Review: The Dazzle (Meraki Arts Bar)

Venue: Meraki Arts Bar (Darlinghurst NSW), Nov 17 – Dec 3, 2022
Playwright: Richard Greenberg
Director:
Jane Angharad
Cast: Steve Corner, Alec Ebert, Meg Hyeronimus
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review

The Collyer brothers of New York City gained infamy a century ago, for their obsessive hoarding and other generally bizarre ways. Richard Greenberg’s The Dazzle explores their life together in a Harlem brownstone home, for a portrait of two grown men, trapped in a peculiar world, only partly of their own doing. The intriguing characters are depicted by Greenberg beyond the narrow confines of their public personae; Homer and Langley are given depth, dimension and indeed humanity, along with marvellous wit, in a play that absolutely endears and captivates.

Jane Angharad’s direction of the piece ensures that the strange relationships and personalities of The Dazzle, resonate with authenticity. She keeps us fascinated and increasingly invested, by finding ways to make elements of the narrative feel recognisable and intimate, even though most are unlikely to have experienced anything like it.

Costumes by Aloma Barnes render for the production an accurate sense of time and place, whilst adding some commendable visual flair, but set design for the Collyer home requires greater dilapidation, to better convey the severity of their situation. Catherine Mai’s lights and Johnny Yang’s sounds, work intricately with oscillations between comedy and drama in the sumptuous text, to build emotional intensity, for a journey that takes us somewhere unexpectedly rich with emotion.

Actor Steve Corner is brilliant in the role of Homer, with an immense range that incisively conveys the complexities involved, in this tale of extreme eccentricity. The textured flamboyance he brings to the show, is simply wonderful. Langley is played by Alec Ebert, who brings an unneeded restraint to the stage, but whose tender approach prevents us from perceiving the brothers as mere caricature. Meg Hyeronimus is convincing as Milly, the only person to have entered the Collyer’s private sanctuary in The Dazzle. Hyeronimus revels in the radical transformation that occurs for her part, able to represent both incarnations of Milly with equal conviction.

We are fascinated by stories like the Collyers’ or the Beales’ (of the legendary Grey Gardens documentary film) not because the people concerned might feel alien, but because we sense the closeness in proximity between their outrageous existences and our normal lives. It is a thin line that separates, and a precarious psychological boundary, that keeps us from falling off the deep end. There may be truth in declaring that normal is only ever a matter of subjectivity,  but misery is a state of being that refuses to be denied.

www.meraki.sydney

Review: The Tempest (Sydney Theatre Company)

Venue: Roslyn Packer Theatre (Sydney NSW), Nov 15 – Dec 17, 2022
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Director: Kip Williams
Cast: Peter Carroll, Jason Chong, Chantelle Jamieson, Mandy McElhinney, Shiv Palekar, Richard Roxburgh, Claude Scott-Mitchell, Guy Simon, Aaron Tsindos, Megan Wilding, Susie Youssef
Images by Daniel Boud

Theatre review

Prospero’s story of exile, in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, can easily serve as parable, for the history of white immigration to these lands we now call Australia. There is a stark and perverse contrast however, between Propsero’s determination to seek revenge, and white Australia’s general deference to those who had discarded them. What we do find analogous, is the cruel treatment of antecedent inhabitants. Caliban was born on the island, long before Prospero’s recent arrival, yet is being enslaved by the latter, who seems only able to think of himself as superior and entitled.

In Kip Williams’ abridged and delicately modernised version, we feel the air inside the auditorium seizing up, whenever Caliban takes centre stage to present his view of the world, and indeed to plead for justice. Performed by Birripi/Worimi actor Guy Simon, Caliban becomes the only character we can truly care about. Simon raises the stakes so high, with a portrayal unforgettable for its blistering intensity and scathing honesty, that we leave The Tempest with an entirely reinvented understanding of this otherwise archaic text.

