Review: Tell Me I’m Here (Belvoir St Theatre)

Venue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Aug 20 – Sep 25, 2022
Playwright: Veronica Nadine Gleeson (based on the book by Anne Deveson)
Director: Leticia Cáceres
Cast: Tom Conroy, Deborah Galanos, Nadine Garner, Raj LaBade, Sean O’Shea Ellis, Jana Zvedeniuk
Images by Brett Boardman

Theatre review
Jonathan has schizophrenia, but he is not the only one who suffers its consequences. The story is told from his mother Anne’s perspective, who for obvious reasons, has to keep her wits about her, and is therefore extremely level-headed. Tell Me I’m Here is a stage adaptation by Veronica Nadine Gleeson, based on the 1991 memoir of the aforementioned Anne Deveson. We see the chaos created by Jonathan’s illness, along with a certain stoicism that Anne has to cultivate, in order to manage the challenges presented by her son’s condition.

There is a monotony to the hopeless exasperation expressed in the play, as well as an unrelenting frenzy brought on by the mental disorder. The story often feels stagnant, which is probably an accurate representation of Anne and Jonathan’s lives, but director Leticia Cáceres injects a great amount of energy to the staging, so that our attention is consistently engaged, even if our emotions tend to reflect Anne’s impassive pragmatism. Cáceres also ensures that characters are always depicted with dignity, as we explore the vulnerabilities of their difficult existence. The lead performers embody those admirable yet unenviable qualities with great aplomb.

Nadine Garner plays Anne, with an impressive exactitude that offers fine balance to the naturalism that she instinctively delivers, for this tale of parenthood and heart break. Tom Conroy is inventive in the role of Jonathan, and is suitably wild with a performance memorable for its radiant humanity. The unyielding intensity from both, are given moderation by a jaunty ensemble of four performers, Deborah Galanos, Raj LaBade, Sean O’Shea Ellis and Jana Zvedeniuk, who offer a sense of buoyancy, to a show that is at its heart, full of despondency.

Set design by Stephen Curtis features an imposing bookcase, stuffed with exemplars of breeding and sophistication, as though a reminder that all the refinement in the world, cannot prevent a person from the trauma that life will invariably dispense upon them. Costumes by Ella Butler bear a whimsical charm, that firmly positions all the personalities we encounter, in a realm that straddles perfectly, between theatricality and authenticity. Veronique Bennett’s lights are dynamic, almost busy, in their attempt at providing visual flourish, to accompany a narrative of the disturbed mind. Sound and music by the duo of Alyx Dennison  and Steve Francis are beautifully accomplished, able to convey nuanced textures for an emotional landscape that can otherwise feel too static.

Nature is cruel. The gift of life, comes with the surety of death, and in the process it seems no one leaves unscathed. Even those who are perceived to be awarded a charmed life, must think that the challenges that they do face in private, to be the hardest thing. To witness the torment of those in Tell Me I’m Here however, is a sobering reminder that there are indeed worse spaces to find oneself.

www.belvoir.com.au

Review: The Comedy Of Errors (Bell Shakespeare)

Venue: Sydney Opera House (Sydney NSW), Aug 17 – Sep 17, 2022
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Director: Janine Watson
Cast: Joseph ‘Wunujaka’ Althouse, Julia Billington, Giema Contini, Skyler Ellis, Felix Jozeps, Alex King, Leilani Loau, Ella Prince, Lauren Richardson, Maitland Schnaars
Images by Brett Boardman

Theatre review
In Shakespeare’s The Comedy Of Errors, two sets of twins cause mayhem in the Greek city of Ephesus, through a series of events involving mixed identities and wild premises. It may be a relic of a play, but centuries on, it still provides an opportunity for theatre makers to present something frolicsome and mirthful, for audiences of any description. In the right hands, it may even demonstrate the changes that have occurred in our cultures over this half a millennium, for it is through adaptations and interpretations, that we may observe our evolution, reflected in the artistic choices being made today.

On this occasion, director Janine Watson applies a correspondingly frivolous 1970s disco aesthetic to the staging, but it is the queering of characters and relationships in the story, that forms a constant reminder, that we are indeed living in the twenty-first century. There is an unmistakeable vigour to Watson’s work, with a love for the immediacy of the live format, that truly shines. 

