her doll-like lover Childie, a feeble woman struggling to discern love from exploitation in their codependency in 1964 London.

Under Peter Mountford’s direction, the sexual nature of that relationship is emphasised. Homosexuality is not swept under the carpet, and we are confronted by the overt BDSM quality of George and Childie’s union with its depiction of consensual and subversive eroticism. Although fascinating, there are issues with plot consistency as a result, and the production is a couple more days from being well-rehearsed. The show does however, pick up pace gradually for an experience memorable for its thorough unconventionality.

In taking on the responsibility of playing George, Deborah Jones is required to portray villainy in a way that is both repulsive and compelling. Jones does not quite reach that level of starry charisma demanded of her role, but it is a believable performance which brings up the right issues of contention and asks appropriate questions regarding power imbalances in same-sex relationships. Natasha McNamara’s work as Childie is authentic and complex, with a conflicting duality that provokes us into considering the meaning of love, and the many scandalous forms of its manifestations.

The women in The Killing Of Sister George explain the way they treat themselves and each other, but they do not explain their lesbianism. Peter Mountford has ingeniously reached back 52 years to find a text that allows an expression of gayness that is above the need for justification, and beyond our tired boundaries of sexual differences. This is no “tragiporn” that feels emburdened by its mere existence to make itself accountable to some vague authority of social expectation, but gives voice to real personalities who rarely find their way into our run-of-the-mill narratives. It is a juicy story about love, sex, power and fame, except believe it or not, there are no men in it.


Review: Duck Hunting (Contemporarian Theatre Company)

contemporarianVenue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Nov 4 – 29, 2015
Playwright: Aleksandr Vampilov
Directors: Shai Alexander and Toby B. Styling
Cast: Michelle De Rosa, Nicholas Drummond, Paul Gerrard, Louise Harding, Christian Heath, Jessica Saras, Carlos Sivalingham, Anthony Sottile, Joshua Wiseman
Image by Toby B. Styling

Theatre review
Craig’s only passion is duck hunting, but he spends every second of his life avoiding it, preoccupied with all the petty mundanity of a bourgeois existence. He seems full of hatred for his job, his new home, the women around him, and most of all, himself. We see him snorting cocaine and downing copious amounts of alcohol, fantasising about better times, to which he never commits. The eccentric 1976 script by Aleksandr Vampilov is about a small man’s state of crisis. There is hardly anything likeable about Craig, but we do recognise the issues that he grapples with. The play is transposed to a modern day Australian context fairly effectively, but the sheer length of the work at three-and-a-half hours is a challenge. A heavy edit would most certainly make things more dynamic.

Shai Alexander and Toby B. Styling’s highly stylised direction delivers a lot of hits, but also more than a few misses. Their experimental anti-naturalistic mode of presentation is refreshing, with an ability to add surprising dimensions to the text, but the staging needs greater finesse to ensure that its surreality does not fall into pointless gesturing and mere pretence. The tone of performance required for the piece is specific and highly unconventional, using an idiosyncratic physical language that the cast is not always sufficiently au fait with. Michelle De Rosa and Paul Gerrard stand out for their confident embrace of the production’s offbeat nature to create characters that seem strange on the surface, while providing firm logic to their respective narratives. Craig is played by Christian Heath who brings energy and presence, along with an unshakeable conviction to hold our attention. In spite of his character’s faults, the actor’s own vulnerability and his determination to portray fragility in the protagonist’s story, help us gain an unusual, albeit objectionable, perspective of the world.

Duck Hunting is an ordinary tale that the everyman can understand. More interesting is the way it attempts to explore the potentials of the theatrical medium, and how the stage conveys meaning. It is not always successful with its endeavours, but its sense of adventure and pursuit of originality should not be disregarded. We never discover if Craig has any talent at all, but we know that he does not make it to the hunting ponds. For the artist, talent will always be subjective, but as long as self-belief and commitment exist, art will be created, and that alone, is achievement.


