Review: 3x3x2 Festival Of New Works (PACT Centre For Emerging Artists)

Venue: PACT Centre for Emerging Artists (Erskineville NSW), Aug 14 – 24, 2019
Images by Samuel James

Freefall
Playwright: Emily Dash
Director: Kip Chapman
Cast: Emily Dash, Alicia Fox, Laura Hobbs, Dean Nash, Liz Diggins

Bring Your Devices In Case You Forget
Creator: Christie Woodhouse
Cast: Christie Woodhouse

Hydraulic Fucking
Creator: Cheryn Frost
Cast: Cheryn Frost

Theatre review
3x3x2 Festival Of New Works presents three separate showings of young women at the helm, all inventive and urgent in their need to talk about some of the day’s biggest issues. Emily Dash’s Freefall is essentially a love story, between a woman of colour and a woman in a wheelchair, in which we investigate the possibility of a union between perspectives of the universe that seem so fundamentally different. Bring Your Devices In Case You Forget by Christie Woodhouse reflects that sense of modern omnipresence, through our participation as multi-identity beings across endless technological platforms, contrasting with her worries about the survival of our species. Yuwaalaraay artist Cheryn Frost makes a stinging statement about capitalist colonisation of Indigenous lands, in Hydraulic Fucking, a no holds barred, highly engaging piece of theatre that is relentless with its politics, yet sensationally entertaining.

In Freefall, Dash’s poetic writing is made powerful by her own performance as Carmen, an intense personality with an insatiable thirst for truth and honesty. Actor Alicia Fox too, is effervescent in the piece, with excellent conviction making the central romantic relationship believable. Bring Your Devices In Case You Forget features the captivating presence of its creator Woodhouse, along with clever video projections, and an innovative manipulation of its artistic form, to inspire ideas relating to the virtual and non-virtual worlds in which we operate. Darkest and funniest of the minuscule festival is Hydraulic Fucking, a work full of vigour, and subversive to the core. Impolite and transgressive, Frost demonstrates extraordinary vision and nerve, in her unforgettable interrogation of our collective conscience.

In 2019, it would seem that the greatest sin is ignorance. The democratisation of information through the advent of technologies, has allowed voices to break through, that once were routinely subdued and buried. Without traditional gatekeepers making all the rules, we can now hear more clearly, from those who make statements that do not fit the dominant narrative. Dash, Frost and Woodhouse are the latest in a long line of counterculture artists, but today they represent a new normal. The audience has learned to discern power structures that had previously been disguised, and we are waking up to the injustices inherent in old ways of storytelling and of understanding the world. The difficulty now, is to recognise the privilege that one possesses, and then be able to carry out meaningful action that will make our communities more equitable and kind.

www.pact.net.au

5 Questions with Emily Dash and Dean Nash

Emily Dash

Dean Nash: What’s your favourite line of dialogue in Freefall and why?
Emily Dash: “I’m not your inspiration, I’m a fucking incineration”. I think this line sums up the vibrant character of Megan in a lot of ways. It very deliberately references the concept of “inspiration porn” and pushes against that, because that was something important to me. But it also shows her humour, her spirit, the way she doesn’t take anything – even conversations about death – too seriously.

What inspired you to write Freefall?
It was, of course, an opportunity to represent diverse issues and voices. Initially I was really interested in the dynamic between two people who are very different but love each other deeply, because I think it resonates with a lot of people. Love is beautiful, and challenging, but by no means simple – and nor is grief. Freefall is not a true story, but it’s a very real story – and it’s a testament to hope, to honour a great many experiences and various people who are close to my heart.

Describe your perfect Sunday.
My perfect Sunday would involve coffee and brunch with close friends, and then a relaxing indulgent day – walking my dog Bailey, reading, writing, watching TV and listening to music, doing a cryptic crossword with my mum. To finish it off would be dinner and a few drinks with my family – my parents, my brother Campbell, my sister Steph and her husband Simon – while we debate the answers to this week’s quiz in the Good Weekend.

If you could collaborate with any artist alive or dead who would it be.
Honestly? Sheridan Harbridge, or Daniel Monks.

What inspires you?
Strong, resilient people (especially women) being authentically themselves and having the courage to chase their dreams, who respect themselves, who value their relationships, build people up and strive to make a difference in the world.

Dean Nash

Emily Dash: Why do you think theatre is important?
Dean Nash: I’ve always seen the art of storytelling as an incredibly effective catalyst for positive change. Theatre entertains but it also challenges perceptions, poses questions, incites empathy, and informs; I think that is really important.

What makes a good scene partner?
Acting is reacting! I love working with actors that I know are going to make bold choices that I am going to be able to play off, and who in turn are going to catch whatever ball I throw to them. In Freefall I’m blessed to be working alongside a whole cast of beautifully honest and emotionally intelligent actors and I cannot wait for people to see this show.

