Review: Rudy & Cuthbert (The Old 505 Theatre)

Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Mar 13 – 17, 2018
Creators: Toby Blome, Zelman Cressey-Gladwin
Director: Ellen Cressey
Cast: Toby Blome, Zelman Cressey-Gladwin
Image by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review
We should be thankful when artists know their strengths and give us only what they do best. Two young men appear on stage, admitting that their intentions of staging Reginald Rose’s 12 Angry Men have not quite come to fruition. Instead, they perform a work of physical comedy, telling a charming love story; not only of the very special connection between these two innocents, but also of their shared passion for art and performance.

The trials and tribulations of putting on a show, provide Rudy & Cuthbert the context for their eponymous presentation. Toby Blome and Zelman Cressey-Gladwin play the quirky pair, in a traditional style that recalls all the famous duos from film and television history, with an emphasis on disciplines most associated with mimes and clowns. Both are excellent in their chosen field, but it is the chemistry between the two that is emphatically superb. They make magic happen, leaving us dumbfounded by their seamless union.

Ellen Cressey’s direction gives Rudy & Cuthbert a tenderness, that prevents the show from being a mere showcase for skill and cleverness. The element of emotion gives meaning to the humour being created so precisely, and the laughter that ensues is as much about being tickled, as it is about being moved. We live in extremely cynical times, and antidotes for hardened hearts are hard to come by. Rudy & Cuthbert is not the trendiest bit of theatre, but it is certainly the sweetest remedy for some very trying times.

5 Questions with Morgan Maguire and Wendy Mocke

Morgan Maguire

Wendy Mocke: Morgan my dear, there is a line in Britney Spear’s song ‘Radar’ that states, “confidence is a must, cockiness is a plus.” Describe Home Invasion using a title of one of Britney’s songs.
Morgan Maguire: Hmmm so many options… I’m going to have to go with the seminal work that is ‘Crazy’. Hopefully the home invasion would not intensify to hit me baby one more time, I was born to make u happy or I’m a slave for you.

This next one may be a deeply personal question but I want you to feel as comfortable as Tom Cruise did when he jumped on Oprah’s couch. What do you think your dance style says about your personality?
Hmmm thanks for being so respectful of my personal boundaries Wendy. I feel my dance style could be described as “thrusty chaos” (often without the support of proper underwear). So I like to imagine this says “that Morgan, she’s a thinker…”

In 2016, Danielle Bregoli famously stated, “cash me ousside, how bow dah”. What do you think was outside?
Her and cash?

In 1988, Paul Abdul released her smash hit single; ‘Opposites Attract’. According to science, this theory is false. Who are you most likely to believe, Paula Abdul or science?
Paula because she was dueting with an animated anthropomorphic street smart hip hop cat and it was implied that they had an intimate relationship so she obviously has a strong grip on logic and reality.

Besides me, who in the cast or crew are you most likely to have as your idol and why?
Wendy, are you flirting with me?

Wendy Mocke

Morgan Maguire: Oh hai Wendy, so I figure this is my *ultimate* chance to channel James Lipton from Inside The Actors Studio… tell me – what is your favourite word? What is your least favourite word?
Wendy Mocke: Wow, you jumped right in there didn’t you? Such a personal question… I consider myself more of the silent brooding type, you know the type that lounges in old leather chairs, face lit by ambient mood lighting, listening to James Blunt whilst tossing back a few bourbons and getting lost in a sea of my own emotions. Speaking of emotions, my favourite word right now is ‘raclette’. If you’re not sure of what that word is, google it, you can thank me later. My least favourite word is ‘couscous’. I’m immediately sceptical of something being so nice they named it twice. It’s presumptuous.

What’s your guilty television indulgence?
Umm, well Morgan, I would say guilt is not an emotion I like to carry around with me #NoRegrets. However to answer your question, I’ll throw into the ring the Chinese dating show called If You Are The One. Witnessing public rituals of humiliation, camouflaged as a romantic quests is somewhat awkward and uncomfortable – much like how I naturally get around in life.

