Review: The Wasp (Kings Cross Theatre)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Dec 2 – 17, 2022
Playwright: Morgan Lloyd Malcolm
Director:
Becks Blake
Cast: Cara Whitehouse, Jessica Bell
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review

Carla and Heather were best friends at school, but things turned awry in Year 7. Reuniting 20 years later, we discover the depth with which those difficult times in their early teens, have affected these now grown women. Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s The Wasp is a story of violence, one that relates particularly to the experience of youth violence by girls and women. We explore its enduring effects, looking at how a person is shaped over time, asking questions about the permanence of damage, and how we carry trauma through our lives. Carla and Heather’s stories are told with a thrilling boldness. Endless twists and turns, accompanied by truly scintillating dialogue, make The Wasp an immense delight, albeit a frequently harrowing one.

Directed by Becks Blake, we are given awesome insight into the psychological and emotional mechanics, of these two very unique yet realistic personalities. Blake makes explosive, each and every shocking revelation in the narrative. The drama is delicious, and the comedy consistently wicked, in a show memorable for its grit and edgy intensity. Fun and scary, The Wasp involves high stakes and controversial ideas, to provoke, to entertain and to engage.

Stage design by Axel Hinkley cleverly fuses two distinct spaces, into one harmonious whole. Hinkley’s costumes, like their set, are accurately rendered, to evoke time, place and importantly class, for this tale of two social strata. Lights by Martin Kinnane are simple, if slightly too subtle in the depiction of textural transformations, for how the relationship morphs between the two women. Johnny Yang’s sound design is wonderfully imaginative, and sensitive in its calibrations of atmosphere, as we delve deeper and deeper into the nightmare of old friends and their old grievances.

Actor Jessica Bell is stunning as Carla, hilarious in her portrayal of proletarian coarseness, and masterful with her concoctions of dramatic tension, keeping us wide eyed and slack jawed for the duration. Bell’s work on this occasion is truly a performance to remember. Heather is played by Cara Whitehouse, whose deep submergence into her character’s twisted world, convinces us of all her deranged antics. The pair is beautifully well-rehearsed, with a sense of intricacy that allows us to read infinitely closely to every detail being presented, and emerge feeling we have learned something remarkable.

Violence begets violence, if conventional wisdom is to be believed. It is true that the effects of violence reverberate beyond inciting incidents. Like the nature of karma, a transference occurs, whether from one person to others, or from one unto themselves. In The Wasp we see the trauma finding ways to manifest, always in ugly and horrific ways, extending inward or outward, to prolong its effects. Damage spreads, and it remains a mystery, if deep hurt can ever just go away.

www.kingsxtheatre.com

Review: Tongue Tied (Kings Cross Theatre)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Nov 11 – 26, 2022
Playwright: Clare Hennessy
Director:
Sarah Hadley
Cast: Di Adams, Clementine Anderson, Kieran Clancy-Lowe, Michael C Howlett, Madelaine Osbourne, Eloise Snape
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review

Rising star journalist Mia is investigating a case of sexual assault, at a Sydney beverage company. The bigwig accused of the crime refuses to speak, and has sent publicist Parker to ameliorate. Clare Hennessy’s Tongue Tied is concerned with the ethics around reportage, especially as they pertain to the privacy rights of victims. We also examine the nature of sex crimes from the perspective of the survivor, and the complications that are no doubt involved, in how one chooses to move forward from a devastating incident.

There is charming dialogue to be found in Hennessy’s writing, but the intentional ambiguities built into the narrative of Tongue Tied tends to form a detraction, from the dramatic tensions that should ensue. Although there is an abundance of care for its flawed characters that prevents them from turning caricature, it is likely that audiences would find none of them particularly appealing. In a play with nobody to root for, we are left cold. Direction by Sarah Hadley bears a tepidity that makes things feel overly distanced, for a discussion that should clearly feel much more passionate.

Actor Eloise Snape is accomplished in her portrayal of Mia, with a knack for naturalist performance that helps a great deal, to make things believable. Kieran Clancy-Lowe is less convincing as Millennial corporate animal Parker, oddly innocent in his portrayal of wilful ignorance of rape culture, in this post-MeToo era.