Richard Roxburgh plays Prospero with an elegant strength, understated but replete with impressive gravity. The dainty but powerful spirit, Ariel is beautifully depicted by Peter Carroll, who brings grace and humour, along with unflappable conviction, to deliver a crucial element of ethereality to the show.

Set design by Jacob Nash is deceptively simple, with a generously sized boulder anchored in the middle of a revolve. The gradual revelations of special effects over the course of the production, demonstrates a deep knowledge of the relationship between audience and imagery. Likewise, with Nick Schlieper’s magical lights, we are expertly coaxed into believing that storms are raging and fairies are taking flight, when in fact it is all just smoke and mirrors. Elizabeth Gadsby’s costumes offer a rustic interpretation that appeals to those with a taste, for something more realistic and unassuming. Sound and music by Stefan Gregory construct a fantasy realm, into which we can luxuriate in Shakespeare’s brand of supernatural drama.

It is liberating to see Prospero in a new light, not only as victim, but also aggressor, after knowing The Tempest for a lifetime. The truth that hides in plain sight, implies a nefarious collusion that must be present, in order that lies may take hold. Regarding the rightful custodians of these lands, and those far and wide, entire canons are awaiting re-examination, should our claims of wishing to be democratic and just, are of any veracity.

www.sydneytheatre.com.au

Review: Tongue Tied (Kings Cross Theatre)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Nov 11 – 26, 2022
Playwright: Clare Hennessy
Director:
Sarah Hadley
Cast: Di Adams, Clementine Anderson, Kieran Clancy-Lowe, Michael C Howlett, Madelaine Osbourne, Eloise Snape
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review

Rising star journalist Mia is investigating a case of sexual assault, at a Sydney beverage company. The bigwig accused of the crime refuses to speak, and has sent publicist Parker to ameliorate. Clare Hennessy’s Tongue Tied is concerned with the ethics around reportage, especially as they pertain to the privacy rights of victims. We also examine the nature of sex crimes from the perspective of the survivor, and the complications that are no doubt involved, in how one chooses to move forward from a devastating incident.

There is charming dialogue to be found in Hennessy’s writing, but the intentional ambiguities built into the narrative of Tongue Tied tends to form a detraction, from the dramatic tensions that should ensue. Although there is an abundance of care for its flawed characters that prevents them from turning caricature, it is likely that audiences would find none of them particularly appealing. In a play with nobody to root for, we are left cold. Direction by Sarah Hadley bears a tepidity that makes things feel overly distanced, for a discussion that should clearly feel much more passionate.

Actor Eloise Snape is accomplished in her portrayal of Mia, with a knack for naturalist performance that helps a great deal, to make things believable. Kieran Clancy-Lowe is less convincing as Millennial corporate animal Parker, oddly innocent in his portrayal of wilful ignorance of rape culture, in this post-MeToo era.

Production design by Cris Baldwin is rendered in the most literal manner, featuring an oversized television screen that stays on stage for the entirety, after being used only for several commencing seconds of the show. Lights by Aron Murray and sound by Johnny Yang, offer effective assistance to scene transitions, that provide a sense of tautness to the production’s overall pace. At just over an hour, Tongue Tied does not overstay its welcome, and when it concludes, little is left to linger.

www.kingsxtheatre.com

Review: The Jungle And The Sea (Belvoir St Theatre)

Venue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Nov 12 – Dec 18, 2022
Playwrights: S. Shakthidharan and Eamon Flack
Directors: S. Shakthidharan and Eamon Flack
Cast: Anandavalli, Prakash Belawadi, Emma Harvie, Nadie Kammallaweera, Jacob Rajan, Kalieaswari Srinivasan, Rajan Velu, Biman Wimalaratne
Images by Sriram Jeyaraman

Theatre review

The Jungle and The Sea tells the story of one Sri Lankan family, during the twenty-five years of civil war that left a nation devastated. Written and directed by the formidable pairing of S. Shakthidharan and Eamon Flack, the play is astonishing with the depth of emotion it elicits. A profoundly moving work, incorporating influences from the ancient texts of The Mahābhāratha and Antigone, our humanity is engaged at the most fundamental levels, through a tale of survival and of human ruin. Discussions on war require of us to cut through all that is superfluous; The Jungle and The Sea certainly gets to the core of what matters, giving Australian audiences a much needed reprieve from lives adorned with hollow distraction and incessant superficiality.

