Review: Dresden (Bakehouse Theatre Company)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Jun 15 – 30, 2018
Playwright: Justin Fleming
Director: Suzanne Millar
Cast: Thomas Campbell, Renee Lim, Yalin Ozucelik, Dorje Swallow, Jeremy Waters, Ben Wood
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
Wagner’s first success was Rienzi, an opera about the rise and fall of a medieval Italian populist leader. Hitler fell in love with the work, years after Wagner’s death, and in Justin Fleming Dresden we see the unexpected and formidable ways in which art can inspire behaviour, good and bad. It also looks at Hitler as a failed artist, and proffers a chicken and egg scenario; questioning the relationship between that infamous abominable nature and his own deficiencies at artistic creation. Even though information about contemporary fascistic regimes seem to remain prominent in our consciousness, the play does not feel immediately relevant, but Fleming’s writing exceeds the story he tells. Against a backdrop monumental and historic, his words sing with an enchanting beauty, imparting observations that are succinctly constructed and very wise indeed.

Opera and a world war, give the play a sensibility that is unavailingly grand, but the small auditorium is ambitiously converted by set designer Patrick Howe to convey the sophistication associated with Wagner’s discipline, as well as the aesthetic severity of Hitler’s Germany. Benjamin Brockman’s lights are relentlessly theatrical, with incessant transformations that move us through dimensions, from miscellaneous days of yore, to those that are even more ephemeral and fantastical. Director Suzanne Millar very deftly negotiates the weaving realms of the play, taking us from real to imaginary, across terrains and timelines, for an impressively lucid telling of tales.

Yalin Ozucelik and Jeremy Waters are the leading men, both enthralling with their respective stage presences, and splendid with the dialogue that they are master of. As Wagner, Waters is spirited yet delicate, and as Hitler, Ozucelik’s depiction of cruel imbecility strikes a perfectly balanced act of dramedy. Also memorable are Dorje Swallow and Thomas Campbell, each supporting player demonstrating excellent versatility, proving themselves to be eminently watchable in any guise.

We often hear, that all publicity is good publicity. If all Hitler had wanted from his extreme brutality, was to be remembered, then the confounding actions of people in power everywhere, can begin to make sense. Most of us wish to leave behind some semblance of a legacy, no matter how minute, so that our time on earth can be seen to be of some value. Some want their names to last, but others prefer that what they had tried to generate in their own lifetime, is able to make permanent improvements into the future. Bad people exist, and as we negotiate existence around them, we must try to stop ourselves from fighting fire with fire. Good can turn into evil in the blink of an eye, when we let our guard down and start to emulate those who wish to trespass against us.

www.bakehousetheatrecompany.com.au

Review: The Walworth Farce (Workhorse Theatre Company)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), May 18 – Jun 9, 2018
Playwright: Enda Walsh
Director: Kim Hardwick
Cast: Rachel Alexander, Laurence Coy, Robin Goldsworthy, Troy Harrison
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
Inside a small London apartment, Dinny and his adult sons spend every day acting out a complicated farce, so that the best performer may win a trophy, and that Blake and Sean may remember their early days in Ireland, but only in a way that Dinny permits. It is an account of events that is absurd and dense, designed so that his sons’ memory of their collective biography, is doctored and confused.

Dinny has a lot to hide, and because Blake and Sean are a part of his confections, they are kept under strict control, even if both have well and truly arrived at adulthood. This is a story about parenting, and about the diaspora of cultures that every city experiences. It is about the relationships between countries, and the way individuals are affected by the boundaries we draw in the demarcation of national differences. Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce is unquestionably meaningful, but some of the play’s more culturally specific aspects, can prove impenetrable and tedious.

It is a tenaciously exuberant production, directed by Kim Hardwick who leaves no stone unturned in this complex work. There is a lot that goes on in every moment, and Hardwick’s eye for detail demands that we engage with her show in a way that is complex and nuanced. The very lively cast gives a generous performance, energetic and rich with spirit and inventiveness. Troy Harrison is particularly wonderful as Sean, the older brother on the precipice of discovering a new life. It is a plethora of emotions that emerge from the actor, conflicting yet distinct, allowing us to decipher the fundamental underlying truths that are in operation, amidst the constant vociferous hullabaloo.