The cast is given plentiful space to wreak havoc, and their mischievousness is resolutely centre stage. Skyler Ellis and Felix Jozeps are the twins named Antipholus, both performers energetic, passionate and effortlessly charismatic. The two servants named Dromio, also twins, are played by Julia Billington and Ella Prince, both inventive and captivating, who turn their parts resoundingly non-binary, for a show memorable for its subtext of gender dismantlement. Giema Contini and Joseph ‘Wunujaka’ Althouse are flamboyant siblings Adriana and Luciano, eliciting some of the biggest laughs with a wonderful camp approach to their humour.

Hugh O’Connor’s set and costume designs are pop infused, colourful manifestations of a lurid fantasy world, in which common sense takes a back seat. Along with lights by Kelsey Lee, this production of The Comedy Of Errors is relentlessly vibrant, in a way that proves visually satisfying. Music and sound by Pru Montin too are not particularly subtle, prominently featuring hits from the disco era that remain gloriously euphoric.

Beneath all the rambunctious activity, lies a central guiding principle of authenticity. The production’s theme is declared with great pride in neon, “Find Yourself”, which must certainly refer to the discovery of one’s purest identity. Even if Shakespeare represents the diametric opposition to one’s own values, it can never be discounted that it is sometimes the very notion of an antithesis, that helps one uncover the truth.

www.bellshakespeare.com.au

Review: Albion (Seymour Centre)

Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Jul 27 – Aug 20, 2022
Playwright: Mike Bartlett
Director: Lucy Clements
Cast: Jane Angharad, Joanna Briant, Claudette Clarke, Alec Ebert, Deborah Jones, Mark Langham, Rhiaan Marquez, Ash Matthew, Charles Mayer, James Smithers, Emma Wright
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review

After making a fortune from her retail business, Audrey decides to revive a stately home, located some distance away from her usual London residence. What initially looks to be a noble enterprise, soon reveals itself to be a project that is more problematic, than Audrey had ever imagined. Mike Bartlett’s Albion explores the meanings of conservative values in the twenty-first century. In a literal way, characters play out the repercussions of one rich woman’s desire to preserve a relic. Wishing to hold on to the past, can be thought of as part and parcel of being human, but in Albion it becomes evident that to resist change, is perhaps one of the most extravagant indulgences, that only the privileged can afford.

Bartlett’s writing is irrefutably magnetic, replete with confrontational ideas and delicious scorn. The staging on this occasion, as directed by Lucy Clements, gleams with emotional authenticity, although its humour feels needlessly subdued, and its politics ultimately shape up to be somewhat muted in effect. A reluctance to cast explicit and pointed judgement over Audrey, diminishes the dramatics that the story should be able to deliver.

Actor Joanna Briant is a very convincing leading lady, with a performance that looks and feels consistently genuine, but other elements of the production bear a certain uncompromising earnestness that detracts from her work. Briant makes excellent choices at creating a personality who only thinks of herself as sincere and well-meaning, but other forces can work harder to create a sense of opposition to Audrey’s behaviour.

Thankfully, Briant’s is not the only strong performance from the cast. Claudette Clarke’s spirited defiance as Cheryl the ageing house cleaner, is a joy to watch, with an edgy abrasiveness that thoroughly elevates the presentation. Also highly persuasive is Charles Mayer, who plays Audrey’s ride-or-die lover Paul with a lightness of touch, humorously portraying the complicity of bystanders who have every opportunity to intervene but who choose to ride passively with the tides.

Imagery from this staging too, has its moments of glory. The collaboration between production designer Monique Langford and lighting designer Kate Baldwin, is a fairly ambitious one, able to invoke a grand landscape on foreign lands, with only the power of suggestion. Music and sound by Sam Cheng provide a gravity befitting the stakes involved, reminding us of the wider impact of these personal narratives.

Romantic nostalgia, the kind that Audrey is so invested in, represents a longing that those, for whom the system works, is bound to have. Of course Audrey is able to look back with rose-tinted glasses, now that she has her millions. There are others who simply cannot look at those symbolic structures, without having to wish for improvements. We do not regard icons with the same reverence, or indeed irreverence, because they mean different things to different people. The way in which we live our lives, have hitherto relied upon power discrepancies and injustices. Of course Audrey and her ilk will want to retain old things, but unless they can afford to make up for all the sacrifices, that the lower classes are no longer willing to submit to, then they too will have to move on with the times.

www.seymourcentre.com

Review: Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde (Sydney Theatre Company)

Venue: Roslyn Packer Theatre (Sydney NSW), Aug 6 – Sep 10, 2022
Playwright: Robert Louis Stevenson (adapted by Kip Williams)
Director: Kip Williams
Cast: Matthew Backer, Ewen Leslie
Images by Daniel Boud

Theatre review
There is something very queer about Utterson’s obsession, over having to uncover the truth about Mr Hyde. In Kip Williams’ version of the 1886 novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, it is not the relationship between Jekyll and Hyde that occupies the majority of our attention. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is, on this occasion, more concerned with Utterson’s fervent investigations, showing his indefatigable determination at getting closer and closer to the mystery of Hyde. The audience watches from a vantage point of feeling as though, we already know all there is to the Jekyll and Hyde story, but new revelations in WIlliams’ adaptation emerge, that surprise us much as they do Utterson.

