Suzy Goes See’s Best Of 2014

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2014 has been a busy year. Choosing memorable moments from the 194 shows I had reviewed in these 12 months is a mind-bending exercise, but a wonderful opportunity that shows just how amazing and vibrant, theatre people are in Sydney. Thank you to artists, companies, publicists and punters who continue to support Suzy Goes See. Have a lovely holiday season and a happy new year! Now on to the Best Of 2014 list (all in random order)…

Suzy x

 Avant Garde Angels
The bravest and most creatively experimental works in 2014.

 Quirky Questers
The most unusual and colourful characters to appear on our stages in 2014.

♥ Design Doyennes
Outstanding visual design in 2014. Fabulous lights, sets and costumes.

♥ Darlings Of Dance
Breathtaking brilliance in the dance space of 2014.

♥ Musical Marvels
Outstanding performers in cabaret and musicals in 2014.

♥ Second Fiddle Superstars
Scene-stealers of 2014 in supporting roles.

♥ Ensemble Excellence
Casts in 2014 rich with chemistry and talent.

♥ Champs Of Comedy
Best comedic performances of 2014.

♥ Daredevils Of Drama
Best actors in dramatic roles in 2014.

♥ Wise With Words
Best new scripts of 2014.

 Directorial Dominance
Best direction in 2014.

♥ Shows Of The Year
The mighty Top 10.

♥ Suzy’s Special Soft Spot
A special mention for the diversity of cultures that have featured in its programming this year.

  • ATYP

End

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Photography by Roderick Ng, Dec 2014

Click here to see Best Of 2013

Review: Mr Kolpert (Pantsguys)

pantsguysVenue: ATYP (Walsh Bay NSW), Jul 30 – Aug 16, 2014
Playwright: David Gieselmann (translated by David Tushingham)
Director: James Dalton
Cast: Paige Gardiner, Garth Holcombe, Claire Lovering, Tim Reuden, Edan Lacey, Tom Christophersen
Image by Gez Xavier Mansfield

Theatre review
The theatre is a gift that takes many forms. Audiences sit in darkness full of anticipation, waiting for a revelation, never really knowing what is to be unraveled. Mr Kolpert quickly assures us that it is intent on providing entertainment and laughter, but we discover very soon, that the comedy is black, and the true depth of its morbidity is not known until we arrive at the very end. Although tremendously funny, the comical work is first and foremost an absurdist one. We might be laughing from start to finish, but it is only the loudness of that reaction that disguises a greater response that occurs, in which our minds and emotions are constantly being confronted and agitated, and we struggle to grapple with our own morals and etiquette.

The play presents an omnibus of transgressions through a series of unrealistic and improbable events, and every taboo that the narrative comes into contact with, it aggressively explores, keeping us unnerved and outraged. The comedy that comes along with these controversies is the additional challenge it issues, and we are constantly questioning the appropriateness of our laughter. It makes us wonder if we are keeping polite company in this quite classy venue. Theatre is a communal event, and the meaning of laughter in this social setting can be contentious, but the extremity of what transpires on stage protects our civility. It is simply silly to assume that any of the crowd’s giggles or guffaws can ever be taken as a sign of condonation of the horrific behaviour we see. Still, we are never allowed to feel too at ease. The show is at its core, a disturbing one.

James Dalton’s marvelous direction is sensitive not only to our senses, but also to our hearts and minds. He keeps us fascinated by everything we see and hear, and always keeps our intellect and emotions engaged. His is a theatre that feels all encompassing, intensely engaging and completely stimulating. Dalton does not allow the audience to sit back and observe. This is art without passivity, and he wants us to be on tenterhooks.

Assisting with Dalton’s vision is an excellent team of designers, including composer Marty Jamieson, who also partners up with Alistair Wallace for sound design. Their work provides rich textural variation between scenes, and is often crucial in heightening the quality of irony in the work. Lighting by Benjamin Brockman establishes the production’s aesthetic sophistication, and is memorable for his adventurous sensibility. The extent to which Brockman pushes his creativity is impressive, especially with fairly limited facilities, but two moments of bloodshed are too darkly shadowed, causing momentary, and unintended ambiguity.

The team of actors is exuberant, animated and bold. The playfulness they inject is hugely important to the enjoyment of the piece, with Paige Gardiner’s performance as Edith Mole standing out as a delightful highlight. Gardiner’s remarkable and confident comic ability is showcased perfectly by a creation that is at once, wild yet nuanced. There is a fierce determination to connect, with both cast and viewers, that makes her work irresistible, and thoroughly hilarious. Equally compelling is Claire Lovering, who consistently surprises with a gentle presence that readily transforms into convincing madness. Lovering demonstrates greater subtlety than other cast members but never fails to attack with savagery at every appropriate opportunity. This production of Mr Kolpert features thoughtful and skilled entertainers who must all be commended for a brilliantly vibrant show.

David Gieselmann’s writing exposes the chaos of this thing we call life, and our ravenous need for making logic out of randomness. He talks about the abnormal that resides within everything that seems normal, thereby tempting us to dismantle our standards of morality and ethics, in order to realise their artifice, frailty and inconstancy. The show is about society’s hypocrisies as well as its requirement for order. It does not say that our lives are lies, but it does encourage us to think about the rules we live by, how they are manufactured and the svengalis who might be behind them all.

www.pantsguys.com

5 Questions with Tim Reuben

timreubenWhat is your favourite swear word?
Fuck. It’s so versatile. Take it anywhere. It’s the swiss army knife of swear words.

