Review: Hyperdream (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), May 15 – Jun 5, 2021
Creative Leads: Adriane Daff and Mikala Westall
Playwrights: Matt Abell-King, Adriane Daff, Nat Jobe, Angela Mahlatjie, Josh Price, Mikala Westall
Cast: Adriane Daff, Nat Jobe, Angela Mahlatjie, Matt Abell-King
Images by David Charles Collins

Theatre review
Hyperdream by Adriane Daff and Mikala Westall, takes us on a sci-fi joyride, in which individuals can visit a facility, where memories are replayed in a sort of virtual reality experience, so that one may be able to relive the past. Characters access best days of their lives, in order that they may escape the disappointments of today. Others reach back to traumatic moments, hoping to bring revisions to their personal histories. More than a mode of entertainment, it uses “total recall” to deliver what looks to be a futuristic psychotherapy, for when being in the here and now, is simply intolerable.

The staging utilises a big projection screen, positioned front and centre, with four performers and an omnipresent video camera, creating scenes in different nooks throughout the space. We find ourselves gradually losing sight of reality, as we watch these people in digital pixels and in the flesh, frantically rollicking in their chaotic green screen fantasia. Buoyed by the adventurous musical stylings of Julian Starr, we all get caught up in an undefinable space, half lucid and half catatonic. It is an effervescent work, derived from an incandescent experimental spirit. Although not always coherent or resonant, the atmosphere being generated is full of wonder, with moments of comedy that truly tickle.

Performer Matt Abell-King is especially funny, able to inspire laughter with a twitch of the eyebrow, and a flamboyant flick of a leg. Angela Mahlatjie too is hilarious, most memorably in a delightful sequence in which she flashes back to a cherished time of romance, for a sarcastic look at women’s relationship with love and marriage. Also thoroughly enjoyable, are Adriane Daff and Nat Jobe, whose bold approaches to Hyperdream‘s humour, offer an opportunity for viewers to revel in a brand of absurd extravagance infrequently seen in Australian theatre.

The way me make sense of today and tomorrow, depends entirely on how we understand the past. If one is given the ability to delve back into old narratives, so that they can be re-examined, and be given renewed interpretations, then returning to the now, could mean a complete revitalisation of being. So much of what is broken today, is a result of memories that have taken us, and continue to take us, down the wrong path. The past cannot be changed, but the ways in which we understand it, should always be evolving, in service of a better tomorrow.

www.redlineproductions.com.au | www.thelastgreathunt.com

Review: Goddess: The Elizabeth Burton Story (Old Fitz Theatre)


Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), May 4 – 8, 2021
Co-creators and Performers: Elizabeth Burton, Betty Grumble, Aaron Manhattan
Images by Joseph Mayers

Theatre review
Striptease artist Elizabeth Burton’s career began in the late 1960’s. When she discovered Go-go dancing, doors opened for Burton to travel the world, allowing her to meet people of all kinds, and to put her stamp on an artform that never ceases to be subversive. Now at the grand age of 73, Burton continues to create, and in Goddess: The Elizabeth Burton Story, takes to the stage once again, not only to usher us into the indulgent realm of exotic performance, but also to share anecdotes and wisdom, in a way only someone who has truly lived, can do.

Fearless and boundary-breaking, Burton’s stories are not all triumphant. Instances of tragedy and misfortune are many, as is the case with people who take roads less travelled, but these recollections are told with an astounding sense of objectivity, almost counter-theatrical in approach. Burton is wistful for sweet memories, but it is with a sense of duty, and sometimes humour, that she brings up trauma. There is little wallowing, and certainly no performative pensiveness for dramatic effect. It is clear that the show is intended to uplift, but there is no denying its capacity to devastate. The truth resonates powerfully, no matter how the storyteller wishes to present her account of events.

To have a living legend at close proximity, especially one who seems incapable of pretension or any hint of defensiveness, is to come in contact with the divine. In a culture that persistently celebrates youth, the meaning of time is lost on us. We are taught to cultivate desirous visions of ourselves at half our age, rather than think about what we could be when twice our age. Burton can reminisce about things sordid or wholesome, extraordinary or mundane; there is no end to the details she can offer up, in this attempt to encapsulate an existence too immense, but of greatest value is to look into her eyes, and to see with absolute certainty, that dark as this world can be, everything is simply going to be all right.