On stage with the actors, are large video screens, up to 6 of them at any one time. Our attention resides with the projected image for virtually all of the duration, yet the live quality of the presentation is unmistakeable. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is cinematic but also certainly theatrical. We have a visceral connection with the energy that emanates from all corners of the stage, but our eyes are kept fixated on oversized monitors that seem to be constantly floating, into all manner of configurations. David Bergman’s video design is gloriously imagined, mostly in vintage film monochrome, and although not flawlessly executed, its ambition is nothing short of breathtaking. A sequence involving staircases is particularly wondrous, able to manipulate space in the most whimsical ways, for a new theatrical experience that feels completely linked with technological ingenuity.

Kip Williams’ adaptation and direction of the piece is relentlessly vigorous in tone. At the centre of the old story, is an exploration of pharmaceuticals, and for the entire show, we too feel as though on artificial stimulants, almost manic in how we have to respond to the work. It is a rich and intense journey that Williams takes us on, as he pushes gregariously at the boundaries of the art form, but it is ultimately the reframing of meaning, that stays with the viewer. Stevenson’s writing is remembered to be about pietistic notions of good and evil, but Williams reminds us that the longevity of the tale and its famous characters, are due largely to our very basic and eternal desire, to understand the nature of truth.

The space, designed by Marg Horwell, positions us as though peering from the backlot of a film studio, with flats wheeling in and out, but facing away from the auditorium. Horwell’s costumes aim for period authenticity, and are fitted immaculately to maximise the appeal of the show’s beguiling stars. Lights by Nick Schlieper are lush and sensual, able to provide delightful imagery, whether our eyes are consumed by video, or when our sight wanders to the real activity taking place on stage. A magnificent sound design by Michael Toisuta envelopes us in tension and extravagance, of the old Hollywood kind, with a grandeur that brings a sense of elevation, to every thought that crosses the mind.

Actors Matthew Backer and Ewen Leslie are highly impressive, not only with the backbreaking technical demands of the production, but also for the sheer amount of dialogue they need to rattle off at lightning speed. Their barrage of words often amount to little more than dramatic urgency, but to see them in action is to witness a kind of superhuman power in motion. Backer plays Utterson, controlled yet desirous, with an astonishing precision to all the details that he delivers. Leslie plays Jekyll, Hyde and a host of other personalities, with wild abandon at a fabulous intensity.

Dr Jekyll understood that there is something important that needs to be unearthed from within, even though social forces keep it vehemently repressed. The original story presents its arguments in a binary way; it is good or evil, and it is all or nothing. Queering the narrative, as Williams does in this update, allows us to see the shades between black and white, and therefore approach its ideas with a greater compassion, for Jekyll and Hyde, and perhaps more importantly, for ourselves.

www.sydneytheatre.com.au

Review: The One (Ensemble Theatre)

Venue: Ensemble Theatre (Kirribilli NSW), Jul 22 – Aug 27, 2022
Playwright: Vanessa Bates
Director: Darren Yap
Cast: Gabrielle Chan, Angie Diaz, Aileen Huynh, Damien Strouthos, Shan-Ree Tan
Images by Prudence Upton

Theatre review
In Vanessa Bates’ The One, siblings Mel and Eric are mixed-race Malaysian-Australians, who have lived in Australia all their lives, but who have never really felt completely accepted, by either side of their combined heritage. This is not a point made too obviously, with playwright Bates choosing instead to amuse us with events surrounding the impending visit of the pair’s flamboyant mother. Much of the writing sparkles with a delightful wit, but the plot lacks focus, involving many moments that feel superfluous, and in need of a more succinct edit.

The comedy is given effervescence by Darren Yap, who directs the piece with charm and spirited vigour. Set and costumes by Nick Fry are whimsical in their appeal, and along with Verity Hampson’s lighting design, the production offers satisfyingly exuberant imagery. Music by Michael Tan is inventive and meaningful, effective at conveying a soulful quality that relates closely, to the themes of the story being told.