As immigrants, we often find ourselves having to create narratives when required to explain how we have come to be. The tales that we weave are seldom the complete story, because the action of moving from one’s hometown, to somewhere entirely new, will always involve layers of intricacies that seem impossible to encapsulate in a convenient way. How we think of the past, is key to how the future looks. When we are unable to be honest about the journey before today, what happens hereafter, can only be fraudulent.

www.workhorsetheatreco.com

Review: Youth And Destination (Manifesto Theatre Company)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Apr 27 – May 12, 2018
Playwright: James Raggatt
Director: James Raggatt
Cast: Jack Angwin, Georgia Blizzard, Gloria Bose, Julia Christensen, Maree Cole, Skyler Ellis, Alex Malone, Bardiya McKinnon, Nikita Waldron, Ross Walker
Images by Emily Havea

Theatre review
There is no conventional narrative in James Raggatt’s Youth And Destination, only a series of short sequences that offer insight into his young mind. The brevity of scenes allows the playwright to touch on a broad range of topics over the course of an hour, but the format prevents sufficient depth from being reached, aside from occasional dialogue that might inspire a sense of intrigue that encourages us to see beyond the mundane.

There is much to admire in the young; they are often inquisitive, passionate and fearless. Wisdom, although never restricted to the mature, can however be elusive. On this occasion, thoughts expressed are honest and very earnest, but the lack of life experience is evident, and Raggatt’s attempts at circumspection will not be able to satisfy every member of audience. Some nonetheless, will see themselves accurately reflected, in this work by young people, for young people.

An exceedingly pleasant group of actors prove themselves accomplished, with no fiction to perform but instead, putting on stage a convincing semblance of the self. In the absence of more complex story lines, their task is to make compelling, snippets of modernity, whether banal or extraordinary. Star of the show is not an actor, but lighting designer Martin Kinnane, whose aesthetic inventiveness and technical excellence, bring to the production a necessary polish, along with rigorous calibrations of mood, from scene to scene.

The young can tell us so much about the world, but pinning down the meaning of life, is not usually their strongest suit. Youth And Destination is a sensitive work, slightly overcautious with how it wishes to be perceived. Whether young or old, we all have to grapple with how others look upon us; we are so fundamentally social. It is incumbent on the artist however, to be courageous, and to always be revealing of their own truth, especially that which is unique and idiosyncratic in quality. Few can claim to speak for communities, but when we return to the individual in an exhaustive and meticulous way, what we say about the personal can become unimaginably significant.

www.kingsxtheatre.com.au

5 Questions with Gloria Bose and Nikita Waldron

Gloria Bose

Nikita Waldron: What are some obstacles you have had to face as a person of your background coming in the industry?
Gloria Bose: Easy – diversity and representation, not only within my race but class, age, education, sexuality and being of this time. It can be quite disheartening when I do find monologues and it’s either an African American woman suffering from domestic violence or a Rwandan prostitute raising her bastard child in the civil war. Like, those are my choices?… (I used the above monologues to get into drama school)

What’s your favourite warm up tongue twister?
I don’t do tongue twisters, but rattling off consonants, sirening and Y-buzzing (Arthur Lessac) are my go-tos.

If you could swap careers with any actor who would it be and why?
Eddie Murphy! I’m particularly interested in his longevity and variety of his career. From stand-up in the 80s, to movies, he’s released an album, produced his own films, voice overs for the Shrek instalments, playing numerous characters in The Nutty Professor and then all those swing & a miss movies – building a career to have agency to create.

What’s the best thing about working with such an eclectic bunch of young actors?
Difference of opinion and having insight from all walks of life. It’s been great to hear all these offers, some come to fruition and others get left on the rehearsal room floor.

What’s it been like to work with a brand new piece of writing?
Challenging in all the best ways. It’s funny because I don’t find it brand new. James has been working on this play for about 3-4yrs and I remember going to readings in 2015, 16, 17 and now
2018 I’m in it – I think it’s spent enough time on paper and I’m excited for its time onstage.