Performed in the English language, along with what could be considered an Australian sensibility, the production is a seamless meld of cultures that makes palpably authentic, what some might classify a foreign story. Style, form and tone are all inextricably Sri Lankan and Australian, consistent and simultaneous. Its theatrical language is both traditional and new, allowing access to the past, whilst creating meaning for the present. It values what a marginalised culture brings to the table, imbues it with agency and lets it occupy centre stage, in ways that we may all be captivated by this acutely consequential tale.

Set design by Dale Ferguson conflates the brutality of war with the tenderness of nature, for a performance space that is unobtrusive, yet intensely evocative. Ferguson’s costumes instil dignity for the show’s characters, who suffer the ravages of war but are nonetheless indomitable. Veronique Bennett’s lights are sensitive to the minute fluctuations in mood and timbre of the piece, always precise in helping our sight connect with sentiments that are varied and nuanced. Music by Arjunan Puveendran and sound by Steve Francis, are marvellously rendered to guide us on this odyssey of sorrow and salvation, with live musicians Indu Balachandran and Puveendran offering some of the most exquisite accompaniment one could hope to encounter.

A sensational cast of eight, each with remarkable skill and insight, takes us on a journey of unparalleled poignancy and grace. Kalieaswari Srinivasan shines as the spirited and defiant Abi, memorable for delivering irresistible drama, and for making the Antigone-inspired character an utterly endearing young woman. Prakash Belawadi demonstrates extraordinary versatility in various roles, impressive not only with the flawless timing he executes quite effortlessly, but also with the stirring humanity he introduces to all his parts. An extended scene between Belawadi and Emma Harvie as father and daughter Siva and Lakshmi, is unforgettable for its intricate weaving of comedy and trepidation, incredible for the heartiness of laughter they generate in the midst of great tragedy. Additionally, Harvie’s disarming naturalism brings to the show a resonance that only increases its believability.

Anandavalli who serves as performer, choreographer and cultural advisor, opens the show with a mesmerising dance, and as matriarch Gowrie brings an understated but powerful dimension to the truth-telling that is underway. Nadie Kammallaweera too is a strikingly elegant presence, able to convey rich layers of intention, that lay behind a thoughtful restraint. Jacob Rajan, Rajan Velu and Biman Wimalaratne are all accomplished actors tackling a range of support characters, in a show that speaks from a place of immense sincerity.

The Jungle and The Sea is heart breaking, but it is not merely catharsis that can be derived from what it expresses. After months of attack on Ukraine by Russia commencing in February this year of 2022, a missile struck Poland at the village of Przewodów, on the day the play opened in Sydney. It is clear that humans repeat mistakes, no matter how grave the consequences. Trauma makes us resort to denial, for it is natural that we shift attention away from pain, but stories are all we have, to remind us of the bad things we keep doing. War seems always to be bolstered by lies. Reaching for the truth, is perhaps the only tool for most of us, to help turn things for the good.

www.belvoir.com.au

Review: RBG: Of Many, One (Sydney Theatre Company)

Venue: Wharf 1 Sydney Theatre Company (Walsh Bay NSW), Oct 29 – Dec 23, 2022
Playwright: Suzie Miller
Director: Priscilla Jackman
Cast: Heather Mitchell
Images by Prudence Upton

Theatre review

Associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Unites States, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not the first woman appointed to that position, but is certainly the most famous feminist icon to have emerged from that Court. In Suzie Miller’s RBG: Of Many, One we get acquainted with Ginsburg’s significant legacy as a trailblazer, and witness the ways in which she had left an indelible mark, on the most patriarchal of boys’ clubs. Ginsburg’s personal life was an immaculate one, devoid of scandal or controversy, but playwright Miller is nonetheless able to excavate at the most important of her professional achievements, to compose a work that informs and inspires.

