Review: Orpheus (Lies, Lies And Propaganda / Suspicious Woman Productions)

liesliesVenue: Blood Moon Theatre (Potts Point NSW), Aug 18 – 27, 2016
Director: Michael Dean
Dramaturg: Jasper Garner Gore
Cast: Dymphna Carew, Curly Fernandez, Victoria Greiner, Lana Kershaw, Daniel Monks, Bodelle de Ronde, Michael Yore
Image by Sasha Cohen

Theatre review
Orpheus’ story is often told with emphasis on a husband’s drudgery in trying to rescue his wife from the mouths of danger, but in Michael Dean’s revision, we explore the possibility of Eurydice being a more provocative character, whose own desires are more complicated and less convenient for her husband’s legend. Hell is an Australian outback hick town, from which Eurydice finds herself unable to leave, but Orpheus is determined to bring her back to their life in the city, where a previously shared reality seems to be fading with the passage of time.

Similarities with David Lynch’s surrealism where “this whole world is wild at heart and weird on top” can be observed in Dean’s portrayal of an ugly yet seductive foreboding, set within a seedy bar where the drawing of raffle tickets is “the moment we’ve all been waiting for.” Michael Yore’s music and Liam O’Keefe’s lights provide splendid transportative atmospherics for an operatic expression of an ancient mystery suited to contemporary times, and Rachel Weiner’s illuminative choreography, although excessively demanding at certain points, demonstrates a healthy instinct for space as a fundamental device of communication.

With little in terms of dialogue that could be employed, the depiction of characters relies heavily on movement and presence, which the cast accomplishes with dexterity, but there is a gentleness to the overall approach that contradicts some of the darker elements in the piece. A greater sense of gravity and perhaps bigger personalities would generate a more sinister edge to fortify its enigmatic tone. Daniel Monks leaves a strong impression in the title role, authentic and captivating with his ability to meaningfully embody Orpheus’ sentimental qualities. The actor’s unequivocal focus and connection with all who are on and off stage, is the basis on which the production addresses its emotional dimensions.

Michael Dean’s vision of theatre as a dynamic and unpredictable art form is marvellously realised in Orpheus. Adventurous, playful and iconoclastic, Dean’s presentation is a surprising and delightful show that challenges not only notions of storytelling, but also conventions of our cultural endeavours. It is a virtuous exercise, made even more wonderful by sheer, undeniable talent and exquisite taste. There is exceptional work to be found here, the kind that makes us want more of the same from every stage, but it is the utter unorthodoxy and subversive nature of its appeal that provides its avant-garde lustre. |

5 Questions with Bodelle de Ronde and Curly Fernandez

Bodelle de Ronde

Bodelle de Ronde

Curly Fernandez: With your artistic practice are there any art movements through time you feel an affinity with or get strong inspiration from?
Bodelle de Ronde: There are certain artists who have inspired me with their images when I’ve been creating a character. For me it’s portraits that come alive and I get a strong feeling of who that person is, or landscapes/scenes that conjure up an atmosphere I can use in my work and captures my imagination. Artists like John Singer Sargent, Edvard Munch, John William Waterhouse, Marc Chagall, Sir John Everett Millais, Frida Kahlo.

What is your most exciting cultural heritage memory when you were growing up?
Realising I came from a large family of such a different culture from the one I grew up in. Whenever we had get-togethers in Bangkok I’d be surrounded by aunties and cousins all speaking in a language I learnt to pick up but didn’t quite understand but it didn’t matter because we still had so much fun together. I gained a strong sense of belonging, family and identity spending school holidays in Thailand.

Do you have any obsessive compulsive tendencies?
I’ll check the oven’s off before I go to sleep but because I live in a shared house that hasn’t been such a silly thing to do.

Five items you would take to a deserted island?
Photos. Music. A spear for catching fish (aka Cast Away!). A collection of Haruki Murakami. Pen and paper.

How does the Orpheus myth translate to modern audiences?
Hopefully a bond of love is something that audiences will always relate to. As well as his sense of displacement being in the underworld, surrounded by people whose actions seem familiar and yet ajar with normality. The struggle to fight for what you believe in and the question of how far you are willing to go for that cause is also very topical.