Production design by Cris Baldwin is rendered in the most literal manner, featuring an oversized television screen that stays on stage for the entirety, after being used only for several commencing seconds of the show. Lights by Aron Murray and sound by Johnny Yang, offer effective assistance to scene transitions, that provide a sense of tautness to the production’s overall pace. At just over an hour, Tongue Tied does not overstay its welcome, and when it concludes, little is left to linger.

www.kingsxtheatre.com

Review: One Hour No Oil (Kings Cross Theatre)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Oct 26 – Nov 6, 2022
Playwright: Kenneth Moraleda, Jordan Shea
Director:
Kenneth Moraleda
Cast: John Gomez Goodway, Shaw Cameron. Alec Steedman
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review

Massage therapist Bhing was on his way to making a better life as an immigrant in Perth, when troublemaker Scott walked through the doors of Golden Touch, to seek help with various pains and ailments. When different worlds collide, in Kenneth Moraleda and Jordan Shea’s One Hour No Oil, it is the collapse of the very barriers of segregation, that makes visible the many social ills entrenched in our Australian lives. Things invisible and overlooked, yet hugely consequential, are unveiled in a piece of writing ostensibly describing an unlikely friendship. Meticulously considered, cleverly constructed and deeply felt, One Hour No Oil explores toxic masculinity, racism and poverty, amongst many other things, for a portrait of contemporary life that is both familiar yet profoundly revelatory.

Direction by Moraleda ensures every sociopolitical point is made with power and clarity, but unwavering focus is placed squarely on the devastating drama between two very dissimilar men, to deliver a riveting experience that proves rewarding on many levels. Set design by Soham Apte, along with costumes by Jessi Seymour, accurately provide all the visual cues necessary, for us to know as if instinctively, where the story takes place, and who these people are, whilst allowing for a performance space that imposes no limitations on its cast. Lights by Saint Clair, offer great enhancement to the emotional intensity of the piece. Music by Zac Saric and Alec Steedman are a crucial element that works surreptitiously, to guide our evolving temperament and sensibility through the journey. Steedman plays multiple instruments live, adding beautiful texture to a presentation memorable, for its complex melange of influences and inspirations.

Actor John Gomez Goodway is completely believable as Bhing, and nothing less than heart-breaking, in his depiction of a man surviving the tremendous challenges of an unjust world. It is a wonderfully surprising yet authentic performance, compelling and entertaining, but with a consistent emphasis on integrity for both the art form and for the character being celebrated. Shaw Cameron is a marvellously effervescent presence, able to prevent the dark role of Scott from turning dreary or hateful. There is impressive vulnerability in his rendering of a difficult personality, and an excellent sense of rigour that offers valuable detail to our understanding of the dynamics being articulated.

It is useful to think of that which oppresses, as being not any individual, but a system. It is important that we learn to appreciate the sentiment, as articulated by the poet Emma Lazarus, “until we are all free, we are none of us free.” Hard as it might be, we need to be able to see that our neighbours too need emancipation, much as their conditions appear to be different from our own. Indeed we must acknowledge that this system privileges some over others, but it is an illusion that even those who benefit the most, are receiving what they truly need for good and meaningful lives. Nobody gets away scot-free from something so diseased and pervasive, but until communities shift their values, progress shall remain elusive.

www.kwento.com.au

Review: For The Grace Of You Go I (Kings Cross Theatre)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Oct 5 – 15, 2022
Playwright: Alan Harris
Director:
Lucy Clements
Cast: Jane Angharad, James Smithers, Shan-Ree Tan
Images by

Theatre review
Jimmy is trying to hold down a job, whilst keeping his psychological disorder in check. The menial tasks at the pizza factory however, are not helping. Alan Harris’ For the Grace of You Go I sees its protagonist go through distortions of reality, that are initially innocuous, until watching a film by Aki Kaurismäki inspires Jimmy to hire a contract killer, to have himself murdered. Harris’ play is distinctly absurdist in style, with surrealist elements that seem appropriately congruent with depictions of mental illness.