Providing on stage support are Betty Grumble and Aaron Manhattan, both looking like faithful disciples to the esteemed one, on hand not only to prompt for stories and to help illustrate them, but also to represent meaningfully, a sense of community. The image being created is anti-establishment and queer. Goddess is about a woman who breaks the rules in the most profound manner. It talks about a person’s worth, not in ordinary terms of success and status, but through the re-framing of one woman’s radical definition of selfhood, Goddess dismantles our priorities as a culture, and adjusts our social values, to one that more accurately reflects the important things in life. We also learn that there is nowhere more edifying, than from our queer elders, especially those emancipated from so many pointless pursuits of conventionality, that we can uncover those very important things in life.

Hierarchies are only of benefit to those on top. This is painfully obvious, yet we live as though unaware, completely invested in systems that exploit our participation at the lower rungs. We are required to endlessly obey, in the faith that rewards are assured, and that those on top are playing by the same rules. Both are empirically false. Goddess provides inspiration, for each of us to search for ways to exist on the outside. Fulfilment can never be dictated, it must only be discovered independently. Elizabeth Burton discovered a love of herself, and today altogether, we bask in her divine glory.

www.redlineproductions.com.au | www.performinglines.org.au

Review: Exit The King (Red Line Productions)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Mar 20 – Apr 10, 2021
Playwright: Eugène Ionesco
Director: Megan Wilding
Cast: Toby Blome, Shakira Clanton, Jonny Hawkins, Rob Johnson, Emma O’Sullivan, Dalara Williams
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
The King has ruled for hundreds of years, but it is now time to retire. His body is failing, as well as his mind, and even though the will remains strong, there is no turning back. The end is nigh in Eugène Ionesco’s 1962 absurdist Exit the King, although it gradually becomes clear that it is in fact, a new beginning that the people really need. It is a timeless tale, an appealing lament that addresses our seemingly ever present desire for institutional change, and for better government.

Ionesco’s writing however, offers the viewer more than an enjoyable narrative. His work goes on endless tangents, often contradictory and deliberately obtuse, but when in the hands of the right creators, a rare form of theatrical magic is delivered. Director Megan Wilding revels in the mischievous and unpredictable qualities of the script, taking care to marry comedy with meaning, for a show that has us engaged on multiple levels, simultaneously. Wilding’s take on Exit the King is often very funny, but even more admirable, is her ability to keep our intellect keenly stimulated through all its jokes.

A highly amusing team of performers, is headed by Jonny Hawkins, who gives a thrilling depiction of King Berenger, the decrepit has-been determined to outstay his welcome. Incredibly nuanced, endlessly imaginative and brimming with generosity, watching the fierce talents of Hawkins in action, is pure inspiration. The divine Shakira Clanton plays a strong, imposing Queen Marguerite, making her support character rumble with danger, whether or not she is positioned centre stage. The devastating drama between a white king and a Black queen, is the immutable focal point of the show, no matter what shenanigans are thrown our way. All other actors in the piece are equal parts idiosyncratic and inventive, working with extraordinary cohesiveness for something that seriously satisfies.

The production is energised by Alexander Berlage’s lighting design, dynamic at every turn, as is Ben Pierpoint’s work on sound and music, reliably enhancing all the wonderful activity taking place on stage. Veronique Bennett transforms the space into a Warhol Factory, silver surfaces everywhere for a set that perhaps evokes flashbacks of facile rulers throughout history, who had done more harm than good for their peoples. The pop aesthetic is extended into costuming by Aleisa Jelbart, very au courant and very tongue-in-cheek.