Curly Fernandez

Curly Fernandez

Bodelle de Ronde: What’s your most memorable moment on stage?
Curly Fernandez: I performed a one man show at La Mama many years ago. It was called The Delusionist. Famous speeches from history retold. My wife directed it, my newborn daughter crawled around the space whilst we rehearsed and teched. My sound designer was my babysitter and my SM was our best friend. It was a real family project. My mother in law came one night and led a standing ovation. It wasn’t so much for my performance but for our family. She was very proud of what Lauren and myself had done, made a life in art with our family.

What’s your biggest turn on?
Great physiques. Great coffee. Great underwear. Yes in that order.

What’s the biggest challenge for you when devising theatre?
For me personally it’s feeling ok with suggesting ideas or things that pop into your imagination that have no logical base and then seeing them fail and not being ashamed of it but honouring the idea or vision, as sometimes something exquisite arises from it.

What drew you to this project?
Michael Dean had seen me over summer and was keen to work with me, and had spoke with a friend of mine. Everyone talked highly of his devised work. Importantly in the audition it was that himself and myself were able to talk quite freely and honestly.That was the key. We also share similar heritage.

Your character, based on Persephone, is an outsider. How do you relate to this?
I’m black.

Bodelle de Ronde and Curly Fernandez are appearing in Orpheus.
Dates: 18 – 27 August, 2016
Venue: Blood Moon Theatre

5 Questions with Danielle Baynes and Pip Dracakis

Danielle Baynes

Danielle Baynes

Pip Dracakis: What are the similarities between Lady and Danielle?
Danielle Baynes: I’m similar to who the Lady becomes at the end of the play. At the beginning I share her curious, romantic and cautious side. She’s very naïve though, I’m much more cynical. After a certain experience she has in the middle of the show we definitely become kindred spirits. She’s more talented than me but we’re both hilarious. We sort of look the same, except her face is much bigger.

What do you enjoy most about performing in live theater?
If it can only be one thing, then I’d say the audience. The shared experience, the instant feedback, the mixture of being completely in control and totally out of control at the same time. Nothing compares.

What is the most ridiculous thing a director has asked you to do in rehearsal?
Look I won’t name and shame, BUT Michael Dean once had a group of us running around a dodgy, empty car park late at night in Parramatta yelling “red alert”.

Who inspired you in the creation of the mysterious male character in Bicycle?
Oh Pip, the question you’ve been dying to ask all this time… I won’t go into detail about the personal inspiration, but I was inspired by an author named Bram, and a little bit inspired by Mads Mikkelson.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
At the moment it’s binge watching crime shows in bed until 3am. I also indulge in too much soft cheese. But Nigella Lawson said, “I don’t feel guilty about any pleasure. I think you should only feel guilty if you don’t feel pleasure”, and I try to take on that attitude as well.

Pip Dracakis

Pip Dracakis

Danielle Baynes: If you and I were musical instruments, what would we be?
Pip Dracakis: You would be a Steinway and I would be a Stradivarius.

You are a brilliant Actor Musician, what’s unique about this type of performer and how did you approach your role in Bicycle?
I see my role in Bicycle as a storyteller and try to serve the story and text in all my musical and physical choices. It’s great to be able to work on a show where you can think as an actor and communicate through music.

What’s the strangest thing someone has said to you after a performance (any performance)?
During one of our post-show Q&A’s for Merchant of Venice with Sport for Jove, we were asked how we all knew each other. The kid was in year 7. I think he was struggling with all the other questions about dealing with a racist play in the 21st century.

What was the process in creating the score for Bicycle?
I listened to a lot of different repertoire but most of my musical ideas were inspired by the text and born out of the organic rehearsal process. Lots of trial and error, seeing what enhanced the script and what moments were best left without any musical underscoring. In some scenes, the music is totally improvised and in others, there are prescribed excerpts by Bach or Bartok, for example.

And finally, if someone was to make a movie of your life, who would play me?
Fran Fine.