What profession would you not like to do?
Probably a high school maths teacher. No parent should ever entrust me with their teenager’s secondary maths education. It’s like asking Donald Trump to tell the truth.

Top five books in no particular order?
‘Ain’t I A Woman’ – bell hooks
‘Where The Wild Things Are’ – Maurice Sendak
‘Sevenwaters’ Trilogy – Juliet Marillier
‘Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race’ – Reni Eddo-Lodge
‘Bad Feminist’ – Roxane Gay

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
Well Morgan if you must know, I sang to myself and my neighbour only just twenty minutes ago. My neighbour wasn’t a willing participant to my singing, they happened to be collateral damage. I’m confident they’ll thank me later after the initial shock has worn off, I’m a lot to take in.

Morgan Maguire and Wendy Mocke are appearing in Home Invasion, by Christopher Bryant.
Dates: 21 March – 7 April, 2018
Venue: Old 505 Theatre

Review: Cage (The Old 505 Theatre)

Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Feb 27 – Mar 3, 2018
Playwright: Jordan Shea
Director: Shae Riches
Cast: Josh Anderson, Badaidilaga Maftuh-Flynn, Patrick Diggins

Theatre review
Three young men from Australia are banged up abroad, imprisoned in Bangkok for a night of debauchery gone awry. In trouble because they had neglected to understand and respect local customs, Jordan Shea’s Cage takes these characters through the wringer, to depict the kind of obnoxious ignorance, contempt and imperialistic attitudes so prevalent in the way we conduct ourselves, in relation to our Asian neighbours.

Our colonial story is a persisting one. From the time of early European immigration, a wanton disregard of established cultures has operated as a pervasive force seeking to redefine and repurpose Australia and the region. In Cage, we see ourselves go to Thailand as tourists, thinking that the sole purpose of an entire country’s existence is to serve our need for mindless amusement. The punishment issued by Shea’s writing, for that continual and outrageous dereliction, is scathing and quite satisfying.

Directed by Shae Riches, the show is an effectively provocative one that brings illumination, to a problem that we already know to be true. Some scenes prove to be much more riveting than others, but as a whole, the production is unquestionably rewarding. Set design by Antoinette Barbouttis is cleverly conceived, restrained, and highly efficient in its ability to shape our imagination. Lights by Liam O’Keefe are dynamic and appropriately dramatic, while Alexander Lee-Rekers’ adventurous ideas with sound help extend the play’s dimensions beyond its prison walls.

Performances are strong, particularly impressive is Badaidilaga Maftuh-Flynn as Cuong, who creates astonishing authenticity for some very outlandish scenarios. The naive Ryan is played by Patrick Diggins, whose concentration translates into persuasiveness, and we almost begin to sympathise with his character’s predicament. Bryce the ghastly bogan, a hideous personality that is sadly all too familiar, is brought to life by Josh Anderson, especially affecting in the play’s more emotional sequences.

Parts of our national identity are incredibly generous, but there is no denying the reprehensible sides to our nature. The examination of ourselves in the context of a foreign prison, exposes some of our worst qualities, allowing us to see the devil inside. Whether abroad or at home, our capacity for damage is unrelenting. If power can only recognise power, it only follows that retribution is the only language that can hope to induce hindrance.

5 Questions with Josh Anderson and Badaidilaga Maftuh-Flynn

Josh Anderson

Badaidilaga Maftuh-Flynn: If you could have any job other than acting, what would it be?
Josh Anderson: A bear biologist. I think bears are incredible creatures and I’d love to study and help protect bears in the wild.

If your brother was like Bryce and ended up in a Thai prison, what would be your reaction?
If my brother was stuck in a situation like Bryce, I’d do everything in my power to have a merciful sentence passed down. Capital punishment is an atrocity – but as we’ve seen in the past, there isn’t a hell of a lot we can do once a sovereign nation’s mind is made up.

If you could choose to live in any city/place in the world, where would you live?
Stockholm. What’s not to love?

If you ran into Donald Trump in an elevator, what would you do/say?
I’d take the stairs.