What are you wearing?
A red thermal top and trackie pants. I’m a fashionista. Also I’m about to go and help paint the set at ATYP.

What is love?
Love is a surprise party on your birthday.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
I saw A Good Person Of Szechuan at the Malthouse in Melbourne. 5 stars. It was gripping, comical and poignant.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Yep. I love the play, and we have an amazing director in James Dalton. He’s in his element. I think the show is gonna be a real ride for the audience.

Tim Reuben is starring in Mr Kolpert.
Show dates: 30 Jul – 16 Aug, 2014
Show venue: ATYP

5 Questions with Patrick Magee

patrickmageeWhat is your favourite swear word?
Gobshite. It’s a proper Belfast swear word; saying it is like rolling a pebble around your mouth and spitting it out.

What are you wearing?
I’m wearing some $24 jeans from K-Mart and my favourite brown jacket that looks like it’s been through a hundred years of rainfall.

What is love?
I don’t know, I haven’t known for two years and two months.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
I just saw Brothers Wreck at Belvoir. Four stars, Hunter Page-Lochard is *incredible*.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Course it is, you gobshites.

Patrick Magee is appearing in The Mercy Seat, with Gentle Banana People and Pantsguys.
Show dates: 24 Jun – 5 Jul, 2014
Show venue: The Old Fitzroy Hotel

Review: The Mercy Seat (Gentle Banana People / Sydney Independent Theatre Company)

gentlebananaVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jun 24 – Jul 5, 2014
Playwright: Neil LaBute
Collaborating directors: Samantha Young, Andrew Wilson, Peter Mountlord, Alistair Wallace
Cast: Rebecca Martin, Patrick Magee
Image by Katy Green Loughrey

Theatre review
This is a love story that is not particularly romantic. It is however, written with a great sense of truth, and is reflective of real experiences in our love lives. Yes, there is some sweetness, but, like in life, the relationship being explored is fraught with issues. We are refused the clichéd and comforting notion of a love that fixes everything. Instead, what Neil LaBute discusses is the inherent difficulties, and there are many of them, when two people get together. The themes in The Mercy Seat are innumerable. Through Abby and Ben, we observe the often ugly complexities of love, relationships and human nature. Theatre does something noble, when it provides difficult revelations.

The production is directed well. Emphasis is placed on the narrative, and it is clear that work has been put into bringing nuances to light. The writing’s intrigue and its structural quirks are materialised beautifully. The unorthodox characters are allowed to be challenging, always fluctuating between  likeable and objectionable. The story is told without convenient heroes and villains, but it communicates successfully, probably because of the way its honesty speaks closely to our deepest feelings. We understand Abby and Ben because their fears are so fundamental and intimate, they leave us nowhere to hide.

Rebecca Martin as Abby is spirited and flashy. The actor is a determined entertainer, and never fails to grab our attention. There is considerable bravery in her work. We feel Martin’s heart on her sleeve, and she portrays a character with very clear intentions and emotions, conveying an internal journey that is complicated, yet coherent and recognisable. The role of Ben is played by Patrick Magee, whose comic timing is impeccable. He delivers the subtle and dark comedy with a gentle assuredness, careful to prevent funny moments from obfuscating his impressively earnest characterisation. Magee is a dynamic performer, and the enthusiasm at which he oscillates light and shade is thoroughly enjoyable. Both actors are able to deliver a wide range of tone and emotion, but both share a common lack in authenticity when playing sadness.  A reason could be the speed and energy at which their performance is pitched. The characters go through very drastic alterations in mood, which is terribly exciting to watch, but evidently difficult to embody. Even though the actors have excellent chemistry throughout the piece, they do not muster up a convincing sexual energy which is important to their tale.

We sometimes cry at the theatre, but those tears are usually shed for the people on stage or for the scenarios that we witness. Seldom do we react emotionally for our own circumstances that a work recalls. The Mercy Seat strikes a chord when you least expect it. The show ends with a little pessimism, along with some idealism. How we choose to proceed is incumbent upon ourselves.

www.sitco.net.au | www.pantsguys.com

In Rehearsal: The Mercy Seat

Rehearsal images above from The Mercy Seat by Gentle Banana People, part of SITCO’s 2014 season.
At The Old Fitzroy Theatre, from Jun 24 – Jul 5, 2014.
More info at www.sitco.net.au

5 Questions with Rebecca Martin

rebeccamartinWhat is your favourite swear word?
Balls. Or bollocks. Anything testicular.

What are you wearing?
Skirt, top, stockings, cardigan. And a swimsuit top as a bra because I haven’t done washing.

What is love?
The worst.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Bell Shakespeare’s Henry V. Performances – 4.5; show – 3.

Is your new show going to be any good?
It’s going to be an event, one way or another. I mean, of course it is.

 

Rebecca Martin is appearing in The Mercy Seat, with Gentle Banana People and Pantsguys.
Show dates: 24 Jun – 5 Jul, 2014
Show venue: The Old Fitzroy Hotel