There is likely no dignified way to overthrow a government, but in Exit the King, the fantasy of nature taking charge, intervening to simply kill off the problem, is certainly enticing. The truth is that although individuals who hold power do die away, structures will sustain themselves, and it appears that the more malevolent those systems, the more likely they will persist. The Black queen waits patiently for her white king to die, and in Ionesco’s fiction, her strategy proves successful. Real life however permits no passivity should we want the pale, male and stale to abdicate. There is a fight underway, and those invested, have no luxury of waiting.

www.redlineproductions.com.au

5 Questions with Eddie Orton and Tim Walker

Eddie Orton

Tim Walker: The show is a very physical piece of theatre. What has been the most difficult skill you’ve had to learn and which scares you the most?
Eddie Orton: I’ve had some experience with dance and played lots of sport in the past which helped with picking up the skills, especially the acrobatics. The hardest one to learn and master is probably a two high, with you standing on my shoulders. Once you’re up it’s fine, it’s the timing that’s difficult

We’ve worked together in the past, performing Shakespeare in pubs, these are vastly different shows, have you learnt something new about me?
They are certainly super different shows. I’ve learnt that you’re actually a good actor. Haha sorry. I joke. I’ve learnt that you’re an extremely proficient acrobat, both as a flyer and a base. I didn’t know that last year.

When we began rehearsals Shane presented us with over 10,000 pages of research, were there things that surprised you or shocked you?
All of it is shocking to be blunt. You think you have an understanding of Australia’s history but I was very naive. The lack of police action and the sheer volume of cases that are still unsolved is deeply shocking.

We have a couple of school shows throughout this season, why do you think it’s important for young people to learn about this part of Australian history?
It needs to be recognised because I think it’s a part of Australian history that is largely forgotten and ignored. We think we know everything about our history but we don’t. This is not just a problem for the past, it’s a problem for today.

What’s next for Eddie Orton?
Next up is something which I’m not allowed to talk about yet, but I’m very excited about it.

Tim Walker

Eddie Orton: What’s something no one knows about Tim Walker?
Tim Walker: I was once an impromptu stand-in for Neil Gallagher of Oasis. We had similar hair apparently so he and I exchanged shirts and I drove Mischa Barton of The OC around in a 50’s cab while he went to the pub for a feed.

What’s the most difficult part of the show physically for you?
Haha can I say rehearsal? No probably the two high with you. As you say it’s in the timing. I’m excited to do it in front of an audience with even less space to work with haha.

How does movement and physical theatre inform this work?
One of the things that really shocked me in the research was how graphic and horrific the violence was. We felt it was necessary to find a language outside of text that informs this whilst acknowledging the sensitivity of violence for audience members. What we’ve created is a physical language, that abstracts the violence, whilst remaining true to the intention of the verbatim text.

Why do you think it’s important that these stories be heard now?
This show isn’t just about history. It’s also about hope for the future. About how important recognition and acknowledgement are for healing. We know there are thousands of people who have never spoken about their experience with hate crimes and the parliamentary enquiry into these hate crimes has been reopened. The Aids Council of New South Wales are actually still calling for submissions from people affected by hate crimes up until 28th February. We are having an event co-hosted with ACON, post show on Sunday February 23rd and we hope the show will encourage people to make these submissions.

What’s next for Tim Walker?
Well last year I received a small commission to make a few of my own projects. I’ve just finished post production on a short film I wrote and about to start pre on my next one which I’m excited about!

Eddie Orton and Tim Walker can be seen in Our Blood Runs In The Street.
Dates: 19 Feb – 21 Mar, 2020
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre

Review: Our Blood Runs In The Street (Old Fitzroy Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Feb 19 – Mar 21, 2020
Director: Shane Anthony
Cast: Andrew Fraser, Cassie Hamilton, David Helman, Eddie Orton, Sam Plummer, Ross Walker, Tim Walker
Images by Jasmin Simmons

Theatre review
Violence is an indelible part of LGBTQI history in NSW. In the many years leading up to the decriminalisation of homosexuality and then the legalisation of same-sex marriage, Sydney’s gay men and trans women especially, have suffered physical harm, to the extent of murder, as a result of homophobia and transphobia.

Our Blood Runs In The Street is a work of verbatim theatre, composed of accounts by victims, as well as “family members, witnesses, historians, police officers, journalists and researchers,” presented alongside contemporary dance and physical theatre, for an examination of the prejudice and brutality that has shaped the community.