The multiverse, as experienced by Jimmy, presents an opportunity for a show of playful flamboyance, but the production proves an overly subtle one, often leaving us more befuddled than amused, by the confusion of that contorted world. Directed by Lucy Clements, whose restrained approach shifts focus from the comedy, choosing instead to explore the more melancholic qualities of the narrative, resulting in a staging that feels unnecessarily staid.

Congruently, actor James Smithers is most persuasive, when playing Jimmy at his most vulnerable and introspective. Concluding scenes demonstrate Smithers’ flair for conveying a silent anguish, that helps humanise the character and his story. Jane Angharad is severe and dry, as the officious Irina, and Shan-Ree Tan as Mark brings much needed energy at each entrance, for a work that tends toward a misplaced circumspection.

Set design by Monique Langford and Kate Ingram, feature entirely green surfaces that indicate the instability of Jimmy’s constantly morphing mind, by drawing parallels with the essential illusoriness of movie sets. Lights by Alice Stafford and music by Sam Cheng, are discreetly rendered to help facilitate the portrayal of a man in deterioration.

Illnesses are of course no joke, but art has the ability to make light of the dark, whilst retaining dignity for those involved. There is little to be gained, when polite society insists on sweeping the harder parts of life under the carpet. Through storytelling, we attain understanding and compassion. Thankfully not every lesson needs to be learned first-hand, but how we find expression and how we listen, are paramount.

www.newghoststheatre.com | www.secrethouse.com.au

Review: The Marriage Agency (Kings Cross Theatre)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Sep 16 – Oct 1, 2022
Playwright: Saman Shad
Director:
Kenneth Moraleda
Cast: Kevin Batliwala, Caroline L. George, Atharv Kolhatkar, Lex Marinos, Ashi Singh
Images by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review

Somewhere in Australia, Nasir is opening a marriage agency, because he has successfully matched dozens of Indian and Pakistani couples, and thinks it is time he turns professional. A hopeless romantic, Nasir is also buoyed by the success of his own marriage with Tasnim, making him feel an expert in the field. Saman Shad’s The Marriage Agency is a delightful comedy about love, for the young-at-heart. Nasir and Tasnim may be parents to a quick-witted rapidly growing teenager, but their relationship is still very much a focus.

Shad’s play takes a gentle, if slightly predictable, look at marriage during its maturing years. Characters in The Marriage Agency are refreshingly idiosyncratic, with consistently humorous dialogue that has us captivated. Directed by Kenneth Moraleda, the show feels energised, bearing an effervescence that proves uplifting from start to end.

Stage design by Rita Naidu cleverly incorporates a traditionally styled wedding walkway, that adds dimensionality to our sense of time and space. Lights by Saint Clair are thoroughly and ambitiously considered, to provide visual richness, to a simple story. Samantha Cheng’s spirited music gives the production a rhythmic foundation, on which performers and audience can connect, in emotional and atmospheric terms.

Actor Atharv Kolhatkar is wonderfully endearing as the somewhat naïve Nasir, able to make convincing a personality who is evidently quixotic by nature. Caroline L. George offers excellent balance as Tasnim, the much more rational spouse, effective at anchoring the story in a place of realism, that represents a familiar point of access for viewers. Lex Marinos’ understated approach as Bill, brings not only nuance but also elegance. Ashi Singh is a compelling presence, as daughter Salima. Kevin Batliwala is very charismatic, and very funny, in a number of disparate roles, leaving a remarkable impression with his natural flair for comedic timing.