5 Questions with Michelle De Rosa and Carlos Sivalingam

Michelle De Rosa

Michelle De Rosa

Carlos Sivalingam: What is your experience of working with Contemporarian and with Shai Alexander and Toby B. Styling in particular?
Michelle De Rosa: I was instantly drawn to the project due to the fresh approach Contemporarian has to theatre. Shai’s focus is theatre and Toby’s is film so together, Contemporarian expertly blends both mediums to create a fantastic experience which is why as audiences, we come to see theatre! Both Shai and Toby are very dedicated. We work hard as an ensemble but that’s what all actors want, to work!

Who is your character on the show?
My character is Elena, an 18 year old foreign student from a small Swiss town on the border with Italy. She is purity and playfulness personified. A very trusting soul who is taking her first independent steps in life on the other side of the world from her home! Craig, our hero, is instantly attracted to her. I don’t want to give anything else away!

Would you say that the process challenged you and that you improved as a performer during the ongoing rehearsal period?
Absolutely! I have had the pleasure of working two shows at once and I have grown phenomenally as an actor. The ongoing rehearsal period for Duck Hunting has given us time as an ensemble to really explore our characters, the play and our work together as a group. Such a rarity and such a gift!

How different is the rehearsal process for Duck Hunting by Contemporarian from anything else you ever worked on?
I love working outside in, on stage; starting with the physical and letting that inform my choices, my character. We have worked this way on Duck Hunting; finding the story on the floor. Again, we come to the theatre for an experience and working this way ensures we create that. Also, having a long rehearsal period give us time for precision: of movement, of voice, of clarity.

Why should we come and see this show?
You still need more convincing after all my previous answers? Duck Hunting is where passion and hard work come together in a sensational symphony! A tantalising transferral of energy if you will, between actors and audience honouring a timeless piece of work. Do come and let us perform for you!

Carlos Sivalingam

Carlos Sivalingam

Michelle De Rosa: What attracted you to work with Contemporarian Theatre Company on their original adaptation of the Russian classic Duck Hunting?
Carlos Sivalingam: As soon as I realised that Shai Alexander was a Russian trained actor, I wanted to be a part of this project. That was even before I read the play. Few Australians realise, when watching English speaking films, that most of the techniques employed by the actors, have their origins in Russia. For an experienced actor like me who never had a formal training, every rehearsal with Shai is a windfall.

Who is your character on the show?
I have two roles in the production. I am the stage manager and I also have a small role as a courier. The courier’s seemingly mundane job takes quite a turn when he realises that he has delivered a sympathy wreath for the funeral of a man, who is still “…alive and well…”.

How long was the rehearsal process?
I think the rehearsal period will total about 14 weeks. What’s been different though, is the number of hours spent each week on rehearsal. This show far exceeds any independent production that I have been in, for the number of hours of rehearsal. Coming from Russia, where a play like this would be rehearsed for a year before it is performed, Shai seems to have a limitless supply of information and skills, to share with his performers at each rehearsal.

How is this production different from anything else you ever worked on?
As mentioned, the rehearsal period is much longer and more intense, than previous, independent productions that I have been a part of. The show also employs different performance techniques to the “realism” that has dominated film, stage, and TV productions in the English speaking world. This, in particular, is new to me.

Why should we come and see this show?
It’s a Russian classic, virtually unknown to Australian audiences. As I said earlier, some of the performance techniques are also different. Many of these departures from the norm though, will only work on stage. So don’t watch a screen version or something downloaded to your laptop. You really need get down to the King Street theatre.

Michelle De Rosa and Carlos Sivalingam will be appearing in Contemporarian Theatre Company’s Duck Hunting, by Aleksandr Vampilov.
Dates: 4 – 29 November, 2015
Venue: King Street Theatre

Review: Reflections (Primal Dance Company)

primaldanceVenue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Oct 13, 2015
Choreographer: Alyssa Casey
Cast: Natasha Clancy, Cassandra Clarke, Tasmin Cummins, Caitlin Drysdale, Brianna Hatter, Danni Hegarty, Lucas Hughes, Emma Macpherson, Bryony Munro, Ryan Ophel, Zac Smith, Michael Stone, Georgie Walsh

Theatre review
Reflections features a series of dance sequences set to the recorded music of Hayden Tee’s “Generation WhY? Live” album, comprised mainly of 80’s hits interpreted with acoustic and orchestral arrangements by Nigel Ubrihien. The vocals are emotional and powerful, in the style of musical theatre that many are familiar with, and that same attitude is adopted by choreographer Alyssa Casey, who chooses to present pieces in a sincere and quite literal manner, in accordance with the themes of each song. Physical language is largely lyrical with influences from classical, ballroom and gymnastics adding to the movement schema. Casey is also responsible for costuming of the show, which works well to provide visual variation between numbers, but is most effective when minimal in approach.