With stories mainly from the last three decades of the previous century, director Shane Anthony and his team have collated a meaningful text from which we can better understand that past. We are additionally informed that investigations are ongoing, in case new revelations should surface as a result of the show. It is a heavily fragmented work, and although able to convey the severity of incidents, struggles to elicit emotional involvement.

Visually enticing, with imaginative choreography throughout, and lights by Richard Whitehouse bringing constant colour and movement, our eyes are kept entertained. Auditory capacities are attended by composer Damien Lane and sound designer Nate Edmondson, who move us seamless from scene to scene, as they maintain an uncompromising gravity for these harrowing tales.

Seven performers, each one earnest and passionate, deliver testimonials with indisputable conviction. David Helman is particularly impressive with his clever blend of words and movement. Imagery and dialogue in the show do not always work well together, but Helman makes us watch and listen with coherence, without distraction from one or the other. A powerful speech is given by Cassie Hamilton, captivating in her stillness, recounting the serious under-estimation of violence against trans people, as reported by Eloise Brook of The Gender Centre.

The times are slowly changing, but problems for LGBTQI Australians continue, now most notably for ethnic minorities in suburbia. That the stage for Our Blood Runs In The Street is filled with white bodies, is indicative of the disparity that exists between cultures. People of colour have benefited from the work of Western activists, but there remains challenges, specific and nuanced, yet to be addressed. Pride has functioned as an effective war cry for many queers, but it is still a concept that eludes some, for which shame is still the default experience.

www.redlineproductions.com.au

Review: Krapp’s Last Tape (Red Line Productions)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Nov 26 – Dec 14, 2019
Playwright: Samuel Beckett
Director: Gale Edwards
Cast: Jonathan Biggins
Images by John Marmaras

Theatre review
Another grumpy old man takes to the stage in Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape. He brings along a sense of confusion, perhaps disillusioned and defeated by a world that never lived up to its promises. A wall of filing cabinets containing a lifetime of voice recordings that he has made, an ongoing project representing a memoir that is both self-important, and self derisive. Indeed, it charts the man’s ageing process, from idealistic to despondent, as we find him in a state of decrepitude.

Most of the show involves Krapp listening to his tape machine, playing a collection of narrations that could only ever mean more to him than to anyone else. We observe past and present converge as he sits attentive to his personal oral history. Directed by Gale Edwards, the staging bears an affecting melancholy, with Veronique Benett’s lights and Brian Thomson’s set design providing just the right ennui. Actor Jonathan Biggins is confident and a sturdy presence, able to convey degrees of regret for a role that seems to be about little besides. He provides a charming wistfulness that translates as a sort of gentle comedy, more likely to elicit empathy than it would laughter.

Krapp looks back in anger and in pain, making us wonder about the way we regard the past, as it relates to today and tomorrow. On the occasion of his 69th birthday, he demonstrates that the older we get, the less we are able to be buoyed by the future. The anguish he experiences, as he hits playback on the tape, is a result of poor choices and bad luck. Decisions can be made every which way; right, wrong, indeterminate, bearing in mind that regret is valuable only as a concept for future use.

www.redlineproductions.com.au

Review: Bird (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Oct 22 – Nov 2, 2019
Playwright: Katherine Chandler
Director: Jane Angharad
Cast: : Marvin Adler, Sarah Easterman, James Gordon, Bella Ridgway, Laura Wilson
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
Ava is turning 16 and homeless. Her cruel mother rejects repeated efforts by Ava to mend bridges, letting the girl languish in crisis accommodation, and on the streets of her Welsh town. Katherine Chandler’s Bird is about survival, when a young person is abandoned. We look at the challenges that Ava has to negotiate having been left to her own devices, and the dangers she encounters as she does her best to stay alive.

It is a poignant story, featuring an honest portrayal of a loveless family not often seen in our storytelling. Its characters are realistic and thoroughly explored, so that we may sympathise with the depths of Ava’s despondency, and identify the hope that she never relinquishes. Directed by Jane Angharad, the production tends to be overly subtle in approach, but its emotional resonances are strong when necessary. The dynamics she renders between cast members is often moving, for an effective manifestation of the play’s generous measure of sentimentality.