Marriage is not for everyone, but for some, it can be all-consuming. Watching people like Nasir, who invest so much into romance, can be bewildering, but it is no doubt fascinating to see how fulfilling it appears to be. It is a reminder that to be human, involves a universal wrestling with a feeling of lack, that somehow we are created with an emptiness that requires something external, to provide a sensation of wholeness or completion. There is some truth to the idea, that we are born alone, and we die alone, but the fact remains, that for life to be meaningful, one needs to find ways to connect. The universe is embracing of us in infinite ways, and it is how we respond to those possibilities (and what we decide to call love) that matters.

www.kwento.com.au

Review: Tom At The Farm (Kings Cross Theatre)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Aug 26 – Sep 10, 2022
Playwright: Michel Marc Bouchard
Director:
Danny Ball
Cast: Di Adams, Zoran Jevtic, Rory O’Keeffe, Hannah Raven
Images by Becky Matthews

Theatre review
City slicker Tom travels to a farm in rural Ontario, where his boyfriend William’s funeral is being held. William’s mother Agatha remains oblivious to the fact that her son was gay, which makes things very complicated for Tom, who finds himself lured into a longer stay on the property by William’s brother, Francis. Michel Marc Bouchard’s Tom at the Farm, offers a look at homophobia, and its various manifestations. Through Francis, we observe that the hatred toward gay men, although born of ignorance, can easily turn into cruelty and violence, no matter how close in kinship. Bouchard’s writing is beautifully heightened, able to convey realism along with an unmistakeable lyricism, that prevents the story from turning dreary. There are hints of humour that provide delightful reprieve, but Tom at the Farm is certainly a dark tale at heart.

Danny Ball’s direction of the piece luxuriates in that moodiness, and applies a sexual charge to interactions between Tom and Francis, that interrogates Francis’ homophobia, and questions if self-hatred is part of Tom’s own erotic constitution. Kate Beere’s set design, although evocative of rustic agricultural lands, seems restrictive of the actors, who often feel to be positioned uncomfortably. Rachel Adamson’s costumes help to depict the personalities with efficiency and accuracy. Lights by Kate Baldwin and Alice Stafford, bring theatricality to the presentation, and prove to be adept at illustrating the multiple degrees of malaise that the story explores. Music by Chrysoulla Markoulli also adds drama, as well as a great deal of sophistication, to how we experience the show.

Actor Zoran Jevtic demonstrates admirable commitment to the role of Tom, discerningly restraint in his approach, yet able to portray a sense of authenticity for a highly complex study of character. Francis is played by Rory O’Keeffe, who looks every bit the part of a hateful yokel, although his intensity can at times feel overwrought. Di Adams brings a quirky charm to her portrayal of Agatha, skilfully turning likeable, a somewhat deficient woman. Hannah Raven enters late in the narrative, as Natalie, to extend much needed gender balance, and to allow viewers a refreshed access point, for a story that develops to increasingly bizarre territory.

Queer people reside in cities, because we find strength in numbers. Out in the bush, marginalisation is hard to overcome, and conformity becomes de rigueur, for everyone. Tom’s grief propels him to escape into a dangerous place, seduced by the illusion of Francis’ familiar physicality. Where instincts tell him there is security, awaits only degradation and harm. We too can be persuaded that the idyllic beauty of the countryside, but it is without doubt, that rural life is not for everyone.

www.fixedfootproductions.com

Review: Attempts On Her Life (Kings Cross Theatre)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Jul 15 – 30, 2022
Playwright: Martin Crimp
Director:
Saro Lusty-Cavallari
Cast: Lucy Burke, Bridget Haberecht, Lucinda Howes, Josephine Lee, Ebony Tucker
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
Anne never appears to tell her own story. In Martin Crimp’s Attempts on Her Life, we are presented with “17 scenarios for the theatre” that try to nail down the enigmatic Anne. 5 women actors and a television screen, take on various performative configurations, as though in search of an answer to a mystery pertaining to the idea of an elusive person, but is in actuality finding ways to understand the nature of media in 1997, when the play was first produced.

It is the exploration of form over content that makes Crimp’s writing seem wild and incoherent, and even though Saro Lusty-Cavallari’s direction emanates considerable earnestness, for that spirit of theatrical experimentation, there is insufficient playfulness, and a lack of danger that makes the show feel somewhat staid. Attempts on Her Life wants to take us somewhere chaotic, even anarchic, but it all feels overly measured and deliberate. Video features prominently, and Lusty-Cavallari’s work in that arena is admirably precise, incorporating a sense of technical proficiency for the medium, to provides unexpected polish to the experience.