What’s going to surprise people about Freefall?
I don’t think people will be prepared for the spectrum of emotions they will feel over the course of this show. Freefall is definitely a rollercoaster!

What songs do you think Shane would pick to represent each of the characters?
Megan – Walk On the Wild Side by Lou Reed
Millie – Paranoid Android by Radiohead
Carmen – Cigarettes Will Kill You by Ben Lee
Eleni – I’ll Be There For You by The Rembrandts
Shane – You’ve Got A Friend In Me by Randy Newman

A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he says and why is he here?
“The ice caps are melting and I want to taco’bout it!” The Mariachi penguin is on a crusade to bring awareness to the climate crisis!

Catch Emily Dash and Dean Nash in Freefall by Emily Dash, part of the “3x3x2 Festival of New Works”.
Dates: 14 – 24 Aug, 2019
Venue: PACT Centre for Emerging Artists

Review: I Hope It’s Not Raining In London (Bearfoot Theatre)

Venue: PACT Centre for Emerging Artists (Erskineville NSW), Jun 26 – 29, 2019
Playwright: Nicholas Thoroughgood
Director: Riley McLean
Cast: Daniel Cottier, Cassie Hamilton, Nicholas Thoroughgood, Zoe Walker
Images by Riley McLean

Theatre review
It begins with two young people in a mysterious room, both of whom are not quite sure who or where they are. The amnesia gradually fades away, as they proceed to recollect memories explaining how they got here. We learn soon enough, that Nicholas Thoroughgood’s I Hope It’s Not Raining In London is about these protagonists’ relationships with their parents. They look back at the warm and the chilling, and try to figure out, where to from here. It is a sensitive piece of writing, well considered but perhaps not quite as powerful as it wishes to be. The structure elicits a healthy dose of intrigue, although we find ourselves arriving at its climax with insufficient dramatic tension.

Directed by Riley McLean, the production is elegantly styled, with an emphasis on chemistry between actors that keeps our attention on the story. Daniel Cottier and playwright Thoroughgood perform the central characters, both persuasively naturalistic, with an ease and familiarity with the material that allows them to bring sizeable confidence to the stage. Also noteworthy is McLean’s lighting design, simple but varied, efficient with the management of scene transitions, and effective in conveying atmospheric transformations.

Some say that heaven, hell and purgatory are not about the afterlife, but are allegorical concepts for the here and now. Indeed, it is helpful to always think about today as a consequence of yesterday, in order that we may learn to make improvements. In our storytelling too, causation, of one thing leading to another, shapes all our narratives. We can however, disconnect from the past, or at least, formulate new beginnings, so that we can experience radical reconstructions, when so desired. What’s done cannot be undone, but what we do with the future is only restricted by imagination.

www.facebook.com/bearfoottheatreaus

Review: Macbeth (SheShakespeare / PACT)

Venue: PACT Centre for Emerging Artists (Erskineville NSW), Aug 29 – Sep 8, 2018
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Director: Shelley Casey
Cast: Megan Bennetts, Isobel Dickson, Rizcel Gagawanan, Joy Gray, Daniela Haddad, Prudence Holloway, Sonya Kerr, Emma Louise, Erica Lovell, Cassady Maddox, Suz Mawer, Emily McKnight, Beth McMullen, Lana Morgan, Grace Naoum
Images by Isobel Markus-Dunworth

Theatre review
If everything happens for a reason, then Malcolm must feel it the strangest twist of fate with this leadership challenge, in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Although instigated by others, Malcolm is ultimately the one who undergoes complete transformation, by that story’s bloody end. This production features an all-female cast, but more notably, all its characters are now women. What seems to be minute alterations to Shakespeare’s words, turn his writing much more palatable, although some feminists would still prefer to see the time and energy of this passionate stable of talents, applied to projects more relevant to our times.

Director Shelley Casey proves herself an accomplished storyteller, carving out distinct characters and quick, engaging scenes for her captive crowd. Her style however is slightly too conventional, for a play in desperate need of reinvention, having been presented much too often in faithful renditions. Kyle Rowling’s work as fight choreographer is, on the other hand, truly noteworthy, in various sequences that give the show’s action quotient, an unexpectedly entertaining boost.

Leading lady Beth McMullen is a slight presence, who lacks the majesty we have come to expect of the role, but her intensity and unrelenting conviction, are admirable. It is a big cast of fifteen performers, of varying abilities, that impress with their unmistakable sense of cohesion. Gracie Naoum is a standout as Malcolm, bringing nuance to a staging that enjoys placing emphasis on its more raucous qualities. Also memorable is Rizcel Gagawanan’s interpretation of the Porter, mischievous and confident, for a theatrical moment audiences will find humorously endearing.

