Review: The Time Machine (Strange Duck Productions)

Venue: NIDA Parade Theatres (Kensington NSW), Apr 11 – May 2, 2018
Playwright: Frank Gauntlett (based on the novella by HG Wells)
Director: Gareth Boylan
Cast: Mark Lee
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
In the space of science fiction, our imagination of what is yet come, reveals less about the truths of the future, and more about the values and beliefs that we hold today. In Frank Gauntlett’s adaptation of HG Wells’ The Time Machine, an Englishman travels from Victorian times to the year 802,701 AD, where he encounters an evolutionary state of humankind, split into clear distinctions of species, good and bad.

Instead of luxuriating in the welcoming utopia that he stumbles upon, our protagonist pursues the evil creatures who had stolen his machine, and in the process interferes with the ecosystem that he discovers. There is also a romantic encounter, with the hero claiming a female character from the new world, as he tries to bring themselves back to the 19th century. The Time Machine is an action-packed one-man show that puts on display, the narcissistic self-aggrandising tendencies of men, who are persistent in figuring themselves as braver, more righteous, more long-suffering and under attack than anyone else in their fictional narratives.

The true hero is actor Mark Lee, whose energetic precision provides all the theatrical entertainment we require. He is a captivating presence, interminably persuasive with all that he serves up. A highly skilled performer, with an astonishing familiarity with the text, Lee is intense, inventive and tenacious in approach, leaving his audience impressed, even if the material he presents is less than inspiring. Director Gareth Boylan introduces a healthy quantity of visual variation to the show that helps draw our attention back, when we begin to lose interest in the monotonous narration of unwavering gallantry. Lights by Martin Kinnane are particularly useful in this regard. Michael Waters’ sound design too, works hard to facilitate our concentration.

It is a recurring theme in our stories, where we find ourselves in places belonging to others, then quickly and convincingly asserting our victimhood, before successfully overcoming the enemy. There is truth in saying that life requires us to move outside of ourselves, that the spirit of curiosity and discovery is essential to a meaningful existence, but the belief that “the world is your oyster” must be examined with greater sensitivity. Spaces are defined long before we enter them. Wherever we choose to venture, we must be mindful of how it is configured. If we decide to cause disruption, we must tread with utmost care and caution.

www.nida.edu.au

Review: The Olympians (NIDA)

nidaVenue: NIDA Parade Theatres (Kensington NSW), June 11 – 18, 2016
Playwright: Stephen Sewell
Director: Jeff Janisheski
Cast: Saxon Blackett, Callan Colley, Laura Djanegara, Megan Hind, Imogen Morgan, Wil Ridley, Louis Seguier, Emele Ugavule, Ross Walker

Theatre review
We take sport very seriously in Australia. Billions of dollars have been generated from the industry, and countless personalities have attained national iconic status over the years. Stephen Sewell’s The Olympians attempts to deconstruct the sporting hero, with a story set in the Olympic village of the 2016 Rio games. It is a piece of writing highly critical of sporting and popular culture, using a narrative about a fallen star lost in sex and drugs, appealing to the same need in our audienceship that keeps tabloid journalism in business. Its characters are familiar but caricatured, and although hugely ambitious in scope, the play would probably be more effective if scaled down to its simple essence. Greek tragedy meets television realism in The Olympians for a curious exploration of dramatic form, but the play would make a stronger point if its many subtexts are trimmed down to a more succinct articulation of its thoughtful message.

Direction by Jeff Janiesheski is equally adventurous and imaginative with its approach. The very generously sized stage poses a challenge that Janiesheski responds by delivering amplified theatrical expressions for every scene, resulting in a work that can often feel too obvious with how it chooses to communicate, leaving little room for nuance or irony. The production’s humour is rarely effective but energy from a tireless cast and vigorous lighting effects by Ross Graham help retain our attention. Lead actor Wil Ridley shows good precision and discipline as the dishonoured Porter, especially proficient in some of the play’s more heightened sequences of sentimentality. Imogen Morgan is memorable as Jess, a bimbo type who encounters the goddess Aphrodite. Morgan’s ability to convey consistent authenticity in her role sets her apart in a group that seems to work more intently on exterior presentations than on emotional efficacy and psychological believability.

In an arena where individuals are ruthlessly pitted against each other, the sporting field allows only one winner at a time. Perhaps it is the idea of making concrete the abstract concept of “the best” that gives sport an allure that art has been unable to compete with. Awards are given out in artistic communities the world over, but there is nothing definitive about the good and bad in art, and certainly, the judgements we may bestow upon them are almost never more than irrelevant privileged perspective. People are drawn to the certainties of sport, and the creation of winners and losers in its equations. The nature of art resists that singular objectivity. Great art dismantles systems of segregation and exclusion to speak with universality as though at the Olympics, except all are to emerge victorious.

www.nida.edu.au

5 Questions with Stephen Sewell

stephensewellWhat is your favourite swear word?
“Abbott”, as in “holy Abbott!!” or “what the Abbott??!!” somehow it just seems to suit the times.

What are you wearing?
Nothing. What are you wearing?

What is love?
A good reason to stay on the diet.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Hamlet – 11

Is your new show going to be any good?
I believe we’ll all be sent to jail, it’s so good.