Set and costumes by Rita Naidu, while not particularly imaginative, prove to be highly functional, for a play that constantly evolves its mode of staging. Lights by Sam Read contribute a good degree of dynamism, that moderates effectively the vacillating dramatic intensity, as we move from one vastly different scene to another. The cast is well-rehearsed and energetic, with a cohesiveness that allows them to project with great confidence.

The world has changed so much in the 25 years since the initial appearance of Attempts on Her Life. Gatekeepers determined which stories were being told, and the ways in which they were told. Although the matter of authorship is still a contentious one, we are now more able to have people tell their own stories, and therefore we find ourselves more able to hear directly from the horse’s mouth. If Anne is still around today, she will have every opportunity to say her piece if she wants to, and if she chooses to keep away from the limelight, we will just have to leave her be.

www.montaguebasement.com

Review: Lilac (Kings Cross Theatre)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Jun 24 – Jul 9, 2022
Playwright: Jackson Used
Director:
Shane Anthony
Cast:  Jack Angwin, Kate Skinner
Images by

Theatre review
Two people fall in love, but one is an addict. In Jackson Used’s Lilac, we encounter a love that does not conquer all, in fact it is quite the opposite. Diana and George are not the lucky ones. Instead of their union helping them become better persons, both experience continual deterioration, yet the forces that draw them together are strong and resolute. This ill-fated relationship is rendered convincingly by playwright Used, through a series of two-hander scenes that fluctuate between compelling and mundane. The dialogue steers clear of sensationalism, which makes for a show that can sometimes feel insufficiently dramatic, but Lilac bears an air of authenticity that invites us to consider its ideas with commensurate circumspection.

Shane Anthony’s direction of the piece too, is reliant on establishing a sense of truthfulness, to appeal to our appetite for examining a deeper humanity. More refinement is needed however, for transitions between scenes, to prevent our concentration from being repeatedly disrupted. Set design by Adrienne Andrews delivers a simple white box that helps our imagination accommodate the many spatial transformations required of this 90-minute play. Melancholic lights by Saint Clair, along with a sensual sound design by Chrysoulla Markoulli, create moments of transcendent beauty, to accompany the intensifying tragedy.

Jack Angwin and Kate Skinner play the lovers, both performers wonderfully intricate and persuasive with all that they bring to the stage. Angwin’s extraordinary level of commitment ensures that we see only characters telling a story, and that the actor’s work is skilfully hidden from sight. Skinner brings power to the role of Diana, able to convey her weaknesses as human vulnerability, to be understood and not to be blamed.

It is true that when one falls in love, so much can simply go out of control. It is not entirely true however, that one cannot help but fall in love. We watch Diana keep getting sucked back into the abyss of a life with George, and each time we will for her to walk away. Perhaps it is easier said than done, to stop oneself from loving. or perhaps these are lessons that one can only learn the hard way, and both Diana and George will one day be able to stay out of trouble, after years of toxic embroilment.

www.sandpaperplane.com

Review: Daddy Developed A Pill (Snatched Theatre Collective)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Jun 8 – 18, 2022
Playwright: Cassie Hamilton
Director:
LJ Wilson
Cast:  Sarah Greenwood, Clay Crighton, Jack Francis West
Images by Snatched Theatre Collective

Theatre review
In Cassie Hamilton’s Daddy Developed a Pill, Cynthia’s father strikes it rich, after inventing a drug that becomes hugely popular. The sudden change in lifestyle means that Cynthia no longer gets to see her father regularly. Feeling neglected, she grows into adulthood desperately trying to win his approval, and forms the belief that by creating a pill of her own, she would be speaking her father’s language, and thus able to regain his attention.

It might be a relatively simple narrative, but the plot of Hamilton’s play is complicated. 16 characters weave in and out, in an intentionally chaotic melange of short sequences, with rapid fire dialogue of which the audience is likely to only retain a small portion. The chronology of action seems erratic, but we are not the only ones confused. Cynthia is at the centre of all the hullaballoo, and she too is bewildered. Indeed, her existence is one of alienation and uncertainty. She stands outside, as though in a state of dissociation, whilst lovers, family and work associates, are fussing over her, caught up in dramas about Cynthia, while all she wants is her father.