Danielle Baynes and Pip Dracakis can both be seen in Bicycle.
Dates: 21 June – 2 July, 2016
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre

Review: Bicycle (Lies, Lies And Propaganda)

liesliespropagandaVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jun 21 – Jul 2, 2016
Playwright: Danielle Baynes
Director: Michael Dean
Cast: Danielle Baynes, Pip Dracakis

Theatre review
It is one woman against the world in Danielle Baynes’ Bicycle. The odds are stacked against our 19th century protagonist as she discovers not only her life’s passion, but also the injustices that women face when trying to carve out a self-determined existence. Coming of age in Baynes’ play means realising the discrimination that is systematically entrenched in a world that had previously seemed innocent. An awakening of desires demands that her eyes are open to truths, and her story of tragic enlightenment is told in a way that disallows us from denying its persisting relevance. The nameless Lady’s feelings and experiences, her perspective of the world, and her hunger for what is right, all find connection with our 21st century sensibilities, and shock us into seeing the intimate parallels between what we had considered to be bygone history and what we continue to retain. It is a passionate piece of writing, insightful and brilliantly elucidating through a narrative that is at once personal and universal. At the core of its many colourful permutations of form, is its unmistakeable feminist advocacy that many will find irresistibly inspiring.

Baynes plays the Lady in the hour-long monologue, with Pip Dracakis providing an added female omnipresence with her person and violin. Space is restrictive, and the production relies squarely on the leading lady’s ability to keep our attention and imagination engaged, which she accomplishes remarkably well. Scenes are thoughtfully demarcated and given distinct flavour by director Michael Dean, but some sequences are more effective than others, resulting in a plot trajectory that can feel uneven in its resonance. Dracakis’ live music gives the show a dynamism that works seamlessly alongside Baynes’ actorly endeavours for a powerful statement about art, and the struggles in its creation.

Sex and art are linked in Bicycle, both are appetites ferocious in nature and indomitable. The Lady’s liberties are completely usurped by a patriarchy that is determined to diminish her wishes and talents. We live in a world where powerful people go to great lengths to maintain the status quo, for their position necessitates the subjugation of many. This seems to be part of human nature, never to change, but processes where disenfranchised groups work to destabilise and subvert oppressive forces are always ongoing. Not all will succeed, but the battle continues for the human spirit is at its most potent when the downtrodden are left with nothing else to lose. Her rights as a sexual being and an artist, are a threat to her father and his conspirators, who do all they can to disempower her, but we are glad to see her fight to the end, whether or not she comes out on top.

Review: Roadkill Confidential (Lies, Lies And Propaganda)

liesliesVenue: Kings Cross Theatre Kings Cross NSW), Nov 11 – 28, 2015
Playwright: Sheila Callaghan
Director: Michael Dean
Cast: Alison Bennett, Sinead Curry, Michael Drysdale, Jasper Garner Gore, Nathaniel Scotcher
Image by Emily Elise

Theatre review
Trevor is not a happy artist. She watches the doom and gloom on the news to stay in touch with things so that her very high profile work in the field of visual art may be relevant to her public. In fact, her studio is highly secretive, maybe she is insecure about the unfinished product, or maybe she is trying to control the reaction to her controversial art. Meanwhile, a government agent is investigating her, and everything begins to look sinister. Sheila Callaghan’s Roadkill Confidential is however, no straightforward cop drama. It is an abstract and often surreal piece of writing that celebrates the dramatic art form by prioritising the stage’s unique abilities of relating to its audience. Beyond the use of a narrative to satisfy, the play features sequences that resonate independent of characters and stories. Its free form allows actors to create moments of wonder, in service of theatre and all its possibilities.

Michael Dean’s exuberant direction is concerned with creating an experience that fascinates and intrigues. The show’s plot is not always coherent, and we leave with uncertainty about the moral of the story, but there is much to get involved with at every step of the way. Lights by Richard Neville and Mandylights, along with Benjamin Garrard’s sound are playful and dynamic elements of a production that is determined to deliver whimsy and extravagance. Creativity is in abundance here, and there is little that holds it back from making its ubiquity felt in every nuance.