To “bring forth women-children only” is a futile wish, but when we look at the politics of this country (and many others), there is abundant evidence that the male of our species cannot help but create dissension wherever traditional power structures are in place. It might be naive to think that women would operate differently under those configurations of authority, but to address gender equality at all our offices and boards, is the first realistic step towards a more radical modification, of how we can better run the business of society. Whether we think of women and men as being essentially different, it is vital that all the divisions we do impose on our lives, are justly managed. All the old familiar violations, must no longer be tolerated.

www.sheshakespeare.com

5 Questions with Rizcel Gagawanan and Joy Gray

Rizcel Gagawanan

Joy Gray: Why did you want to be a part of this production?
Rizcel Gagawanan: First of all, “all-female production”, enough said. Second, I’ve always wanted to act in a Shakespeare play. Growing up I wasn’t exposed to a lot of theatre but everyone knew Shakespeare or at least knew of it. These days to get my Shakespeare fix I watch National Theatre Live at the cinemas. The performances are so amazing but what would be even more inspiring would be to see more POC actors on a Shakespeare stage. So here I am!

Why did you want to be an actor?
My mum put me in the ‘Johnny Young Talent School’ when I was 4 because I was a handful, so I guess from a young age I started to love performing but mostly it was because I had no shame. However, I’ve only come back to acting in the last 4 years and it’s the same things that brought me back, loving to perform (and having no shame), but also the passion to create and tell stories. More specifically telling stories that matter to me and represent me. As I was growing up it was rare to see someone who looked like me on TV or on stage. These days that’s starting to change but we have a long way to go. I believe that my work as an actor is helping change that.

What are your hobbies?
I run long distance, I recently ran City2Surf, 14km in 95 minutes! I’m hoping to finish a half marathon some day (…some day). In my spare time I’m either sketching in an art gallery or having embroidery dates with friends, and Netflix is a hobby too right?

If you could be in any movie, what character would you play?
I think TV shows beat films in terms of great badass female lead characters. I’d like to play an action hero like a spy/assassin character like Maggie Q’s Nikita and Jodie Comer’s Villanelle in Killing Eve but with the comedy antics of Ali Wong. If only I could do my own stunt work.

What are your top 5 movies?
In no particular order: Crash, Coming To America, Crazy Rich Asians, Get Out, and all the Harry Potter movies.

Joy Gray

Rizcel Gagawanan: Who has influenced you the most in your life?
Joy Gray: I would say my older sister has influenced me the most because she has always put me on a pedal stool and has consistently been the positive voice in my head when it comes to loving who I am, and going for my dreams. She has also influenced my decisions in occupations, as I am often in a care giving type of work environment, having followed her lead in life.

How has working with only women in the rehearsal room impacted the creative process for you?
Women can be great to work with in this capacity because we tend to have great emotional and intuitive intelligence. This intelligence can create an atmosphere of sincere relationships. Having sincerity on stage is important for the creative process because it allows an easier space to fully realize the way in which the actions and reactions given by your fellow cast mates are affecting the words being said and their meaning.

What was it about the play that made you want to audition?
I wanted to audition for this play because I wanted to do Shakespeare and I liked the idea of doing an all-female show. I also liked the musical aspect of the show. I auditioned because I wanted to challenge myself and gain experience as an actor. It was icing on the cake that this play is embracing women who want to destroy the status quo, and She Shakespeare is doing this by keeping all the unique elements of the play intact, but also keeping the characterizations that make women unique and beautiful.

What made you want to become an actor?
I have always been interested in how people communicate with each other, whether their through words, or the many kinds incremental gestures with their face and body. This fascination led me into the study of psychology and neuroscience. Underneath that academic attraction, I have also have a need to break out of my interior and exterior shell, and acting is the embodiment of changing who you are. I know I would rather just stay safe inside my head, inside my living room, with a Virtual Reality headset, but acting forces me to be social, to think about, and be in different scenarios; and it’s tough! On a lighter note, I grew up in a family who loved to go to the cinema, who loved music, dancing and technology. I married a man who is a musician and a philosopher, who also appreciates a myriad of live performance such as opera, spoken word, and of course stage acting.

What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen?
The worst movie I have ever seen is Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. It is also the funniest movie I have ever seen. I loved going to see it at a cinema full of people armed with plastic spoons for throwing, who are yelling the phrase “because you’re a woman!”. I liked the cringe worthy sex scenes that looked completely wrong and sounded hilarious to a repetitive cheesy, 90’s jazz music score. The absolute best thing about the movie is the horrendous acting and dialogue. It is infamous!