Nikita Waldron

Gloria Bose: Are you the type of person, who’s about the journey or the destination?
Nikita Waldron: Someone once told me that if I was going to embark on an acting career, I’d have to enjoy the journey otherwise I’d be deeply disappointed by the destination, and it’s probably the most valuable advice I’ve ever gotten. Having said that…a good destination is hugely motivating. Especially on a path like this.

Describe your youth in three words?
Redskins. Literature. Daydreaming.

If you could have one thing change tomorrow, what would it be?
I’d change the President of the United States. Or I’d end global warming. But I think the first issue would definitely put us on track to combat the second.

What is one misconception of being a woman of colour?
The biggest misconception? That I think of it as a disadvantage in this industry. Or worse as an advantage. The truth is, I don’t really think about my skin colour that often. I’ve grown up in a household where it was drilled into me that with hard work almost anything is possible. Period. I’ve got my parents to thank for that. While I’m thrilled that there are more opportunities in the arts for people who look different, I hope that one day it’ll be so normal that we won’t have to talk about it.

If you had to take me on a date, what/where would it be?
I’d fly you to Queenstown in New Zealand (near where my Dad grew up) for a Fergburger. They’re the best burgers in the world – you can quote me on that.

Gloria Bose and Nikita Waldron are appearing in Youth & Destination, by James Raggatt.
Dates: 27 April – 12 May, 2018
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre

Review: A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing (Brevity Theatre)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Apr 6 – 21, 2018
Playwright: Eimear McBride (adapted for the stage by Annie Ryan)
Director: Erin Taylor
Cast: Ella Prince
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
Our destinies are written long before our flesh is are conceived. The unnamed girl in the story was born into an underprivileged Irish family, of a conservative Catholic town where ancient rules are upheld without question or suspicion. Women are allocated their place, but men occupy everything, including the female body. In Eimear McBride’s novel A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing, violations take the form of rape, physical but also mental, emotional and spiritual. The entirety of the girl’s adolescence is characterised by the abusive imposition of all surrounding characters, determined to prevent any sense of individual agency from developing. She is deemed an object, an empty vessel with which society can do whatever it wishes.

It is a problematic adaptation by Annie Ryan who retains the “stream of consciousness” form of McBride’s book. One actor is designated to play not only the girl, but also every significant personality of her microcosm. Conversations are brief and unanticipated, often leaving us confused about the identities of people being portrayed, although we might as well think of them all as one uniform perpetrator, considering the analogous way in which our protagonist is being defiled. Actor Ella Prince is unable to provide clarity in terms of detail from the difficult text, but her capacity for authenticity and focus are certainly impressive. It is an extremely powerful presence that she brings to the show, and the gravity of the play’s concerns are never compromised under Prince’s depictions. The traverse stage proves challenging, requiring half of the show to be performed with her back to the audience, which proves unsatisfactory for a production that relies so heavily on its star’s facial expressions.

There is however, very fine design work being accomplished here. Isabel Hudson’s sophisticated set makes for a morbid but dramatic evocation of ideas around burial and death. Lights by Veronique Bennett are surprisingly dynamic, whilst administering a relentless austerity that is crucial to the play’s very specific tone. Chilling sounds created by Clemmie Williams ensure that we never deviate from the mournful devastation being analysed.

The girl is defiant, aggressively so, but she holds no power. We watch as she is put through a progression of torment, wondering if a person like this could ever grow into something whole. In places where freedom exists, we can imagine individuals flourishing, beyond the bounds of inevitable social restrictions. We want to believe that each human bears potential that is unique and good, and opportunities are available where against all odds, people can create the best out of their embryonic selves. This may or may not be true, but where there is no freedom, the only certainty is the unremitted spawning of deformed lives.

www.brevitytheatre.com.au

Review: DNA (Last One Standing Theatre Company)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Mar 15 – 24, 2018
Playwright: Dennis Kelly
Director: Claudia Barrie
Cast: Alex Beauman, Jeremi Campese, Holly Fraser, James Fraser, Jess-Belle Keogh, Alex Malone, Bardiya McKinnon, Liam Nunan, Millie Samuels, Jane Watt, Emm Wiseman
Image by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
A group of teenagers get themselves in deep trouble, but instead of seeking help from adults or officials, their instinct leads them to the alpha male of their pack. Phil is the strong silent type, the intense young man always looking to be deep in thought. He takes on the role of top dog with supreme confidence, and everyone else does as they are told, but we quickly discover this designation to be a case of style over substance. Dennis Kelly’s DNA examines our attraction to masculinity, and its socialised associations with authority and legitimacy.

