Review: Haircuts (Mantouridion Theatre)

haircutsVenue: Mantouridion Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Apr 15 – 26, 2015
Playwright: Con Nats
Director: Lex Marinos
Cast: Demitra Alexandria, Valentino Arico, John Derum, Barbara Gouskos, Adam Hatzimanolis, Richard Hilliar, Tim Ressos

Theatre review
Successful plays encapsulate a slice of life and represent to its audience something meaningful. Con Nats’ Haircuts is an ambitious work that tries to bring many different threads together, revealing a hunger to tell many stories and an urgency for committing a wealth of ideas to the stage. Its narrative style is conventional, but its structure is less so. Focus shifts regularly, and subplots become overwhelming, resulting in a disorienting uncertainty about the show’s main plot and its centre. There is a big emphasis on multiculturalism, which although interesting, does not contribute directly to the way key narratives unfold. Machismo is also explored thoroughly, and frequently used for laughs, but it contributes to an uncomfortable gender imbalance where all the women in the play are constantly defined against their husbands, fathers and sons.

Direction of the work by Lex Marinos is a passionate effort, and individual scenes are carefully explored, but the production does not assemble into a cohesive whole. The awkward imbalances between amusing asides that take up too much time, and poignant character developments that go past too gently, cause important elements to lose clarity and the play can often seem undecided about what it intends to convey. Performances are uneven but strong players include Barbara Gouskos who brings a beautiful gravity to the role of Angela, delivering a convincing, albeit brief, portrayal of a woman who has experienced very dark days. Her measured approach is authentically emotional and with it, she introduces to us a special and resonant moment of shared humanity. Richard Hilliar’s Stanley is a quiet and tender contrast to the clamorous goings-on, and offers up the only well-rounded personality in a throng of unoriginal stereotypes. His chemistry with co-actors can be improved, but the actor does his best to anchor the show in a position of subtlety that helps us relate to the world being depicted.

The production requires distillation, but even in its imperfect form, it is not without strengths. Some of the dialogue is beautifully deep, and much of the acting is energetic and earnest, in fact it might be said that there is often too much of a good thing, which could only lead to the ridiculously obvious conclusion that Haircuts needs a bit of shearing.

Review: The Plot (Mantouridion Theatre)

theplot1Venue: Mantouridion Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Feb 13 – Mar 1, 2015
Playwright: Evdokia Katahanas
Director: Sophie Kelly
Cast: Dina Panozzo, Deborah Galanos, Dina Gillespie, Maggie Blinco, Jennifer White, Julie Hudspeth, Matt Charleston, Nicholas Papademetriou, Michael Kotsohilis
Image by Mark Micaleff Photography

Theatre review
Stories about the underdog hold an everlasting appeal. We identify with the struggles of a person facing odds that are almost too much to endure, and the dramatic tensions that can be derived from those circumstances are unmistakable. Evdokia Katahanas’ The Plot talks about a social worker’s fight against the powers that be, at an aged care facility. Lily is an intimate confidante of the people she cares for, but their best interest are not always a priority for the directors, who are more concerned with keeping up appearances and a pleasing bottom line. Katahanas’ script includes elements that entertain and amuse, as well as characters that are colourfully diverse, but the structure of her writing prevents a comfortable rhythm from taking hold. Scenes of realism are interrupted by monologues, creating a plot that although rich in variety, can tend toward feeling fractured and uneven.

The production is performed by an accomplished and confident cast, led by the eminently energetic Dina Panozzo. In the role of Lily, Panozzo is full of empathy and passion, and she puts us firmly on her side from her very first appearance. Her warm presence connects with audience and co-actors, and her valiant and generous approach gives the production a sense of enthusiastic benevolence. The performance space is a large hall, and director Sophie Kelly addresses that daunting vastness effectively. She prevents any hint of dull stasis from occurring by encouraging movement and introducing sonic dimensions that fill the room beautifully. Composer Stephen Rae and sound designer Daniel Natoli both contribute strong work to the production. Kelly’s penchant for drawing out quite extravagant styles of acting ensures that the show remains entertaining for its duration.

How we treat the elderly can often be disgraceful. All our lives owe a debt to generations before, and when our seniors are no longer able to fend for themselves, it is completely reprehensible when they suffer mistreatment and abuse. The Plot shows that there are many admirable people devoted to providing care for those who are in need, but their honourable motives can be impeded by bureaucracy and the ineptitude of those in more powerful positions. Lily’s fight is a good one, even if every battle cannot be won.