Actor Laura Wilson’s authentic portrayal of innocence is crucial to how we regard Ava, along with a commendable focus and conviction that keeps us invested in the protagonist’s journey. The mother, Claire is played by Sarah Easterman, whose quiet brutality provides valuable fortification to how the plot unfolds. Mystery man Lee is given excellent depth by James Gordon, whose ambiguity creates exquisite dramatic tension for all his scenes. Marvin Adler and Bella Ridgway play Ava’s friends, both performers offering a balance of melancholy and purity, for depictions of youth that are vividly truthful.

To be unwanted by one’s parents is unimaginable for most, yet many continue to flourish in spite of this bitter deprivation. The odds against her are staggering, but Ava never gives up trying. With no choice but to be fearless, she is always able to muster the courage to march on, even if her days are aimless and sad. We have all experienced what it is like to be lost, but to brave the world when feeling unloved, is an immense tragedy, yet somehow, we are capable of it.

www.secrethouse.com.au | www.redlineproductions.com.au

Review: Don’t Hate The Player (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Oct 8 – 12, 2019
Playwright: Laura McDonald
Director: Laura McDonald
Cast: Atharv Kolhatkar, Madelaine Osborn, Cassius Russell, Rhiannon Watson

Theatre review
Darcy and Gabby are involved with big time drug dealers, and although the sisters’ illicit activity happens only in the virtual reality world of computer gaming, the emotions being toyed with are completely genuine. Laura McDonald’s Don’t Hate The Player is a clever piece of writing, with thoughtful ideas and a well-considered plot structure. The play however, is likely to be remembered for its humour, rather than the philosophy it suggests. It is a very funny work, fuelled by McDonald’s wonderfully quirky imagination, that delivers a great number of laughs without ever underestimating its audience.

As director, McDonald does not quite render with sufficient intensity, the poignancy inherent in her piece at its conclusion, but there is no question that the jokes being presented from start to end, are entertaining and impressively idiosyncratic. Four performers, each with a distinctive style, are made cohesive by McDonald’s specific approach to comedy. Madelaine Osborn and Rhiannon Watson play the sisters, both actors delightful with the surprising nuance they unearth from within the script, and marvellously inventive with the highly distinctive characters they inhabit. Chemistry between the two is an absolute joy to watch. Atharv Kolhatkar is energetic as Ashan, man of mystery in this story about mutable identities, and Cassius Russell’s intricate manifestations of Reg the cyber facilitator are an unequivocal pleasure.

As the lines between real and virtual continue to blur, what we deem to be organic and synthetic too, begin to meld. What were once easily differentiated, is now increasingly ambiguous, as we come to terms with humanity’s indivisibility from the thing we call technology. Everything that we dream up, originates from us, no matter how wildly alien they eventually evolve. Nature is never stagnant, and being a part of it, we are always learning to live with all its new permutations. There is no need to try figuring out what is natural and what is not, but to know the difference between good and bad, is an endeavour we must forever persist with.

www.redlineproductions.com.au

Review: Chorus (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Aug 28 – Sep 21, 2019
Playwright: Ang Collins
Director: Clemence Williams
Cast: Jack Crumlin, Madelaine Osborn, Nicole Pingon, Ella Prince, Eliza Scott, Chemon Theys
Images by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review
Agamemnon is a pop star enjoying considerable success, but like the mythical king she has named herself after, accomplishments come at a very high price. Ang Collins’ Chorus talks a little about stardom, but is more concerned about a motherhood that never lived up to its promises. The play’s purposeful juxtaposition with the Greek legend also prompts us to think about gendered differences in the way we discuss morality, and how we are more permissive of one gender over the other, especially in matters pertaining to parenthood. It is a powerful context that Collins has formulated, with intriguing characters and exciting dialogue delivering an enjoyable theatrical experience. The story’s climax does however feel slightly underwhelming, due in part to the writing’s subtle approach. In preventing itself from turning exploitative, Chorus unfortunately loses some of its drama when we arrive at the crucial moment of revelation.

