Review: Rudy & Cuthbert Too (Kings Cross Theatre)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Nov 17 – 21, 2019
Playwrights: Toby Blome, Zelman Cressey-Gladwin
Director: Jo Turner
Cast: Toby Blome, Zelman Cressey-Gladwin
Images by Jasmin Simmons

Theatre review
Rudy and Cuthbert are throwing a party. They consult a listicle on the internet, for ten sure-fire ways to make it a success, but it appears that information on the world wide web is not always reliable. In accordance with the top tips they had discovered, the young men work hard to make fun. Performers Toby Blome and Zelman Cressey-Gladwin, on the other hand, are effortless in their approach, for a whimsical comedy based on mime and clowning principles.

There is an unmistakable innocence in the characters, that sets the tone for the show. Having presented themselves to be devoid of agenda, other than the simple intention of having a party for their friends, we watch circumstances evolve, and observe the way things begin to happen to Rudy and Cuthbert, to arrive at an understanding that life has its way of taking you by surprise.

Directed by Jo Turner, the show is perfectly paced, to offer an experience that is deeply amusing and consistently delightful. The escalation in stakes and therefore tension, gives Rudy & Cuthbert Too an emotional dimension that is perhaps surprising for a presentation of this form. Although eccentric in style, Blome and Cressey-Gladwin have energetic presences that always maintain a firm grip over their audience. The boys make it a point to look like they are fooling around, but their irrefutable proficiency would suggest that they mean business.

Click-baits are deceptive by nature, and they take without giving anything satisfying in return. Theatre is quite the opposite. It allows us to sit in what is usually a state of passivity, while extraordinary attempts at deciphering the universe’s meanings are being offered up in earnest. Whether entertaining, informative, inspiring, or exasperating, these gifts from artists everywhere are immense, and a crucial element in determining how our civilisation does or does not flourish. There is no question that most of Australia’s art is devalued. If we could only give it as much as we do the endless pointless clicks on our phones, our extinction might just become avertible.

www.facebook.com/rudycuthbert

Review: Good Dog (Green Door Theatre Co)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Nov 1 – 16, 2019
Playwright: Arinzé Kene
Director: Rachel Chant
Cast: Justin Amankwah
Images by Jasmin Simmons

Theatre review
Good Dog by Arinzé Kene, details the life of a young black man in working class England. We watch him from childhood, an innocent boy like any other who dreams of owning a bicycle, but who learns instead, the harsh realities of poverty. It is a story about race and class, and how people can be depleted of patience and naivety, in the face of unremitting injustice. Years of deprivation sets our unnamed protagonist on a course of rebellion, that the play appropriately depicts as a valid response to systematic failures of modern economies.

Kene’s writing is intriguing, in a linguistic style faithful to the cultural contexts from which it emerges. Directed by Rachel Chant, the production is sensitive, and dignified, in its portrayals of prejudice and disparity in a foreign land. Sound design by Melanie Herbert is particularly subtle in how it conveys psychological shifts for the one-man show. Kelsey Lee’s lights are an elegant feature, and a set by Maya Keys provides just enough visual cues to spark our imagination. Actor Justin Amankwah is extraordinarily charismatic, but insufficiently inventive and overly naturalistic in the role. Good Dog requires a more expository approach to speak to an Australian audience, and at over two hours long, a stronger sense of theatricality is necessary to sustain our interest.

The power of white supremacist capitalism lies in the way it is able to subjugate so many, for so long. Those of us who are oppressed, not only buy into their myths about hard work and meritocracy, we further sympathise with their prescriptions of politeness and civility. They keep us asking for better, over generations, knowing that their continual denials are only met with perpetual compliance. Once in a blue moon however, a revolution will arise, with people tired of waiting, finally pressed to claim back their due by force. How and when this is going to happen, is as always, anyone’s guess.

www.greendoortheatreco.com

Review: Rosaline (Little Trojan Theatre Co)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Oct 11 – 26, 2019
Playwright: Joanna Erskine
Director: Sophie Kelly
Cast: Alex Beauman, Jeremi Campese, David Lynch, Aanisa Vylet
Images by Marnya Rothe

Theatre review
Shakespeare never let us see Rosaline, when he wrote about her in Romeo & Juliet. We knew her to be Juliet’s cousin, the girl who had rejected Romeo’s advances, before the famous lovers’ fateful meeting at the Capulet ball. Joanna Erskine’s Rosaline takes what is ostensibly a stock character, and makes her the central figure of an alternate teenage love story. We are reminded that it was only Rosaline’s efforts at chastity that stood in the way, and discover that she too, was completely enamoured, just as Juliet had been head over heels in love with Romeo. Erskine’s play represents justice not only for a silenced woman, but asserts female perspectives in a culture that is too accepting of the Bard’s persistent and pervasive misogyny.