It is a cast of exuberant and athletic dancers, extremely well-rehearsed and full of conviction in what they produce. Some have a tendency to express too much sentimentality, but there is no doubt that all are steely focussed and keen to put forward their best. The group of 13 is well utilised, with most members receiving a moment in the sun to showcase their individual talents, although the bigger numbers can feel overwhelming in its intimate venue. Memorable performers include Emma Macpherson and Michael Stone who bring confidence, professional polish and solid presences to the stage.

For all its technical proficiencies and impressive discipline, the work requires greater innovation and sophistication in order to deliver a sense of transcendence promised by the medium of dance. Much of its endeavours are derivative, and in this space of creativity, our senses seek originality over emulation. Each of us has an unrivalled familiarity with our bodies, but we need artists to shed new light on the capacities and meanings of all that is flesh. Dance is uniquely able to speak with us, body to body, and its continuing mission to defy convention is what makes it beautiful.


Review: A Flower Of The Lips (King Street Theatre)

flowerVenue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Oct 6 – 24, 2015
Playwright: Valentino Musico
Director: Ira Hal Seidenstein
Cast: Michelle De Rosa, Marcella Franco, Jamila Hall, Yiss Mill, Kiki Skountzos

Theatre review
Every life has a story to tell. No matter our choices and experiences, narratives can be woven and lessons are to be learned from any being that has walked the earth, but it is up to the storyteller to translate an existence into something meaningful for the listener. Valentino Musico’s A Flower Of The Lips investigates the short life of his great-grandfather, Bruno Aloi of Calabria, Italy a century ago. Aloi’s extraordinary legend has persisted in his village of Pietracupa, and it is understandable that Musico is fascinated by the ancestor and is thus motivated to create a play that immortalises those memories. The work is sincere and earthy, but its pidgin English may be problematic for some. The temporal and social context of the plot may also prove obscure, and reaching an understanding of unfolding events is challenging.

Direction by Ira Hal Seidenstein is stylistically minimal yet energetic and joyful. Early portions of the show would benefit from greater elucidations in order that its distant time, space and characters can communicate more intimately. Performances are committed but the characters are not sufficiently accessible. There is a gulf between them and us that needs to be bridged, so that what we see on stage can find a universality and emotional resonance.

The tales surrounding Bruno Aloi are clearly near and dear to the writer, but those passions are difficult to connect with. Audiences are selfish and need to be shown a way to relate personally to what is being shared. Valentino Musico’s play is an expression of his love of family and of his familial history, which we can appreciate, but from afar.


Review: The Goat Or Who Is Sylvia? (King Street Theatre)

goatVenue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Sep 7 – 12, 2015
Playwright: Edward Albee
Director: Barry Walsh
Cast: Jeremy Burtenshaw, Kiki Skountzos, Johnny Nolan, Mathew Rope

Theatre review
Examining the relationship between morals and sex is a boundless task, but also an exceedingly rewarding one. Looking closely at our attitudes surrounding the most fundamental of desires reveals almost everything there is to know about being human, especially the way we formulate beliefs and ideals. In Edward Albee’s The Goat Or Who Is Sylvia?, we encounter at close range, one of the most shocking of our taboos, and are forced to evaluate the rules of society, sexual and otherwise, along with the ways in which we uphold them. The script is outrageous and wild, transgressive and radical. It ignores notions of taste and belligerently challenges its audience, but grounds its arguments firmly in logic. The combination of intellect and sensationalist amusement in the play addresses the nature of theatre perfectly; we are captivated and entertained, but it refuses to let our participation in the work be a passive one. Questions are raised, and whether we like it or not, it pushes our boundaries to get us to the appropriate answers.