Performances are strong, with Ella Prince an appropriately assertive presence in the main role, bringing a wrathful intensity to a personality who has some very serious issues in need of resolution. Chemon Theys is memorable as love interest Cass, and persuasive in her portrayal of an unapologetic Instagram celebrity. The baby’s father is played by Jack Crumlin, marvellously complex and authentic with the emotions he depicts as the deeply conflicted Chris.

Much pleasure is derived from the cast’s wonderfully tight ensemble work, inspired by traditional Greek theatre, but given a contemporary twist, complete with live video projections by Sarah Hadley, that magnify the sense of grandeur introduced by the chorus as stage device. Emma White’s set design is elegant in its minimalism. Lights by Veronique Bennett are dynamic, able to add a hint of extravagance to proceedings. As director and sound designer, Clemence Williams’ sensual calibration of atmosphere makes for an absorbing production that holds us captive for the entire duration.

Agamemnon has every right to reject being defined as a mother, but this does not absolve her of responsibilities. We can be persuaded that love cannot be forced, but not doing one’s best to care for their offspring, is surely unequivocally immoral. We should all be encouraged to dream big, and we should learn to better celebrate those who dare to go out on a limb. Life turns hollow, when one is held back by fear and doubt. To be held back by duty however, is quite another thing.

www.bontom.com.au | www.redlineproductions.com.au

Review: The Cripple Of Inishmaan (Mad March Hare Theatre Company)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jul 11 – Aug 10, 2019
Playwright: Martin McDonagh
Director: Claudia Barrie
Cast: Josh Anderson, Sarah Aubrey, Alex Bryant-Smith, Laurence Coy, Jude Gibson, John Harding, Megan O’Connell, William Rees, Jane Watt
Images by Marnya Rothe

Theatre review
It is the Great Depression, and in the small Irish town of Inishmaan, we meet Billy who has grown up an orphan and with a disability. He is cared for by aunts, and by the town folk who are always in each other’s pockets, but the prejudice that he suffers, although fairly benign, is constant and unrelenting. When Hollywood comes calling, he takes no time at all to pack up and go, certain that greener pastures await. Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple Of Inishmaan is a witty examination of parochial rural societies, looking at the way we can be, when there is little to do but to occupy oneself with other people’s business. In the tension between staying and leaving, Billy demonstrates who we are, as dreamers always seeking something better. Hope is our way out, even if hope does on occasion prove itself empty.

Actor William Rees contributes a gentle innocence to the show. As Billy, his performance is unpretentious, relying only on honest impulses to tell the story. It is an accomplished ensemble. Although not quite as funny as the writing seems to require, there is certainly no lack of authenticity in the personalities they aim to portray. Jude Gibson and Laurence Coy are memorable as a mother-and-son team, with a wicked streak to their dynamic that unnerves and delights. Sarah Aubrey and Megan O’Connell are the aunts, captivating at each appearance with their marvellously sardonic approach, for a couple of sullen pessimists.

Claudia Barrie’s direction depicts a bleakness that accurately conveys the environment under scrutiny, but its lack of vibrancy makes compromises to the play’s humour that can cause the experience to feel underwhelming. Set design by Brianna Patrice Russell is effective in transporting us to a distant time and place, while Benjamin Brockman’s lights bring valuable visual variety to the narrative. Sound and music by Kailesh Reitmans is restrained, with a subtlety that adds a sense of tranquil beauty to the piece.

Sleepy towns are both idyllic and frustrating. They allow us to be slow with nature, but the peace that it promises tends to be short-lived. The corrupting forces so commonly found in urban existences, are not absent when we escape to rustic locales, they simply take on a different form. People will find trouble with one another, no matter where we structure our lives. As long as ignorance persists, and people are unable to recognise their bigotry, or see the consequences of their cruelty, we will struggle to find harmony. We care for Billy, but for him to be well, the world needs to change.

www.madmarchtheatreco.com | www.redlineproductions.com.au