A worthy tribute to an intelligent and courageous woman, RBG: Of Many, One is directed by Priscilla Jackman, who manufactures an unmistakeably reverential aura for the staging. Having passed away just two years ago, Ginsburg’s story, although not a mournful one, does reverberate with a sense of melancholy. Furthermore, recent events pertaining to the Dobbs decision that overturns Roe v Wade, thereby upending 50 years of abortion rights, feels a direct consequence of Ginsburg’s death. The work is still a celebration of a great life, but the darkness of current realities, makes the experience a truly sombre one.

Production design by David Fleischer implements an understated elegance that corresponds with the heroin’s image in our collective memory, but several instances requiring stagehands to manually deliver props, can appear somewhat awkward. Alexander Berlage’s lights provide much-needed visual dynamism for the one-woman show, sensitively rendered to help us navigate the many shifts in time and place, whilst delivering beautiful imagery through the duration. Music by Paul Charlier is memorable for its vigour, although not always at appropriate levels.

Actor Heather Mitchell brings an exceptional charisma that is somehow commensurate, with our unreasonable expectations of meeting the legend in the flesh. Technical brilliance is demonstrated especially through Mitchell’s distinct portrayals of Ginsburg at different ages, as she performs the role from childhood to her twilight years. At 90 minutes, RBG: Of Many, One is unquestionably demanding, and although not quite flawless, it is a performance that proves to be highly satisfying.

It is wonderful to be able to honour Ginsburg for her many great achievements, and with that commemoration be reminded that so much remains to be accomplished. Dissent is necessary not only in our courts. Injustice rears its ugly head, much more readily outside of rarefied spaces. The example set by The Notorious R.B.G. should not only be one of career progression, but one that epitomises a spirit of defiance and daring. Her narrative is one of selflessness, characterised by a zeal to work on behalf of those who have less power, so that communities become more fair and equitable. We will not all rise to high positions, but to make it known when things go wrong, is a responsibility many of us can bear.

www.sydneytheatre.com.au

Review: One Hour No Oil (Kings Cross Theatre)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Oct 26 – Nov 6, 2022
Playwright: Kenneth Moraleda, Jordan Shea
Director:
Kenneth Moraleda
Cast: John Gomez Goodway, Shaw Cameron. Alec Steedman
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review

Massage therapist Bhing was on his way to making a better life as an immigrant in Perth, when troublemaker Scott walked through the doors of Golden Touch, to seek help with various pains and ailments. When different worlds collide, in Kenneth Moraleda and Jordan Shea’s One Hour No Oil, it is the collapse of the very barriers of segregation, that makes visible the many social ills entrenched in our Australian lives. Things invisible and overlooked, yet hugely consequential, are unveiled in a piece of writing ostensibly describing an unlikely friendship. Meticulously considered, cleverly constructed and deeply felt, One Hour No Oil explores toxic masculinity, racism and poverty, amongst many other things, for a portrait of contemporary life that is both familiar yet profoundly revelatory.

Direction by Moraleda ensures every sociopolitical point is made with power and clarity, but unwavering focus is placed squarely on the devastating drama between two very dissimilar men, to deliver a riveting experience that proves rewarding on many levels. Set design by Soham Apte, along with costumes by Jessi Seymour, accurately provide all the visual cues necessary, for us to know as if instinctively, where the story takes place, and who these people are, whilst allowing for a performance space that imposes no limitations on its cast. Lights by Saint Clair, offer great enhancement to the emotional intensity of the piece. Music by Zac Saric and Alec Steedman are a crucial element that works surreptitiously, to guide our evolving temperament and sensibility through the journey. Steedman plays multiple instruments live, adding beautiful texture to a presentation memorable, for its complex melange of influences and inspirations.