The play is curiously plotted, with the narrative of a murder mystery interrupted by scenes of Phil with Leah, a girlfriend perhaps, desperate for his attention, but whom he is determined to ignore and belittle. Juxtaposing scenes of urgency with those frankly tedious two-hander moments, may not be dramatically effective, but Kelly’s dialogue is refreshing, with his use of UK vernacular especially fascinating to Australian ears.

The couple is played by Bardiya McKinnon and Millie Samuels, both actors demonstrating a satisfying level of concentration, but unable to turn their characters likeable. There are many colourful personalities in DNA, although not conventionally appealing, and certainly not uplifting or inspiring types that draw us in. It is however, an honest tale that reveals darker shades of our humanity, and director Claudia Barrie makes sure that pertinent meanings of the piece, are conveyed with power and clarity. The big cast features some strong players, and they keep us attentive, even when their youthful folly threatens us with characteristic dreariness.

Sean Van Doornum’s sound design is noteworthy for introducing a wide range of tense ambiences to the space. Along with Liam O’Keefe’s lights and Ella Butler’s set, the production impresses with its polish, although the show’s overall result can be slightly underwhelming. DNA is a cautionary tale, and it does bear repeating, that humans are often very stupid creatures. Allowing us to see ourselves at our worst, is a gift that is almost unique to what art can achieve. How we proceed from having observed our deficiencies, is important, but never ascertainable at the point of conclusion when we consume a work.

www.lastonestandingtheatreco.com

Review: Being Dead (Don Quixote) (MKA Theatre / Unofficial Kerith Fan Club)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Mar 6 – 10, 2018
Creation and performance: Kerith Manderson-Galvin

Theatre review
In Being Dead, Kerith Manderson-Galvin is constantly “corpsing”, or “breaking”, unable to commit to the theatrical device known as a character. This is all a ruse of course, in this avant-garde variant of the Don Quixote story. A work of art is to be created, a show is anticipated to be staged, and the accompanying ambitions are, as always, unimaginably grand. Artists needs to be brave; we expect performers to be polished up, ready and flawlessly poised, but that does not mean a negation of their humanly vulnerabilities.

Manderson-Galvin’s presentation embraces qualities normally prohibited. Hesitant, apologetic, confused and very nervous, the actor reveals all that conventional wisdom deems unsuitable for theatrical consumption. These states of being, although negative, are unquestionably authentic, and within the text’s radical employment, they become saliently relevant to its story of wild aspiration. To dream big, one’s weaknesses cannot be ignored. In throwing one’s all into a project, imperfections too require attention.

The character we see, never really knows when their show begins. They are fearful and indecisive, in a perpetual state of procrastination, but for the audience, it is clear that the performance is underway the moment we see the genius Manderson-Galvin pacing on stage, portraying the fear that grips anyone who wishes to accomplish something extraordinary. It is a strange discipline that is being flaunted, an odd coupling of overt awkwardness and concealed deliberateness. It is false bravado turned inside out, for an experience wonderfully unusual and perversely delightful.

Equally enjoyable are its several sequences of sheer beauty, unpredictable and comforting, gestures of kindness perhaps, to release us of its otherwise stubborn edginess. Lights by Jason Crick and sound by Jules Pascoe, keep the production contained and coherent, pleasant elements that we cling to, like a security blanket, amid Being Dead‘s resolve to challenge and disturb.

Unbeknownst to themself, our protagonist succeeds in their search for something magical. Preoccupied with anxiety, they fail to detect all the good that is being created. Fear is a monster, an adversary to be combated with great fortitude and ferocity. Strength will deliver victories, but stillness is necessary, if the rewards are to be appreciated.

www.mka.org.auwww.unofficialkerithfanclub.com