 

 

Stephen Sewell is playwright for Kandahar Gate, presented as part of NIDA Student Productions 2014.
Show dates: 17 – 24 Jun, 2014
Show venue: NIDA Parade Theatres

Suzy Goes See’s Best Of 2013

Images from a few 2013 stand-outs: A Sign Of The Times, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, All My Sons, Hamlet, Empire: Terror On The High Seas, Hay Fever, Bodytorque.Technique, Waiting For Godot.

Images from a few 2013 stand-outs: A Sign Of The Times, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, All My Sons, Hamlet, Empire: Terror On The High Seas, Hay Fever, Bodytorque.Technique, Waiting For Godot.

This is a wrap up of special moments since the commencement of Suzy Goes See in April 2013. A personal selection from over 100 productions seen in Sydney. Thank you to artists, companies, publicists and punters who have supported Suzy Goes See in 2013. I cannot wait for more shenanigans with you in the new year!

Update: Click here for the Best Of 2014 list.

Suzy x

♥ Avant Garde Angels
The bravest and most creative experimental works in 2013.

♥ Quirky Questers
The most unusual and colourful characters to appear on our stages in 2013.

♥ Design Doyennes
Outstanding visual design in 2013. Fabulous lights, sets and costumes.

♥ Darlings Of Dance
Breathtaking brilliance in the dance space of 2013.

♥ Musical Marvels
Outstanding performers in cabaret and musicals in 2013.

♥ Second Fiddle Superstars
Scene-stealers of 2013 in supporting roles.

♥ Champs Of Comedy
The cleverest, sharpest, and funniest performances of 2013.

♥ Daredevils Of Drama
Bold and excellent acting in dramatic roles in 2013.

♥ Wise With Words
The most interesting and intelligent scripts of 2013.

♥ Directorial Dominance
The most impressive work in direction for 2013.

♥ Shows Of The Year
Nice coincidence to have different genres represented: drama, musical, dance, comedy and cabaret.

♥ Suzy’s Special Soft Spot
For an exceptional work I saw in Melbourne.

End

Atomic (Dreamingful Productions)

rsz_1400420_585853668128395_551489903_oVenue: NIDA Parade Theatres (Kensington NSW), Nov 16 – 30, 2013
Music and Lyrics: Philip Foxman
Book and Lyrics: Gregory Bonsignore, Danny Ginges
Director: Damien Gray
Actors: Michael Falzon, Bronwyn Mulcahy, David Whitney, Christy Sullivan, Lana Nesnas, Simon Brook McLachlan, Blake Erickson
Image by Gez Xavier Mansfield Photography

Theatre review
Atomic is a musical about two things; the invention of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945, and Leo Szilard, the man who was chiefly responsible for the science behind it. It is admirable that the writers had afforded a substantial portion of the show to historical aspects of the story, but the nature of musicals always seems to favour less solemn content, even if they are highly emotional. It is hard to make a dignified musical work, but the efforts here are laudable. One is reminded of Miss Saigon and Madame Butterfly, where war provides the backdrop, but personal devastation is given the spotlight. The result is a stronger, and more effectively emotional experience, but those sentiments are clearly not of the best taste. Atomic would perhaps be a more conventionally engaging musical if it dwells more heavily on Szilard’s personal predicaments and crises, but it is understandable that the show chooses to adopt a more refined approach to its storytelling.

On the technical front, Michael Waters’ sound design is most accomplished. NIDA’s Parade Playhouse’s acoustic potentials are exploited thoroughly, and the venue proves itself to be an outstanding option for more intimate stagings of musicals. There are some issues with lighting and set, but they are a result of being over-ambitious rather than negligence.

The strongest element in this production is the quality of its performers, who each have their moments of undeniable brilliance. Leading man Michael Falzon invests a great deal of psychological authenticity into his characterisation, and puts on a subtle yet strong portrayal of Szilard. Falzon’s success at transforming an unassuming scientist into a musical protagonist without the use of stage cliches is impressive and remarkable. He also happens to be the performer who executes the show’s choreography most effectively. David Whitney plays Enrico Fermi, the show’s only flamboyant character, and stands out appropriately with a joyful and effervescent performance. Christy Sullivan plays a wide range of ensemble characters, consistently delighting with conviction and a natural charm. It must be said that all performers sing their parts beautifully, and this is an Australian cast to be very proud of.

www.atomicthemusical.com

5 Questions with Bronwyn Mulcahy

bronwynmulcahyWhat is your favourite swear word?
Bollocks. I know, it’s British, but I laughed so hard the first time I heard it (from my sister who brought it back from her UK trip many moons ago).

What are you wearing?
Jeans and jumper because it’s cold today. Well, cold for spring.

What is love?
Necessary, unique and the only thing that really matters.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The Floating World. 4 stars. The cast were something else.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Ummm – YES! Have you not heard who’s in it? Who wrote it (book and script)? Lyrics? Who composed it, directed it, designed the set, lit the stage, designed the sound? Who’s designing costumes? Choreography? Who the musical director is? The musicians? Oh- and there’s a puppet!

Bronwyn Mulcahy is starring in Atomic a new musical.
Show dates: 16 – 30 Nov, 2013
Show venue: NIDA Parade Theatres