The work is however, only marginally radical with its revisions of the legendary saga. It concerns itself mainly with supplementing the original tale, rather than daring to argue for a completely different, wholly more palatable version of events. Directed by Sophie Kelly, the show can tend to feel excessively earnest, and therefore needlessly reverential toward Shakespeare’s old creation. The production is nonetheless a good-looking one, made lustrous and polished by Martin Kinnane’s lighting design.

Actor Aanisa Vylet is an alluring leading lady, with an easy confidence that makes believable Rosaline’s new-found existence. When given the opportunity, Vylet demonstrates herself to be a remarkably spirited performer, as does Jeremi Campese, who brings a valuable vibrancy to the piece. Romeo is played by Alex Beauman, passionate and appropriately naive in his portrayal of the juvenile romantic, and David Lynch surprises with the intricacies he is able to locate for his interpretation of the Friar.

It is certainly a valid choice to create a lovelorn Rosaline, but some would find it disheartening that centuries later, the young woman is still being defined so resolutely against a man who loves another. Even though we had come to know Rosaline through Romeo, there is certainly no need to remain within his doomed narrative. We are all bit parts in someone’s story, playing minuscule roles for people we could very well have forgotten. At the centre of each personal universe, is an undeniable responsibility to create a rich life, and to ensure a meaningful existence. Rosaline’s story might have begun with Romeo, but where she went thereafter, is still anyone’s guess.

www.facebook.com/littletrojantheatre

Review: A Girl In School Uniform (Walks Into A Bar) (Futura Productions)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Sep 20 – Oct 5, 2019
Playwright: Lulu Raczka
Director: Hannah Goodwin
Cast: Michelle Ny, Caitlin Burley
Images by Jarryd Dobson, Indiana Kwong

Theatre review
The city has been experiencing frequent blackouts, during which women and girls would disappear, many of whom would be subsequently found murdered. 16-year-old Steph is out looking for her best friend who has gone missing. She is certain that Bell, a young woman working in a bar, is withholding valuable information. Lulu Raczka’s A Girl In School Uniform (Walks Into A Bar) sees those two characters imagining the fate of a vanished girl. They play out scenarios by pretending to be male perpetrators of violence, thereby revealing the dangers that women know themselves to be subject to.

In the many blackouts that occur during the course of the production, the audience is repeatedly thrust into a state of anxiety, made even more unnerving by Hannah Goodwin’s very taut direction. Fear is always in the air, with the audience positioned to confront the constant threat that defines daily reality for most women. It is that sensation of when we walk into a bar, and our awareness of being looked upon as a piece of meat, is instantly heightened. The show is incredibly well designed, with Sophie Pilcher’s lights and Jessica Dunn’s sound wonderfully precise in manipulating our visceral responses for this gritty journey. Ella Butler’s work on set and costumes too, is highly accomplished. There is a sharpness to the aesthetic of A Girl In School Uniform that translates as a certain brutal coldness in how the world can be, even for young girls.

Actor Michelle Ny brings sass as well as dramatic intensity to the part of Bell, demonstrating impressive versatility in a role that requires of its performer, a wide range of attitudes and emotions. Steph is brought to life by the strong stage presence of Caitlin Burley, marvellous in conveying both innocence and fortitude for the role. The pair is exceptionally well rehearsed. Their chemistry and timing for this extremely technical two-hander has us agape in amazement, leaving us firmly persuaded by all that they present.

In the play we observe the dark to be infinitely more harrowing for women, but the incessant power failure is allowed to become a new status quo, exposing the ease with which society disregards our safety. We are comfortable with the idea that there is a weaker sex, and continue to foster behaviour and beliefs to reinforce that repugnant imbalance. We make things harder for women, often through the disinformation that women are naturally more challenged, usually due to bogus notions of biology or religion. The system will insist that we accept our fate, that we must respond to blatant injustice with resignation. Realising that acquiescence is almost always a choice, is how we can begin to address these issues of gender.

www.futurafilms.co

5 Questions with Caitlin Burley and Michelle Ny

Caitlin Burley

Michelle Ny: How similar were you to your character when you were in high school?
Caitlin Burley: Fairly similar to be honest. High school is a wild ride, and I tried a few different hats, some closer to Steph than others. I definitely shared her optimism and her desire to believe that people, especially those in charge, are honest and concerned about everyone’s best interest. And I am aware of the disillusionment that this can bring.