Actor John Gomez Goodway is completely believable as Bhing, and nothing less than heart-breaking, in his depiction of a man surviving the tremendous challenges of an unjust world. It is a wonderfully surprising yet authentic performance, compelling and entertaining, but with a consistent emphasis on integrity for both the art form and for the character being celebrated. Shaw Cameron is a marvellously effervescent presence, able to prevent the dark role of Scott from turning dreary or hateful. There is impressive vulnerability in his rendering of a difficult personality, and an excellent sense of rigour that offers valuable detail to our understanding of the dynamics being articulated.

It is useful to think of that which oppresses, as being not any individual, but a system. It is important that we learn to appreciate the sentiment, as articulated by the poet Emma Lazarus, “until we are all free, we are none of us free.” Hard as it might be, we need to be able to see that our neighbours too need emancipation, much as their conditions appear to be different from our own. Indeed we must acknowledge that this system privileges some over others, but it is an illusion that even those who benefit the most, are receiving what they truly need for good and meaningful lives. Nobody gets away scot-free from something so diseased and pervasive, but until communities shift their values, progress shall remain elusive.

www.kwento.com.au

Review: The Lovers (Bell Shakespeare)

Venue: Sydney Opera House (Sydney NSW), Oct 23 – Nov 20, 2022
Writer: Laura Murphy (adapted from William Shakespeare)
Director: Shaun Rennie
Cast: Natalie Abbott, Blake Appelqvist, Stellar Perry, Monique Sallé, Brittanie Shipway, Jerrod Smith
Images by Daniel Boud

Theatre review

William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is given the musical treatment, by Laura Murphy who condenses one of The Bard’s most accessible stories, into something even more digestible. In her new work The Lovers a distinct pop sensibility is applied across everything she touches on, but art lovers be warned, Murphy’s appreciation of pop is a lot less Andy Warhol, and a whole lot more Taylor Swift. Like Swift, Murphy’s lyrics can be criticised for not being poetic enough, with an attitude too devoid of sass, to be considered legitimately cool. Commercial success however, has shown time and again to have little to do with cool, and it appears The Lovers does contain all the requisite ingredients that make it a crowd-pleaser.

Intensely romantic, and silly on more than a few occasions, songs in The Lovers are unquestionably, and thoroughly catchy. Reminiscent, and some might say heavily derivative, of chart toppers from the last twenty years, it can be said that the frothiness of Murphy’s writing, is the perfect companion for Shakespeare’s light-hearted classic. Murphy’s own musical arrangements, along with musical direction by Andrew Worboys, ensures a score that keeps us exhilarated for the entire 2-hour duration, The heady experience is further enhanced by extraordinarily well-executed sound engineering, with Todd Hawken credited as Head of Audio.

Director Shaun Rennie demonstrates great attention to detail, through his delivery of technical brilliance and exceptional polish,  for the staging. Rennie’s work is thoroughly energetic, with an uncanny ability to have his audience roused at will. Marg Horwell’s colourful and intentionally cluttered set design, is a visual manifestation of the chaotic exuberance that is characteristic of The Lovers. Her costumes too are captivatingly vibrant, although not always flattering on the cast. Lights by Trent Suidgeest are dynamic and exciting, a relentless manipulation of tones, intensities and configurations, that really take advantage of this collision between pop and Shakespeare.

The only one stealing the show however, is performer Natalie Abbott who delivers the most endearing Helena imaginable, with an impeccable quality of singing that beautifully incorporates a stirring soul style, with the crispness demanded of the Broadway format. Also very charming is Jerrod Smith, who brings unexpected believability to the role of Lysander. Oberon is played by Stellar Perry who stands out with her confident musicality, and a physical stillness that proves an appealing contrast against the rest. Monique Sallé is a gregarious Puck, Blake Appelqvist brings precision to his Demetrius, and Hermia is performed by Brittanie Shipway who injects much needed grit into the romantic heroine. The team shows itself to be well-rehearsed and innovative, with a compelling chemistry that makes tolerable, Shakespeare’s ridiculous love story.