What do you feel is the most challenging part of being an actor in the Australian industry?
I think there are many challenging things for actors in the Australian industry, but one that springs to mind is the limited space available for independent theatre makers. There are incredible companies out there that just don’t have the rehearsal space, performance venues or financial support to be able to produce quality theatre on a regular basis. I have personally benefitted from working in the independent sector and have learnt a great deal from the artists that keep our industry interesting and alive. Support independent theatre!

Badaidilaga Maftuh-Flynn

Josh Anderson: What’s the thing that lead you to acting?
Badaidilaga Maftuh-Flynn: I was always on and off with acting as a child and originally wanted to be a scientist… it wasn’t until I was 16 that I auditioned for a program called The Bridge Project with THEATREINQ, a local theatre company in my home town of Townsville, that I fell in love with the craft. Run by artistic director Terri Brabon and actor Brendan O’Connor they showed me what it was to build a career, company and most importantly a family in this industry. They both are my biggest inspirations.

What’s something about you that surprises people?
I have lived all over Australia and spent the majority of my childhood moving and living in cars, caravans, houses, tents you name it. I have attended 9 schools including a Steiner school, was home schooled and have lived in upwards of 90 houses.

If you had one superpower, what would it be and what would you do with it?
Time travel for sure! I am a big doctor who fan… I would never change, only observe – I am a traveller at heart.

What’s the closest brush with the law you’ve had?
I remember one time I was living in Darwin, a housing commission complex in Litchfield court – very rough place. Street kids, lots of drugs and crime so police where a regular occurrence. I got into a fight with one of the other local kids who was bullying me and I ended up throwing a lemon at him and knocking him off his bike as he tried to get away. The police came and gave us both a stern warning and said if it happens again they would come back and drag us away by our hair… we were around 8.

Would you rather a face made of tongues or arms made of eyes (tongues and eyes are functional)?
Arms made of eyes! There is no way I would want to walk around with exposed tongues all over my face… Imagine if someone coughed on you – plus your range of sight would be incredible

Josh Anderson and Badaidilaga Maftuh-Flynn are appearing in Cage, by Jordan Shea, part of the Freshworks season at Old 505 Theatre.
Dates: 27 February – 3 March, 2018
Venue: Old 505 Theatre

Review: Love, Me (The Old 505 Theatre)

Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Feb 13 – 17, 2018
Playwright: Joseph Brown
Director: Joseph Brown
Cast: Danny Ball, Oliver Crump, Enya Daly, Ariadne Sgouros, Annie Stafford
Image by Jasmin Simmons

Theatre review
Christmas is by any definition, a special day for Australians. It is imperative for many to convene with those who are closest, but with closeness comes a level of trust that seems to allow a certain irregular level of liberty in how we communicate. Fighting at festive seasons is almost de rigueur. We let loose on those we love, knowing that forgiveness is assured. Joseph Brown’s Love, Me sees a group of young adults celebrate Christmas, for the first time, without parents and immediate family. It is their chosen family that has now become priority, even if the way they connect might suggest otherwise.

The five Millennials are, true to form, capable individuals yet to find their footing. Without ambition or responsibilities, their emotions take precedence over pragmatic concerns. The characters in Love, Me, like most of our young, spend too much time and energy seeking affirmation, from friends and lovers, constantly hungry for gratification from vanity. They do little for others, obsessed only with trying to find people that could make themselves feel complete. The playwright captures those experiences and perspectives well, and his dialogue is crafted skillfully, although a more critical or ironic approach would give the work a broader appeal.

There is a peculiar lack of energy to the staging, with much of the portrayals kept too interior and quiet. The actors work hard to present authenticity, but the show requires greater power in the nuances they try to articulate. More memorable are Danny Ball and Ariadne Sgouros who offer exuberance, both to be commended for their gregarious approach to storytelling.

“If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else,” the drag icon RuPaul often says. It is completely natural that we seek to be loved, but that desire seems only to operate as a force that projects externally. There is an undeniable feeling of emptiness that compels us to look for fulfilment by others, yet evidence shows that the truer, more enduring form of contentment has to be derived independently. What happens thereafter, can only be delightful.

Review: Jack Data (The Old 505 Theatre)

Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Feb 6 – 11, 2018
Playwright: Ruth Bell
Director: Ruth Bell
Cast: Richard Cotter, Christine Greenough, Elly Hirani Clapin, Mathias Olofsson, Julian Rumandi, Amelia Tranter

Theatre review
Exasperated by their daughter’s persistent independence, Alice’s parents decide to buy her a robot. Jack is not only a sex machine with the ability to help women procreate, he is a passionate housekeeper, a slave to Alice’s every need. Ruth Bell’s Jack Data imagines a future where artificial intelligence has well and truly penetrated the inner sanctum of human existence. Predictably, the play takes a technophobic position, with the well-worn attitude of deep scepticism about radical progress, that is unfortunately under examined. Alice’s resistance of a creation that is by all accounts “the perfect man”, requires greater exposition. In today’s climate of intimacy via smartphone, Alice’s unqualified dismissal of Jack, can be regarded as too convenient. The idea that humanity and nature are necessarily and unquestionably better than anything synthetic, has long been proven to be false.

The futuristic premise of robotic lovers is a deeply appealing one. Jack Data creates a fantasy in which we meditate on the meanings of love, relationships and families, in a way that forces our rationality to escape the cliché. It helps us interrogate our very existence, through concepts as far reaching as the delusion of our anthropocentrism. We begin to wonder if we can even conceive of humans as anything other than the very supreme occupants of earth, a clearly erroneous idea that we have become so used to. It is indeed a challenging but rewarding exercise, to try and not see our place on this planet as preeminent, to look square in the face at all the damage we cause, and come to an honest judgement on this humanity that we want to only think of as sacred.

The production is rough around the edges, with performances that are only occasionally convincing. There is some troubling illogic that gets in the way, such as, the complete plot inconsistency of having robots widely available to all of the public, yet having characters act like they had never seen robots before. Actor Mathias Olofsson is however, very delightful as Jack, with fabulous physical expressions that communicate with great dynamism. He makes us see robots as superior beings, as technology invented precisely to address the many faults of our organic selves. There needs a revision to our prejudices as they pertain to the increasingly arbitrary divisions between synthetic and organic, natural and technological. For those more religiously inclined, “for in Him all things were created,” and for the rest of us, we all are one.

Review: Blind Tasting (The Old 505 Theatre / Subtlenuance)

Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Jan 30 – Feb 3, 2018
Playwright: Paul Gilchrist
Director: Paul Gilchrist
Cast: Sylvia Keays
Image by Liam O’Keefe

Theatre review
To thoroughly experience this mysterious thing called life, we have no real alternative but to dive into it head first. In Blind Tasting, Sophie learns the ropes as she goes along. Unlike her colleague Kirstie, who is determined to control everything, Sophie realises instinctively, the futility of that fussy perfectionist approach. Of course, mistakes are made, and heartache ensues, but there is no doubting Sophie’s self-determined way to a richer and wiser existence.

As we sip the wine that Sophie offers, we notice the thrill of the unknown and observe how essential it is to have an appreciation for the precarious and insecure qualities of our being. The wine may or may not be delicious, but it is only in the tasting of it, that one can be certain. No other opinion can ever take the place of that subjective participation.

Written by Paul Gilchrist, Blind Tasting is potent with its sense of joyful optimism, expressed through the playwright’s penchant for a poetic language that is remarkably luscious and evocative. The one-woman show is performed by Sylvia Keays, a presence that is gentle but persuasive, especially effective in the play’s moments of melancholy. The production is an engaging one, refreshing in its use of wine tasting as situation and analogy, but its delivery of drama requires greater gumption, for us to have a firmer identification with its narrative, and for its point to be made with stronger resonance.

Connoisseurs occupy themselves with the grading and sparring, of every wine bottle that they come across. It is human nature to compare and categorise the things we make contact with, but the deeper we get, into games of “finding the best”, the narrower our perspectives become, and the smaller our worlds devolve. With every label that we put on things, we also cast upon them, the restriction of possibilities. Sophie learns not to accept the pigeonholes that people want for her, and we wish for her to break the rules, as and when they find her. |