Lead performers Angie Diaz and Shan-Ree Tan are both captivating presences, who deliver a sense of integrity, alongside the buoyant humour that they exteriorise for the staging. Diaz and Tan demonstrate great flair for the playfulness of The One, but it is their commitment to the depth and substance of the material that keeps us attentive. Gabrielle Chan is suitably glamorous and evanescent as Helen, the self-absorbed mother. Damien Strouthos brings great energy and believability as Cal, the devoted beau of Mel. Aileen Huynh’s exaggerated approach to waiter Jess, can initially look somewhat startling, but makes good sense later in the show.

There is nothing fundamentally real about what draws the boundaries between countries, just like much of our identities are comprised of little that can be thought of as concretely material and unyielding. What is true however, is that individuals experience all manner of prejudice and degradation, based on how people think of one another. Mel and Eric have a right to feel that they belong, and it is up to us to define the meaning of inclusivity, wherever we call our home.

www.ensemble.com.au

Review: Attempts On Her Life (Kings Cross Theatre)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Jul 15 – 30, 2022
Playwright: Martin Crimp
Director:
Saro Lusty-Cavallari
Cast: Lucy Burke, Bridget Haberecht, Lucinda Howes, Josephine Lee, Ebony Tucker
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
Anne never appears to tell her own story. In Martin Crimp’s Attempts on Her Life, we are presented with “17 scenarios for the theatre” that try to nail down the enigmatic Anne. 5 women actors and a television screen, take on various performative configurations, as though in search of an answer to a mystery pertaining to the idea of an elusive person, but is in actuality finding ways to understand the nature of media in 1997, when the play was first produced.

It is the exploration of form over content that makes Crimp’s writing seem wild and incoherent, and even though Saro Lusty-Cavallari’s direction emanates considerable earnestness, for that spirit of theatrical experimentation, there is insufficient playfulness, and a lack of danger that makes the show feel somewhat staid. Attempts on Her Life wants to take us somewhere chaotic, even anarchic, but it all feels overly measured and deliberate. Video features prominently, and Lusty-Cavallari’s work in that arena is admirably precise, incorporating a sense of technical proficiency for the medium, to provides unexpected polish to the experience.

Set and costumes by Rita Naidu, while not particularly imaginative, prove to be highly functional, for a play that constantly evolves its mode of staging. Lights by Sam Read contribute a good degree of dynamism, that moderates effectively the vacillating dramatic intensity, as we move from one vastly different scene to another. The cast is well-rehearsed and energetic, with a cohesiveness that allows them to project with great confidence.

The world has changed so much in the 25 years since the initial appearance of Attempts on Her Life. Gatekeepers determined which stories were being told, and the ways in which they were told. Although the matter of authorship is still a contentious one, we are now more able to have people tell their own stories, and therefore we find ourselves more able to hear directly from the horse’s mouth. If Anne is still around today, she will have every opportunity to say her piece if she wants to, and if she chooses to keep away from the limelight, we will just have to leave her be.

www.montaguebasement.com

Review: Control (New Theatre)

Venue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Jul 5 – 30, 2022
Playwright: Keziah Warner
Director: Patrick Howard
Cast: Romney Hamilton, Riley McNamara, Emily Suine, Luke Vinsentin, Caitlin Williams, Olivia Xegas
Images by Bob Seary

Theatre review
Three short plays set in the future; the first tells a story about a reality show in space, the second features a museum holding personal memories, and the third sees a robot receiving training from a human so that itself can become a teacher. Science fiction takes us to wildly imagined spaces, in order that we may observe ourselves in a different light. Keziah Warner’s Control looks to be about a time centuries ahead, but its contemplations are really about the here and now.

Warner’s dialogue is dynamic and amusing, but her narratives have a tendency to feel underwhelming. Segments about the reality show and the museum, feel insufficiently dramatic, even though the contexts are set up with ample intrigue. The concluding story about machine learning, is more successfully rendered, with director Patrick Howard paying very nuanced attention to the emotional fluctuations that occur throughout. It is perhaps revelatory, that we are ultimately most drawn to things that tug on our human heartstrings.