There may be little that is worldly that constitutes the essence of The Lovers, but there is certainly no shortage of sophistication, in how the show has been put together. It is meaningful though, that our attention is brought to the subject of love, frivolous as it may seem, through the lens of young romance. At a time when our troubles are taking us to the end of tethers, it is perhaps necessary to be reminded that love alone, is capable of moving mountains.

www.bellshakespeare.com.au

Review: The Italians (25A Belvoir)

Venue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Oct 23 – Nov 6, 2022
Playwright: Danny Ball
Director: Riley Spadaro
Cast: Danny Ball, Philip D’ambrosio, Nic English, Deborah Galanos, Amy Hack, Emma O’Sullivan, Brandon Scane, Tony Poli
Images by Katherine Griffiths

Theatre review
Joe and Sal are very much in love, and just as they approach bourgeois heaven with impending nuptials and a home in North Bondi, Joe’s estranged cousin Luca materialises out of the blue to wreak havoc. Danny Ball’s The Italians too is a disruptor of middle class style and taste. The play seeks to assert a comedic sensibility that feels characteristic of an Italian-Australian identity, one that is bold and brassy, slightly crass in tone, and with a hint of irreverence. It is deliberately chaotic and sometimes incongruent, but always joyous and relentlessly playful.

Riley Spadaro’s direction introduces a distinct campness to this show that centres around a gay couple, including song and dance numbers that exist solely to entertain. It is discernible that The Italians wishes to break constrictive moulds, and deconstruct conventions of theatre-making that may have become too staid. It contributes to discussions about the decolonisation of the art form, and what it means to create Australian theatre, in this moment of increased awareness, around the legitimacy of minority cultures.

Set design by Grace Deacon features a vibrant wallpaper that establishes from the outset, an aesthetic that is almost garish, but knowingly so. Her costumes reflect an interest in archetypes, but are perhaps too predictable with the approach taken, for these larger than life characters. Phoebe Pilcher’s lights are delightful and dynamic, as they explore the possibilities of manufacturing, for a small space, something a little heightened and absurd. Also memorable are Luke Di Somma’s sound and music, especially when referencing soap opera traditions, for sequences that revel in the melodrama of people’s lives in The Italians.

Playwright Ball plays Sal, with a flamboyant streak, charming yet comedic, reminiscent of leading men in classic European film. Brandon Scane brings a greater sense of realism as Joe, that delivers a feeling of authenticity and universality, for a show that otherwise does become highly, and intentionally, slapstick. Philip D’ambrosio is a noteworthy supporting actor, especially for his turn as Pina, totally hilarious yet so convincing, as an elderly relative with a strange penchant for paracetamol. Performances can be somewhat uneven, in this unapologetically messy affair, but the spiritedness of this jubilant production is unquestionably enchanting.

Interrogating whiteness, is a way to release oneself from the oppressive grip of a culture obsessed with status and class. In The Italians, we observe an understanding of complexities around the proximity to whiteness, that certain Europeans experience. Joe and Sal are young white men, but being Italian and being gay, they know instinctively that the hierarchies that work surreptitiously on this land, are predicated on the unjust marginalisation of many who are deemed “less than”. They then have a choice, to lean on their whiteness, or to find ways to dismantle the injustices that are so thoroughly entrenched within all the systems that matter.

www.belvoir.com.au

Review: The Caretaker (Ensemble Theatre)

Venue: Ensemble Theatre (Kirribilli NSW), Oct 14 – Nov 19, 2022
Playwright: Harold Pinter
Director: Iain Sinclair
Cast: Darren Gilshenan, Anthony Gooley, Henry Nixon
Images by Prudence Upton

Theatre review
In Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker, an unhoused man Davies is given a place to live, but with stipulations attached. Brothers Aston and Mick are the homeowners, ambiguous or perhaps complicated with their intentions, in bringing Davies into their fold. First performed in 1960, Pinter’s play remains pertinent, especially for what it says about housing and property ownership, as they relate to issues of safety and of human connection. With home affordability ever worsening, the discord between have and have-nots is only escalating, and The Caretaker, proves sadly to still be terribly relevant.