What was the naughtiest thing you ever did when you were a teenager?
I was pretty tame. Naughtiest thing I ever did in high school was probably just lying about going to the movies, and instead drinking in parks, ovals, backyards or on the streets. But
that phase was short lived, and never more than a few mouthfuls…

How would you cope with dealing with the blackouts in this world?
Well it would change our world drastically. It wouldn’t just be an ‘inconvenience’. Blackouts that plunge entire cities into darkness are catastrophic and do happen. There was a 25 hour blackout in New York in 1977 that resulted in a huge spike of crime and looting and more than 1000 intentional fires. Our world would be more dangerous. We would all be more vulnerable. I
would feel more powerless and night-time would be scarier. But I hope I would emerge with a survival plan, re-tweak my lifestyle and build a community so that we could survive off the grid
when needed, have an incredible emergency kit that I would never leave home without, torch, whistle, pepper spray, nuts and build a huge network of like-minded people with friends and family.
At night, I would always be ready to run, but to be honest, I seldom wear heels or tight skirts for that reason anyway.

How do think this play appeals to other young women?
It centres on two young women who take the narrative, that so often places women as victims, into their own hands and in the darkness imagine and negotiate a better future. It also breaks down heaps of stereotypes and divides that don’t serve us and that’s appealing. I think people will find it empowering and hopeful see it as a rallying call to stick together and rewrite the way forward. We will make mistakes, but we will get there together. I hope this play will play a small part getting us there.

Would you rather have an 8 hour blackout every week or a month long blackout every 12 months? And why.
Definitely an 8 hour blackout every week. Overall it’s much less time and I think that if our society were to face a month long blackout anarchy would break loose. We do have some back-ups in place; hospitals are supposed to have backup power for 96 hours, there is fuel in storage tanks, but a lot of these require electricity to access. If we all knew that come Sunday we would have 8 hours without electricity we could prepare ourselves, with resources and safety. It might actually force us all to slow down and interact with one another more. And surely it would mean being closer to hitting our carbon budgets. A month would be hard to recover from. Our society is dependent on electricity at every level, and unfortunately we are a selfish species. But I think conscience makes us kinder. Come see the show!

Michelle Ny

Caitlin Burley: In this play, you give a lot of (often unsolicited) free-advice. What is a piece of advice you would give to your 16 year old school girl self?
Michelle Ny: Hey 16 year old, Michelle. I’m sorry but there will be things in your life which are monumentally shit so I can’t say life will be better. BUT, you will grow up and be able to handle things with more emotional maturity and grow with each new obstacle that is thrown at you. So keep feeling things at 1000% (even if this is overwhelming) and keep being weird. x

Tell us about a real-life blackout you’ve experienced.
This isn’t an ~actual~ blackout but once when I was a kid, my parents left for a little while and my brother and I psyched ourselves into fear so we turned off all the lights and sat in
silence in chairs with our back towards the entrance of the room. Then when we heard people coming home we hid underneath the dining table but of course, it was just my family arriving!

What is one of your favourite moments in the play?
This is probably a favourite moment in rehearsals but, because the play has references to the UK, we had to change small references to become Australian, and we have gone through a big debate on what biscuit brand to use. Tim Tams, Tic Tocs, Honey Jumbles, Chit Chats, Coles brand chocolate chip cookies, Chocolate Thins, Gingernuts, Mint Slice, Digestives, Oreos etc… I like cookies.

This play deals with violence against women, is there anything in the play that you find empowering?
The women in this play are not victims and I think they are never portrayed as victims. A lot of awful things happen in their lives but both Bell and Steph take ownership of their issues and seek to find ways to tackle them. I think it’s interesting to see young women who are traditionally vulnerable act on their own means to break the trope of ‘damsel in distress.’

What were you like at school? Did you have a fake ID?
I was pretty high energy and annoying when I was at school but I was also kind of an ~”emo”~. A lot of walking around the corridors with extremely loud teen punk music blasting through my headphones. In my last year of high school we didn’t have to wear a uniform, so I exercised that privilege by skipping almost every chemistry class and lying somewhere on the waterfront. And I only borrowed my sisters ID once to get into a venue which was hosting our wrap party for a web series I was in. Other than that, I was pretty good and the first time I went clubbing was on my 18th birthday!

Caitlin Burley and Michelle Ny can be seen in A Girl In School Uniform (Walks Into A Bar), by Lulu Raczka.
Dates: 20 Sep – 5 Oct, 2019
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre

Review: U.B.U: A Cautionary Tale Of Catastrophe (Tooth And Sinew)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Sep 10 – 21, 2019
Playwright: Richard Hilliar
Director: Richard Hilliar
Cast: Tristan Black, Lib Campbell, Rachael Colquhoun-Fairweather, Emily Elise, Sam Glissan, Gideon Payten-Griffiths, Shane Russon, Idam Sondhi, Nicole Wineberg
Images by Ross Waldron

Theatre review
The prime minister has a secret plan to depose the king, and have him replaced by a civilian best described as a lazy idiot, in Richard Hilliar’s U.B.U: A Cautionary Tale Of Catastrophe. PM Fuller Bjullshitt owns mines, and wants to make sure that his personal interests are protected by laws of the land that continue to be neglectful of environmental concerns. Given the preposterous state of politics today, the play’s premise is entirely within the realm of possibility, but written in an absurdist style, we are confronted with the lines between fiction and truth, except there is no hiding the fact that many of the worst things being depicted are no different from the news that we are subjected to in real life.