It is an ambitious set design by David Marshall-Martin that contains all the action, with a grandness that proves appealing, yet effective in portraying the foreboding nature of Warner’s futuristic visions. Lights by Capri Harris bear a sensitivity that helps convey the subtleties inherent in these nightmarish tales of our collective destiny. Rhiarn Zarzhavsky’s costumes offer textures and a colour palette that anticipate a world that is harder and colder, than what it has already become. Director Howard’s own sound design is exciting and thorough, for a staging that embraces the genre of sci-fi unabashedly.

Performers Romney Hamilton and Caitlin Williams are unequivocal stand outs, playing organic teacher and synthetic student respectively, on the planet New Earth. Hamilton’s ability to access emotional depths in very little time, and with minimal external influence, is an impressive sight. Williams as the android, is somehow able to depict layers, whilst maintaining a resolutely robotic exterior.

Science fiction often foregrounds our fear of extinction. This is distinct from the concern around our deaths as individuals, which seems divergently to be something we know to accept, or at least not to contradict. In Control, we look to be a species struggling to hang on to survival, refusing to acknowledge that the end is nigh. We imagine ourselves in dystopic situations, heroically clinging on, when in fact all we do in real life, points to a definitive catastrophe. Life could very well go on, but human participation in it, seems delusory.

www.newtheatre.org.au

Review: Moon Rabbit Rising (25A Belvoir)

Venue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Jun 29 – Jul 10, 2022
Director: Nicole Pingon
Cast: Mym Kwa, Jon Lam, Jasper Lee-Lindsay, Monica Sayers, Rachel Seeto
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
The ancient Chinese legend of 嫦娥 Chang’e has been told with many variations, but what is certain about the story, is that it involves her beau 后裔 Hou Yi, an elixir and the moon. Moon Rabbit Rising is a devised work based on that very tale. Without the use of any dialogue, we revisit a myth that has persisted through the ages, and that a billion people memorialise, during annual celebrations of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

What we remember about Chang’e and Houyi is explored through physical theatre in Moon Rabbit Rising, with a delicate sensibility that makes the presentation look more like an abstract dance, than a literal representation of the beloved narrative. Director Nicole Pingon’s creation is one of considerable beauty. It incorporates the story’s inherent naivety for a show able to express a gamut of emotions, from which the audience can form personal interpretations, whether about the immediate story, or tangential departures inspired by what one encounters.

Tyler Fitzpatrick’s evocative lighting design provides for the staging, a hypnotic quality that encourages our minds to simultaneously focus and dream, to use what our eyes see, and travel to mythical and perhaps philosophical spaces within. Christine Pan’s sound and music are wonderfully rich, memorable for the modernity and the sensuality she introduces, to this most traditional of folklore.

Elderly performer Jon Lam delivers untold resonance and profundity, as we delve into an exploration of heritage. Together with four younger members of cast, an exceptionally cohesive ensemble is built, with a shared earnestness that demonstrates a commitment to something that weighs of unmistakeable significance. Their faces reveal an intense connection with the material involved, and we reciprocate by investing sensitively into all that they offer.

On this land, people of colour have had to sublimate our histories, modifying and even burying psychic links to ancestral pasts, in order that we may be allowed to feel at home. That strategy for survival is not just a result of our acquiescence to unfriendly demands, but is in fact a way for many, to deal with difficult situations that had to be left behind. As we emerge from those traumas, it only makes sense to rediscover and embrace parts of what we had escaped. The danger of nostalgia however, is that we forget the bad that had come with the good. The prudent thing to do therefore, is to interrogate and question all that can be inherited, before retaining that which is truly valuable, in our forging of new identities.

www.littleeggscollective.comwww.belvoir.com.au

Review: Top Coat (Sydney Theatre Company)

Venue: Wharf 1 Sydney Theatre Company (Walsh Bay NSW), Jun 25 – Aug 6, 2022
Playwright: Michelle Law
Director: Courtney Stewart
Cast: John Batchelor, Amber McMahon, Matty Mills, Kimie Tsukakoshi, Arisa Yura
Images by Daniel Boud

Theatre review

Many great stories have been told, using the fantasy of switching bodies as conceit, to help us think about what it must be like to walk in others’ shoes. In Michelle Law’s Top Coat, a nail artist and a television executive jump into each other’s bodies, so that we may explore the differences of living on this land, in terms of race, status, and opportunity. It is about the disparities that exist, between being white and not being white, in colonised Australia.