The show however, is rarely a lugubrious experience. Under Iain Sinclair’s directorship, the meanings of Pinter’s writing are kept gently subsumed, as the exuberance of that characteristic mid-century English absurdist humour, is painstakingly amplified. The Caretaker in 2022 is not only more incisive than ever, it proves itself to be extraordinarily funny, even for out times.

Actor Darren Gilshenan is a wonderful presence as Davies, relentless in his need to offer amusement. No stone is left unturned, in Gilshenan’s pursuit of comedic impeccability, and we reciprocate with hearty laughter, for all two-and-a-half hours of his thoughtful buffoonery. Anthony Gooley’s immense restraint as Aston has tremendous, and surprising, pay-offs. The quiet strength he brings to the stage, adds a fascinating dimension, to an otherwise rowdy presentation. Henry Nixon is remarkably intense as Mick, highly satisfying with his bombastic approach to the material, but also able to demonstrate a great capacity for nuance and precision. These are three very impressive performances, blended perfectly to deliver something thoroughly entertaining.

Set and costume designs by Veronique Bennett, are proficiently rendered, to convey time, place and characters, with clarity and accuracy. Matt Cox’s lights and Daryl Wallis’ sounds add elegant touches, to a production that does not wish to reinvent the wheel.

We all know to treat people well, that we should afford dignity to one another in all our exchanges, yet generosity seems always to be a scarce commodity, in a world determined to relate everything to the bottom line. The men in The Caretaker are unable to find harmony; they want to take advantage of one another, and they want to bend others to their own will. This of the human experience however, is neither universal nor immutable. There are cultures and peoples who have done better, if only we had the wherewithal to take heed.

www.ensemble.com.au

Review: End Of (Griffin Theatre Company)

Venue: SBW Stables Theatre (Darlinghurst NSW), Oct 13 – Nov 5, 2022
Playwright: Ash Flanders
Director: Stephen Nicolazzo
Cast: Ash Flanders
Images by Brett Boardman

Theatre review
Ash Flanders is so incredibly theatrical, of course he has written a one-man play about his mother dying, even though Heather is somewhere in Melbourne, still quite alive. End Of begins with anecdotes about Flanders’ stint working as a transcriber for the police, then veers off talking about his adventures in procuring horse entrails to use as props for a show, and then his first moments on psychedelics that lead him to becoming sisters with a papier-mâché rooster. The pieces are tangential to say the least, but it is hard to care too much about coherence, when the point of the work is really only about Flanders’ immense comedic talent as a live performer.

Magnetic and utterly persuasive, Flanders proves himself an actor of audacious talent and skill, in this piece named after his sardonic mother’s favourite punchline, End Of. It attempts to take us somewhere profound in the final minutes, but it is Flanders’ relentless obsession with the frivolous and the flamboyant, that leaves an impression. Director Stephen Nicolazzo knows this, and has made sure to build a production around that invaluable sense of humour, for an experience that provides incessant laughter, and endless amusement. Everything is fair game, from the disappointing Hollywood remake of Total Recall, to deaths in Flanders’ family. Camp becomes a sort of zen outlook, occupying the centre of Flanders’ world; if everything is capable of being diminished, nothing really hurts.

Stage and costume design by Nathan Burmeister is simple, but knowing, able to give a wink-and-nudge, that indicates appropriate time and place as well as attitude, for this very 21st century representation of ironic gay sensibility. Rachel Burke’s lights are a pleasant surprise, as they turn increasingly opulent, after establishing something distressingly humble, when we first meet Flanders at a bureaucratic facility. Sound by Tom Backhaus offers valuable atmospheric embellishment to the reminiscences being shared, even if Flanders’ extraordinary dexterity with his commanding voice, feels to be more than sufficient.

End Of is a reminder that sometimes, the story is not the thing. The sheer pleasure of being in the presence of a performer at the top of their game, doing what they do best, is one of the gifts of theatre that can never be replaced. This bliss cannot be digitised.

www.griffintheatre.com.au