Direction by LJ Wilson is relentlessly raucous. The entire show takes on the tone of a riotous comedy, but it is never truly funny. Even though the laughs are sporadic, much of the presentation proves captivating. The sheer energy of the staging sustains our interest, if only out of curiosity, for this rare occurrence of outrageously exuberant absurdism.

Rowan Yeomans’ sound and music are consistently lively, with a penchant for manufacturing an atmosphere of euphoria, to accompany the madcap performance style. Production design by Kate Beere is all glitz and camp, to invoke the vaudeville tradition. Jesse Grieg’s lights are flamboyant and colourful, adding great visual dynamism to proceedings.

Actor Sarah Greenwood as Cynthia is to be commended for conveying emotional authenticity, throughout the 95 minutes of ceaseless pandemonium. Clay Crighton and Jack Francis West are wonderfully animated with their extensive repertoire of roles, both impressive with the vigour they bring to the stage, and with the irrepressible mischievousness that accompany all the surreal hijinks they deliver. This team of three is remarkably well-rehearsed; the fluency with which they execute this intricate and convoluted work, is quite a sight to behold.

Cynthia struggles to find herself, because she feels unloved. Her father’s absence creates a hole that she seems unable to fill, yet life goes on. In Daddy Developed a Pill, it is the daughter who is left broken, and for those of us who recognise ourselves in that state of ruin, it is that honest depiction of a lack of closure, that resonates. Too much of our storytelling wants to offer catharsis, with sweet endings to sad tales. What seems more truthful on this occasion, is to see that we often experience no closure, only a hope that resilience accrues with each blow, and we simply keep going.

www.facebook.com/snatchedcollective

Review: Tell Me Before The Sun Explodes (Rock Bottom Productions)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), May 4 – 14, 2022
Playwright: Jacob Parker
Director:
Hayden Tonazzi
Cast: Tim McGarry, Joshua Shediak
Images by Philip Erbacher

Theatre review
Even though Andrew and Chris are no longer lovers, their bond continues to be a strong and passionate one. In Jacob Parker’s Tell Me Before the Sun Explodes, we meet the couple at various points of their relationship, flashing back and forth in time, to observe how things change and how things stay the same. It is a portrait of rare intimacy, the kind of which any person would count themselves lucky to have experienced once in a lifetime.

Parker’s dialogue is witty and incisive, revealing an uncanny ability to observe the world with inordinate sensitivity. Director Hayden Tonazzi turns Parker’s words into 70 minutes of short, sharp scenes for which our minds race to put the pieces together, as our hearts feel the involuntary pull of Parker’s ephemerally meaningful musings on desire and death (a significant age gap exists between the characters).

The production feels poetic, with a pretty wistfulness that is quite charming in its delicacy. Soham Apte’s set design is an intriguing manifestation of what our emotions become, after years of wear and tear; it is ambitiously conceived, and accomplished with an admirable eye for detail. Lights by Ryan McDonald do the practical work of moving us through the linear and the circular dimensions of time, whilst keeping us connected to the heart of the story. Sound design by Chrysoulla Markoulli is stunning in its intricacy, and highly effective in guiding us through the complex and vacillating feelings that are being aroused.

Actor Tim McGarry delivers exceptional technical proficiency in the role of Andrew, with a performance memorable for its precision, both in terms of design and of implementation. As Chris, Joshua Shediak impresses with his presence and his authentic impulses. There is a clarity to his depictions that allow us to understand instinctively, the many internal fluctuations he goes through, so quickly yet so convincingly.

The wonder of love is that it feels eternal. The truth of it though, is that its beauty is completely contingent on the fact that nothing is forever. It is in the knowing that an end will come, that love becomes so precious, and so overwhelming in its allure. The threat of its absence can be so palpably harrowing, that it makes us invest in it, so unfathomably immensely. We are also capable however, of taking people for granted, of forgetting that all our human connections hang by a thread. The union of Andrew and Chris starts, and it ends. That inevitable conclusion only makes their time together even more special.

www.rockbottomproductions.com.au