Performances are suitably colourful, from a committed ensemble, unified in style and tone. The charming Michael Drysdale plays the unnamed agent with a quirky flair, and a confident physicality that brings life to the stage. His work needs better polish to reflect a more precise grasp of the text, but Drysdale’s execution of the show’s anti-realistic scenes are consistently amusing, and memorable. The artist Trevor is depicted with admirable strength and vigour by Alison Bennett who introduces an alluring severity to the mysterious role. Her piteous neighbour Melanie becomes a force to be reckon with under Sinead Curry’s surprising interpretation. The actor’s flamboyant approach and magnetic presence provide her character with excellent entertainment value, and offers good balance to a show that has a tendency to bewilder.

There is no discussion about whether Trevor’s new work will be understood, yet its effects are gravely anticipated. We need to talk about theatre in a similar way; to allow it to do more than just telling stories. There is no fear of abstraction in this production of Roadkill Confidential because it believes in affecting its audience in a more inventive or perhaps, sophisticated manner. At the theatre, we share a space for a couple of hours, and when we go our separate ways, we will depart having grown a little. It is by that amount of extension that we can measure an artist’s worth.

5 Questions with Sinead Curry and Nathaniel Scotcher

Sinead Curry

Sinead Curry

Nathaniel Scotcher: What animal that would play you in the story of your life?
Sinead Curry: An otter would play me in the movie of the story of my life. It would be called “Call of The Wild: One Otter’s Journey from River Obscurity to Voice Over Success”.

If your character was an ice cream flavour, what flavour would she be?
Melanie would be a double scoop combo of Vanilla and Pralines, served in a children’s-sized cone. She’s watching her weight.

If your character and Nate’s character went on a date, where would you go and what would you say to keep him interested?
Randy, being 14, must surely still be interested in parties; Melanie would take him to a funland playground-cum-bistro, and they would eat fish fingers and talk at length about his fork collection. If Randy could resist his urge to stab, that is.

Do you think Nate’s picture should have been on the postcards instead of yours?
Definitely. Nate’s bone structure is way more alluring and would lead to more ticket sales. Also, Nate’s skin tone is warmer and more welcoming than my pasty hue. Maybe if we had Nate’s face on the Australian currency instead of the Queen the AUS Dollar might improve?

If you could be Nate for a week, what would you do?
I would dance all of the time, and in my breaks from dance, I’d swim the English Channel. I’d also get many tattoos of Rabbits.

Nathaniel Scotcher

Nathaniel Scotcher

Sinead Curry: If Randy was a song, what would it be?
Nathaniel Scotcher: “Living Dead Girl” by Rob Zombie or “Gay Bar” by Electric Six.

What do you know about rabbits?
When I was a young lad I used to breed dwarf rabbits and sell the babies to pet shops. They were very cute and I spent many hours looking after them, however, I’m not sure that I ever really knew them.

If you could give Sinead one piece of career advice, what would it be?
Just be the artist you are and you will continue to shine brighter than the sun. Be true to yourself, coz yourself is marvellous!

What is your favourite piece of Sinead’s clothing?
Sinead has an eclectic assortment of tiny T-shirts that are tricky to decipher, this amuses me when I get bored in rehearsals. She also looks smokin’ in them.

Could Sinead be any more attractive?
I don’t believe she could be any more attractive, especially when she is doing her odd little Kath and Kim dance in the show… so elegant.

Sinead Curry and Nathaniel Scotcher are appearing in Roadkill Confidential, by Sheila Callaghan.
Dates: 11 – 28 November, 2015
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre

5 Questions with Emily Elise

emilyeliseWhat is your favourite swear word?
Fuck. Perfect for any kind of emotion; good, bad, happy, sad!

What are you wearing?
It’s Monday. I’m wearing a brave face.

What is love?
Love is a many splendid thing! Love lifts us up where we belong, all you need is love! But seriously, love is like that dream where you’re falling and you jolt yourself awake.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The last show I saw was A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Genesian I think? 3/5 stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
When else do you get to see theatre in a glass box in the middle of Parramatta? With an incredible cast, live music and a site specific devised performance, it’s going to be something you won’t want to miss.

Emily Elise is appearing in Zeroville, part of Anywhere Festival Parramatta.
Show dates: 8 – 16 May, 2015
Show venue: Glass Pavilion, Heritage Courtyard @ the Parramatta Justice Precinct