Barry Walsh’s direction lacks refinement, but his flamboyant and fearless approach to the material conveys the text’s progressive ideologies charmingly. There is an infectious joyfulness in the subversive tone that pervades the work, but Walsh takes care in preventing its aggression from becoming unbearable for regular audiences. When the production is at its strongest, we are uplifted by its refreshing philosophy and daring suggestions, but at its weakest, performances can feel stilted and its comedy underdeveloped. Cast members are full of conviction, with Kiki Skountzos’ work as Stevie leaving the strongest impression. Energetic and precise, her ability to blend light and dark in the blackest of comedies is perhaps the most polished aspect of this staging. Jeremy Burtenshaw’s kooky interpretation of his role Martin, is an enjoyable one, but the actor is not always convincing playing a man twice his own age. There is insufficient depth in the presentation of his character’s predicament, but its very absurd and unnerving nature helps the actor’s performance connect firmly with our attention.

Great artists have the courage and eloquence to speak up and tell society what it does wrong. They show us the arbitrariness and the irrationality of our beliefs and conventions, and aim to find restoration based on ideas that are truer, kinder and more inclusive of the different types of people that we inevitably are. The issues that The Goat Or Who Is Sylvia? discusses are difficult and messy. We are not allowed to respond with convenient and tired pre-made solutions, but are encouraged to go through a process of deliberation that is often agonising and disarming. This show is the furthest possible thing from boring, and its ridiculous comedy is the absolute antithesis of stupidity. It requires an adventurous spirit and an open mind to tackle, which explains why it finds itself tucked away in the obscure depths of Sydney’s independent theatre.


Review: Beyond The Neck (Emu Productions / Epicentre Theatre Company)

kstVenue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), May 28 – Jun 13, 2015
Playwright: Tom Holloway
Director: Markus Weber
Cast: Dana Brierley, Jessica Hobden, David Ritchie, Brayden Sim
Image by Thomas Adams

Theatre review
Not a day goes by that we do not hear about terrorism. The fear of being attacked by enemies is reinforced by our government and media fervidly, but the truth of our experience shows that it is not external forces that have caused us greatest harm, but those within that we consider to be neighbours. The “Martin Place Siege” of just half a year ago shocked the entire nation, and brought back memories of the horrific “Port Arthur Massacre” of 1996, where 35 people were killed and 23 wounded. Tom Holloway’s Beyond The Neck is an expression of a deep grief that is inflicted upon a community after a catastrophe of that magnitude. The play’s intent is to heal, and to explore the nature of emotional and psychological trauma.

The four-actor cast performs most of the piece in individual monologues, with several moments of very brief interaction. Not all are well prepared, in fact some appear to be quite unready for the production, but Dana Brierley and Jessica Hobden work well to portray their characters with a degree of passion and accuracy. There is a misplaced flavour of melodrama to their intensity, but they help to bring variance to the energy on stage.

Music is played fairly loudly in the background for most of the duration, and is almost always a distraction. The mood it creates is often contrary to what the actors try to achieve, and the audience is prevented from connecting meaningfully with the stories being told. Set design seems unnecessarily busy and visually confusing, with levels and colours that do not contribute to the poignancy of the play.

The production is a timely one, considering our interest in the subject matter. Many of us have strong feelings about events of mass terror, and an opportunity for catharsis is undoubtedly welcome, but on this occasion there is insufficient clarity in the execution of its purpose. The issues we face are complex and a lot more is required for those things to begin to make sense.

www.kingstreettheatre.com.au | www.epicentretheatre.org.au/

5 Questions with David Ritchie

davidritchieWhat is your favourite swear word?

What are you wearing?
Sweater and jeans.

What is love?
‘Tis not hereafter, present mirth hath present laughter…

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Orphans at the Old Fitz, 3.5 stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Fascinating. Brilliant script and direction; deeply engaging and unpredicatable.



David Ritchie is appearing in Beyond The Neck, by Tom Holloway.
Show dates: 28 May – 13 June, 2015
Show venue: King Street Theatre