Review: Danny And The Deep Blue Sea (Little Spoon Theatre Co)

littlespoonVenue: Roxbury Hotel (Glebe NSW), Aug 22 – 30, 2014
Playwright: John Patrick Shanley
Director: Fiona Hallenan-Barker
Music: Ed Gain
Cast: Wade Doolan, Karli Evans

Theatre review
Love and human connection are sacred. They come easily to some, but remain elusive to others. John Patrick Shanley’s Danny And The Deep Blue Sea shows us two downtrodden souls Roberta and Danny, both desperate and lonely. We witness their efforts at discovering a life beyond their personal darkness, commencing with a chance meeting at a depressed bar in the middle of a poor Bronx neighbourhood. They find hints of contact, but each meaningful moment perishes, and every brief instant of radiance dissolves back into gloom.

The production is staged in a makeshift theatre at the Roxbury Hotel, located just outside of Sydney city. The space is quartered, so that performances take place along two channels that intersect in the room’s centre. It is an unusual location, so it makes good sense to resist creating a conventional proscenium aspect, but the actors’ faces are often obscured and losing that precious perspective is disappointing. Fortunately, both actors Karli Evans and Wade Doolan, are intense and focused, and they conspire with the venue’s intimacy to manufacture a beautifully transportative experience that takes us to spheres of secrecy and revelation.

Evans and Doolan are individually captivating, and their chemistry is excellent. Scenes of conflict later in the piece are dynamic and daunting at close range, but less effective are earlier sections that require a lighter, more humorous touch to allow greater identification from the audience. Their stories are dark, and we need to be invited into their worlds with a little more warmth. There probably will always be a sense of alienation to this story, but it needs to capture our emotions more firmly at the start before it unleashes its tumultuous dramatics.

Tales of hope and salvation are important for art and the society to which it belongs. Artists find inspiration, so that they can themselves provide inspiration to their public. Roberta and Danny represent the sadness and regret that persist in our lives, but more significant is the unexpected bravery that surfaces from their interaction. Who knows what it truly means to love, but when two people collide and engender a wonderful joy that had been hitherto impossible, that phenomenon feels quite a bit like magic.

Review: Stitching (Little Spoon Theatre Co)

stitchingVenue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Mar 26 – Apr 12, 2014
Playwright: Anthony Neilson
Director: Mark Westbrook
Music: Chelsea Reed
Actors: Lara Lightfoot, Wade Doolan

Theatre review
Stitching by Anthony Neilson is cleverly written. It includes many ingredients that makes for great theatre; entertainment, shock value, emotional depth, realistic characters, an unusual story, and a brilliantly structured timeline. Neilson’s script is irresistible, and it is to Little Spoon Theatre Co’s great credit that they have identified and imported it from the UK for the Sydney audience.

Mark Westbrook’s direction anchors the production in a space of grief. A heavy aching permeates, and the atmosphere he creates is dark and severe. It feels authentic, but the narrow range of moods can be a little fatiguing. The thoroughness at which he has excavated the text with his cast is impressive. Every word is charged with intention and imagery, keeping us completely enthralled for the entire duration. The use of music (composed and performed live by Chelsea Reed) lets us breathe and reflect between scenes. Reed’s work adds beauty and helps release the suppressed sentimentalities of the characters. Westbrook paces the show well and his handling of the unusual timeline is marvellous work, but misses an opportunity at the crucial climax to shock the audience as the script obviously intends. Opening night jitters perhaps?

Both actors are wonderful in this production. Lara Lightfoot’s moments of subtlety and verve are perfectly apportioned. She is a naturally exuberant performer, but knows how to work with restraint to create a palpable intensity that is unforced and captivating. Her Abby is a remarkably intriguing character who is also convincing and realistic. Wade Doolan’s delicate performance as Stuart is a thoughtful and touching one. The sense of loss he portrays is readily identifiable, and the generous complexity in his characterisation gives the play its humanity. The chemistry between both actors is superb. A rare level of trust exists that creates an environment allowing no stone to be unturned, and their extensive exploration as players in this work makes for extraordinarily rich theatre.

5 Questions with Wade Doolan

wadedoolanWhat is your favourite swear word?
Fuck. Fuck is a fucking brilliant word.

What are you wearing?
My partner’s Winnie the Pooh dressing gown.

What is love?
An agreement that you are going to take on the world together; kiss in the good times and cuddle in the bad. That, and sharing the last piece of cheesecake.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
All My Sons at Darlinghurst Theatre. 4 stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Yes, yes it is. In fact, I think it may even be fucking good. But come and judge for yourself.


Wade Doolan is starring in Stitching.
Show dates: 26 Mar – 12 Apr, 2014
Show venue: TAP Gallery

5 Questions with Lara Lightfoot

laralightfootWhat is your favourite swear word?
Cunt. Gosh, I can’t believe I just said that. It never used to be. I blame our trip to Scotland, they use it like lose change.

What are you wearing?
A black pencil skirt, singlet and sandals – squeezing what I can out of these sunny days.

What is love?
Generosity in listening and in being.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
All My Sons at Darlinghurst Theatre. 4/5 stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Yes, I think it will be. The play is already heartbreakingly brilliant, and we’re working with a fabulous team of creatives. I hope our audience connect with the elements that drew us to this script, but ultimately it will be for them to decide.

Lara Lightfoot is starring in Stitching.
Show dates: 26 Mar – 12 Apr, 2014
Show venue: TAP Gallery

Tiger Country (Little Spoon Theatre Co)

Little Spoon Theatre Co.Venue: Sidetrack Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Jul 3 – 13, 2013
Playwright: Jonathan Gavin
Director: Lara Kerestes
Actors: Leighton Cardno, Wade Doolan, Karli Evans, Lara Lightfoot, Matt Stewart

Theatre review
Advance promotional imagery for Tiger Country has been polished and seductive in spite of its “rough as guts” subject matter. Accordingly, visual design of this production is also exceptional. Most costume pieces are well thought out, helping to  materialise some of the most frightful and revolting characters on the Australian stage. Set design is innovative, efficient, and creates the appropriately sinister and vulgar mood in which all the action takes place. Lighting design is sophisticatedly intelligent, operated accurately and sensitively by the show’s crew. Design and stage management for this low budget production is truly incomparable.

Disappointingly, the performance feels under-rehearsed even though the actors do genuinely display a good level of commitment and discipline. Lara Lightfoot stands out with a certain interior authenticity that matches her character’s physical crudeness. In addition to the fragility inherent in the script, she brings strength and bravery that help create a fascinating and multi-dimensional role.

The pace of the entire piece feels monotonously slow, which is more fitting in its darker moments, but the show fails to buoy up in several key scenes that need to be contrastingly lighter or louder. Perhaps several edits should have been made for things to be more taut and tense. The plot tries to gravitate toward a central character, “Chuckles” who takes centre stage at the conclusion, but too many sub-plots and support characters dilute and distract from what would have been a more gratifying and direct narrative.