Hilliar’s exuberant consolidation of current affairs and contemporary ideals, is a pertinent representation of Australian culture as it stands, turned satirical by its colourful wit, base but clever, in appropriate alignment with popular notions of our national identity. Having brought his own considerable skills as director to U.B.U, Hilliar’s show is rambunctious, fun-filled and campy, a highly entertaining work that facilitates discussions about doing the right thing, beyond left and right conceptions of politics. Costumes by Tanya Woodland, along with Ash Bell’s hair and makeup design, are a visual feast, powerfully enhanced by Ryan McDonald’s imaginative lights.

Extraordinary passion from all nine of its ensemble cast, makes it an occasion to remember. Sam Glissan and Emily Elise are as mad as each other, playing Pa and Ma Ubu with an incredible wildness that creates a grotesque quality, so reflective of what we feel to be happening right now all over the world. Lib Campbell and Idam Sondhi are another formidable couple, with exquisite timing and chemistry, making us laugh at all the ugliness that we know ourselves to be capable of. Tristan Black’s incisiveness and precision as Bjullshitt ensures that we are attentive to both the meanings and hilarity of U.B.U; his “Mr. Segue’s Song” is an unequivocal highlight.

The show ends with a heavy-handed, earnest call to action. An uncontainable need to appeal to the body politic disrupts the entertainment, as the urgency to make its point finally exceeds its commitment to theatrical magic. Resignation is perhaps too easy, and U.B.U wants to help us avoid it. As we sit and watch everything crumble, the urge to submit to that seemingly inevitable extinction of our kind, can indeed feel irresistible. Humans however will always be defined by our activity and conduct, and for as long as we are here doing something, there is always the inescapable decision between good and bad.

www.toothandsinew.com

5 Questions with Idam Sondhi and Nicole Wineberg

Idam Sondhi

Nicole Wineberg: You play 4 characters, 3 of which are puppets… what’s that like?
Idam Sondhi: It’s both a great challenge and rewarding playing several characters. 3 of which are puppets – it’s something I’ve never done. However, the nature of the play and the amount of time we got to improvise and try different things out was very liberating. The time allowed me to get comfortable in the skin and souls of our fabric friends.

Why is U.B.U relevant to today’s audiences?
U.B.U touches upon some extremely important issues which effect each individual on this planet. Our environment is sacred and a home we often take for granted. U.B.U deals with the repercussions of neglect which are caused by human tendencies such as greed, power and money. We need to have more self awareness and work at getting better and sharing vital knowledge to the future generation at restoring what’s broken about our environment. It takes each and everyone one of us to make a change and take care of the planet.

Is U.B.U just potty humour or is there something in there for the more discerning of tastes?
U.B.U is for everyone! It allows us to self-reflect and does it in a tasteful way (even though all the flavours might not taste good). It’s theatre you’ve never seen before!

What’s your favourite character and line in the play?
I love all the characters so much! Especially because we explored each one individually! But Bob and Bill (the royal twins) have a special place in my heart – played wonderfully by Shane and Rachel. My favourite line is “grotty, snotty, spottibots!” You will only know what that means if you come and watch the play!

Could you please sum up our version of U.B.U in 5 words?
Grotesque, truthful, hilarious, experiential, memorable!

Nicole Wineberg

Idam Sondhi: Tell us a bit about your character.
She’s a princess who has never faced anything resembling hardship who then is thrust into a horrible situation by Ubu and his followers. She also has a really good wig. The Sansa Stark of white privilege! 

What was it like being part on an ensemble cast like this?
Exciting, entertaining, terrifying and educational, all rolled into one spicy burrito. It was invigorating working with a group of people who were so willing to look foolish and grotesque for the sake of storytelling and humour.

What should people take away from the messages in U.B.U?
a) Take climate change seriously and do something about it! It doesn’t matter how little or insignificant it is, just make a start and commit to making a change!
b) There’s a fart joke to suit every taste!

What was your most memorable moment during the rehearsal process?
It was actually the audition process! We were stunned with the sheer amount of talent and weirdness Sydney actors have! The stuff we saw will haunt us till the day we die, that’s for sure!

If you could eat any dish every day for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
A medley of deep fried potato: your standard hand-cut chip, crinkle-cut and shoestring fries, gems and wedges. Delish. If you have to ask why, you’re an idiot.

Catch Idam Sondhi and Nicole Wineberg in U.B.U A Cautionary Tale Of Catastrophe, by Richard Hilliar.
Dates: 10 – 21 Sep, 2019
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre