Review: Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. (House Of Sand)

Venue: The Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), May 2 – 19, 2018
Playwright: Alice Birch
Director: Charles Sanders
Cast: Violette Ayad, Anna Cheney, Enya Daly, Richard Hilliar, Moreblessing Maturure, Eliza Sanders
Images by Jasmin Simmons

Theatre review
The play begins as though a manual providing instruction on becoming a radical feminist, offering steps of revolutionary action to attain some kind of ideal state of being. For those who understand their subjugation, the idea of taking down the powerful is always appealing, but the truth remains, that vacuums are nonviable and breaking something down requires the installation of something new. Alice Birch’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. is a thrilling ride for anyone with a taste for rebellion. Its militant spirit is seductive, with powerful declarations that will excite those similarly inclined. The piece evolves unexpectedly, introducing in later portions, complexities that confront its own passionate proclamations of earlier scenes. Birch wants us mobilised, but in a smart way. Activism cannot thrive only on impulse. Long term strategies must accompany courses of action, or we risk ending up at a place worse than before.

The show speaks resonantly, with director Charles Sanders’ intellect a fortifying authority that establishes clarity for all its arguments. The politics in Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. are made compelling by Sanders’ palpable enthusiasm for the subject matter, and their insistence that we hear its messages, translates into excellent drama. Design style is fairly simple for the production, with Joanne Joy’s visual projections particularly effective in helping to assert some of the highly provocative concepts.

All six performers for the piece are impressive, each one given ample opportunity to put on display their individual talents, as well as a unifying and admirable conviction pertaining to the material at hand. Eliza Sanders imbues her lines with authenticity and precision, delivering a delightful acerbity with every utterance, and equally memorable for her disciplined physical expressions. The imposing figure of Moreblessing Maturure is accompanied with a tender vulnerability, especially convincing in a maternal role, conveying unassailable qualities of our humanity with beautiful restraint and confidence. The lone thorn among the roses is Richard Hilliar, whose comedy hits all the right notes, whether understated, madcap or frighteningly bombastic. Violette Ayad and Enya Daly bring emotion when we least expect it, creating additional dimensions to an already rich work, and Anna Cheney’s ability to oscillate between realism and the flamboyantly bizarre, has us fascinated and entertained.

Anarchy may not be the answer we need, but the power of resistance must never be underestimated. Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. is full of inspiration, for those of us who recognise the concerns that it raises. Revolutions must start somewhere, and the personal can be the site on which we begin positioning the battleground. Warriors have the capacity for long, hard slogs, and they understand that to suffer the pains of combat, far surpasses the unbearable torment of injustice. Fights are best undertaken when there is light at the end of tunnel. In the business of social activism, soldiers will get beaten down every day, but a resilient optimism is the key conspirator, to the ability to know right from wrong.

5 Questions with Anna Cheney and Eliza Sanders

Anna Cheney

Eliza Sanders: What’s the first show you ever saw?
Anna Cheney: Romeo And Juliette the ballet… oh no it wasn’t, it was 7 Little Australians. I felt really privileged to be taken to the theatre as child, because it has shaped me and I bloody love live theatre because it is visceral, it causes you to think and ask questions of life and humans and I think it can change lives.

What was your first acting experience?
I used to do magic shows. I used to learn magic tricks from a book and then create a show and then take them into primary school and perform them in front of the class. Then when my classmates learned how to do the tricks they teased me.

What did you do then?
I cried all night then went back the next day and did it again, but better. Fuck you school kids!

Why are you passionate about this show?
I’ve never read a play that is quite as radical and unusual as this play and this theatre company is the perfect company to take it on. The director has a very clear vision regarding his desire for both equality and great theatre. House of Sand has brought together a diverse range of professionals to undertake this ‘everistic’ task (is that a word?… climbing theatrical mountains) Now, a week away from opening I can see even more how much of a genius Alice Birch is because we have a kick ass production from what seamed like a very strange conglomeration of words on a page, vignettes and abstract provocations regarding women and language. I don’t know how this writer has done it, but fuck, she’s amazing.

What’s your favourite female body part?
This bit (gestures to place above belly button below breast. It’s got a name but I can’t think what it’s called. Solar plexus? It’s soft and smooth and close to your heart. On my body, my hands, but not aesthetically, just what I can do with them.

Why do we need feminism?
A million thoughts rage in my head! Feminism has a long way to go but, fuck, it’s important. If we didn’t have it, the world would be in a worse place. True equality or the aim for true equality is something that I believe would help every person on the planet.

Eliza Sanders

Anna Cheney: What is the answer to the patriarchy?
Eliza Sanders: Fuck knows.

AC: What do you think about shows that use sexy women to sell them?
ES: Depends if that has anything to do with the content on the show. I don’t think it is bad to use women’s bodies for marketing if it is justified and consensual. But I think men’s bodies should be used more often for marketing, but maybe that just because I personally love the look of men’s bodies.

As a professional dancer, what is it like acting in a play?
Not as physical. Haha. It is more different than I thought it would be. The communication around language is much more considered which makes for a different pace in the rehearsal room which has taken some adjusting. It’s slower in the moment but somehow the whole work seems to come together much quicker. There is also more work that you have to do outside of the studio like learning lines and investigating character choices, and less rolling all over your collaborators.

How is Sydney going to respond to this play?
That is something I really can’t predict, Sydney audiences are not particularly familiar to me. I think they will be amused and entertained primarily and hopefully it will cause then to question and reassess their perspectives on feminism and language.

How is live theatre relevant in a world of screens?
It’s about building communities and bringing people together in physical space. Giving people a reason to leave the house and socialise and interact with ideas without being able to press pause whenever they want. There is a different energetic charge in a live room that you don’t get from a screen. The reason I do it is because it affects your body in a physical way and that allows intellectual and emotional understanding to be gained in a different capacity. Primarily it is about sharing. You can’t do it on your own.

Anna Cheney and Eliza Sanders are appearing in Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. by Alice Birch.
Dates: 2 – 19 May, 2018
Venue: The Old 505 Theatre

Review: Home Invasion (The Old 505 Theatre / An Assorted Few)

Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Mar 21 – Apr 7, 2018
Writer: Christopher Bryant
Director: Alexander Berlage
Cast: Chloe Bayliss, Kate Cheel, Yure Covich, Morgan Maguire, Wendy Mocke, Cecilia Morrow
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
In Christopher Bryant’s Home Invasion, two modern American tragedies are memorialised, and analysed through the lens of pop culture. The murder of child beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey, and the suicide of an American Idol contestant, outside of pop star Paula Abdul’s home. Through these stories of unfulfilled lives, the play presents a cynical view of the woman’s world, in which her desires are shaped intractably, by portrayals in the media, of the feminine as being essentially inadequate and a scourge.

We meet the aforementioned singing aspirant June (who changes her name to Paula), along with a housewife Carol and a 15 year-old Lolita type, Sam. All three individuals are disturbed, but we have to join the dots to figure out their dysfunctions. Director Alexander Berlage places these characters within the glossy setting of our consumerist lives, drawing attention to the unrelenting superficiality that seems determined to prevent us from attaining healthy existences.

Set design by Jeremy Allen and Berlage’s lights, together with Ellen Stanistreet’s costumes, forge a powerful collaboration offering a series of striking imagery, often more impressive with the aesthetic statements being made, than the actual stories they help to tell.

Adventurous interpretations by a strong cast, keep us intrigued and intellectually stimulated. Kate Cheel is thoroughly captivating as the wannabe Paula, simultaneously critical and empathetic towards the narrative she inhabits. She turns an outrageously bizarre personality into someone we recognise, and although we may never understand the extreme measures she undertakes, the actor is more than able to convince us of Paula’s truths, impenetrable as they might be. Also wonderful, are Chloe Bayliss and Morgan Maguire, both marvellously animated, delightful with their comedy, whether frothy and madcap, or darkly unsettling.

The play seems to say that we are powerless against tragic narratives that are continually thrust open us by commercial media outlets, the same ones that are then consecrated and fetishised by society. Home Invasion depicts female subjugation in contemporary terms, as an operation inherent in processes of commodification and of the media. It is true that we are in danger of having our minds clouded and capitalised by institutions that will benefit from our delusions, but we must believe that resistance is possible, and necessary. Where the show ends, is where we begin deducing alternatives for our aftermath. |

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