Rizcel Gagawanan and Joy Gray can be seen in Macbeth , by William Shakespeare.
Dates: 29 Aug – 8 Sep, 2018
Venue: PACT

Review: Love Song Dedications (Without Richard Mercer) (Ten Tonne Sparrow / PACT)

Venue: PACT Centre for Emerging Artists (Erskineville NSW), Jul 19 – 28, 2018
Playwrights: Tom Hogan, Bonnie Leigh-Dodds
Directors: Tom Hogan, Bonnie Leigh-Dodds
Cast: Tom Hogan, Bonnie Leigh-Dodds
Images by Freya Ludowici

Theatre review
Love Song Dedications was a longstanding radio program featuring classic romantic pop music, alongside real life accounts of love won and love lost. Tom Hogan and Bonnie Leigh-Dodds’ show is a tribute of sorts, using a combination of triple-threat disciplines to create a work of comedy, that is ostensibly about finding the greatest love song of all time. A prominent characteristic of the radio show was its unabashed earnestness, completely devoid of irony and therefore deeply cringe-worthy, and here, Hogan and Leigh-Dodds play with that raw human openness, almost as an antidote for modern art’s obsession with being too clever, to bring focus away from the head and into the heart.

It is an exercise in honesty, of placing the authentic within the inevitable conceits of a theatre piece that must have a beginning, middle and end. Storytelling will always contain verisimilitude, but degrees of fiction seem fundamental to how things work on stage. Hogan and Leigh-Dodds are best friends, and like those on the airwaves speaking via telephones about matters of the heart, they are here to talk about their relationship. We discover how having an audience would affect this process of connection between the two. Turning a friendship into an artistic partnership could be a precarious exercise, but if art is where they communicate best, then perhaps understanding their relationship through a form like this, is their best bet.

Hogan and Leigh-Dodds are intelligent and effervescent, both youthful specimens, full of beans and big ideas. A good command of their bodies, and of space, ensures that we are held attentive for the 70-minute duration. They create a plot trajectory that is surprisingly varied, manufacturing with considerable ingenuity, a multifaceted approach for what seems a very simple point of departure. There are brief moments of energetic dissolution, but we never lose interest in the overarching project of finding that best song.

Creativity, even at its most commercial, evades objective judgement. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and for Hogan and Leigh-Dodds the best song from the 104 in their shortlist, is the one that holds the greatest amount of meaning, and of nostalgic value, to their private selves. Their love story informs their selection, but judging from the warmth radiating from the audience, the popular consensus is that their show is very well-liked indeed.

www.tentonnesparrow.com.au

Review: Wyrd: The Season Of The Witch (Ninefold / PACT)

Venue: PACT Centre for Emerging Artists (Erskineville NSW), Jun 20 – 30, 2018
Playwright: adapted from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth
Director: Shy Magsalin
Cast: Aslam Abdus-samad, Erica J Brennan, Jessica Dalton, Victoria Greiner, Matthew Heys, Melissa Hume, Paul Musumeci, Gideon Payten-Griffiths, Shane Russon, Brigid Vidler, Tabitha Woo, Luke Yager, Stella Ye
Images by Liam O’Keefe

Theatre review
Wyrd is a reconstitution of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in which the eponymous character is now a woman. Also, she no longer has a wife to blame her misdeeds on, only a coven of witches that proves to have a more intimate relationship with Macbeth than we had previously known. The conflation of dialogue originally held by the separate entities of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, depicts a new personality that suddenly seems more believable than before. Her duplicitous nature now conveys an honesty that allows us to relate more closely with her circumstances; the ambition and guilt that define her story, increase in pertinence, since we are no longer able to perceive her sins as diffused and shared responsibility.

The production is wonderfully moody, with Liam O’Keefe’s lights and Melanie Herbert’s music providing a waking nightmare in which the action takes place. Director Shy Magsalin’s work with the ensemble is intricate and dynamic, not always elegant, but certainly very exciting at moments of high energy and sheer terror.

The trio of witches, performed by Aslam Abdus-samad, Erica J Brennan and Paul Musumeci, are thoroughly delightful, impressive with the taut cohesiveness of their offering. Gideon Payten-Griffiths appears late in the piece as Hecate to steal the show, completely mesmerising with the bold avant-garde sensibility that he brings to the stage. The inventiveness with his physicality and voice is quite extraordinary, and the show is elevated at a crucial moment, to give us some very special theatre. Macbeth, known only as Our Lady, is played by Victoria Greiner, not quite as flamboyant, but with more than enough conviction to make invigorating, this centuries-old story.

The Western patriarchal canon so powerfully instilled in us, refuses to be ignored. We can try to pretend to forget everything and foster some sort of replacement, or we can look for means of subversion that can assist with our progress. Reshaping Shakespeare to suit our times, will always contribute to the reaffirmation of his position of dominance, but when we are resolved to decipher the myriad problems of our indoctrination, we can begin to introduce meaningful transformation to how we see the world. Our master’s voice is hard to eliminate, but finding ways to expose his faults, can help set us free.

www.ninefoldensemble.com