Cleverly imagined, Top Coat challenges longstanding beliefs about meritocracy, by displacing two women from completely divergent backgrounds in the other’s occupation. While it comes as no surprise that Kate fails at providing the simplest of manicures, we are shaken to a realisation that Winnie has little problems playing with the big boys of tv land, simply by looking the part and talking big. The problem of course, is that the only way for Winnie to look the part, that is to become a white person, requires that her narrative be intervened with utter fantasy. Winnie can do the job, she simply will never be allowed to.

Top Coat is entirely outrageous, so it only makes sense to have the story presented as comedy. Laughs however, are few and far between. Law’s writing is wonderfully provocative, but many of her jokes prove less than effective. Director Courtney Stewart struggles to locate a suitable tone and style of farce, resulting in a production that delivers vibrant energy, but that only infrequently lands its punchlines. The moral of the story, and its political point though, are powerfully conveyed, for a show that is ultimately more entertaining with its ideas than for its humour.

Designer James Lew provides jubilantly colourful sets that are visually exciting, but that consume inordinately long amounts of time between scenes to establish. Michael Toisuta’s music intercedes to occupy those moments of transition, keeping the atmosphere spirited, and preparing our sensibilities for what is to follow. Lights by a proficient Kate Baldwin ensure our attention is maintained on relevant portions of the expansive stage, and memorable for playful instances making full use of the play’s comical supernatural aspects.

Actor Kimie Tsukakoshi brings great exuberance to the role of Winnie, with unwavering levels of commitment that keep us firmly on side. Amber McMahon is appropriately animated as Kate, able to make believable even the most bizarre of situations.

There is perhaps no real way for any person to know what it must be like to experience the world as someone else, especially when all our lives can be so vastly different. What we are capable of doing however, is to understand the nature of injustice and disadvantage, and to believe that efforts at seeking redress, should always be an ongoing concern in our democratic lives. Where people refuse to acknowledge uneven playing fields, as well as other manifestations of prejudice, those at the losing end need to find the wherewithal to fight for what is right.

For too long, Asian-Australians and other people of colour, have conformed to notions of the model minority, only to find ourselves as permanently subjugated and silenced second-class citizens. New discussions are now ongoing, as instigated by work like Top Coat, from a younger generation that has begun to see the requirements of politeness for the weapon that it is, in preventing us from ever having things our way. Rage brings people to breaking points, and that is where rules are dismantled.

www.sydneytheatre.com.au

Review: Golden Blood (Griffin Theatre Company)

Venue: SBW Stables Theatre (Darlinghurst NSW), Jun 24 – Jul 30, 2022
Playwright: Merlynn Tong
Director: Tessa Leong
Cast: Merlynn Tong, Charles Wu
Images by Brett Boardman

Theatre review
Girl, 14 and Boy, 21 find themselves orphaned upon their mother’s suicide. Having only each other to depend on, the two quickly grow closer, in a social vacuum that sees the wayward older sibling exercise increasingly undue influence on the innocent teen. Merlynn Tong’s Golden Blood takes place in late 90s Singapore, where unlawful gang activities, of which Boy was a committed member, were still making the news. In fear of bringing embarrassment to their family legacy, the young pair hatch creative but corruptive plans to make their fortune, on a land that places veneration on all things gold.

Tong’s writing is exciting and exceptionally colourful. Much of the dialogue in Golden Blood is in Singlish, but the “creole” is carefully crafted, in order that standard English speakers are not left behind. The humour in Tong’s work is thoroughly scintillating, with a broad appeal that transcends cultures. Furthermore the incorporation of Australia as a symbol for Girl’s escapism and ambitions, helps position the play at a point that gives psychological access to viewers here. As the stakes escalate in its narrative, Golden Blood turns melodramatic in a way that some might find alienating, but its concluding moments are unquestionably moving.

Directed by Tessa Leong, the show although never sanctimonious, is an intense and urgent exploration of modern youth. Replete with energy and an unmistakeable air of anxiety, we are compelled from the very start to invest in this unusual coming-of-age tale, of good intentions gone bad. There are slight incongruities with the inclusion of smartphones and certain clothing items, that can cause momentary confusion regarding the era being discussed, but they are ultimately a negligible oversight.

Set and costumes by Michael Hankin are efficiently rendered, and appropriately simple. In tandem with Fausto Brusamolino’s exuberant lights, visual aspects of the production are dynamic, and effective at keeping the audience in a state of consistent tension and tautness. Sound and music by Rainbow Chan are similarly spirited, with cross-cultural influences that convey a valuable complexity, in relation to time and place for this story.

Tong herself takes on the role of Girl, profoundly moving as the misguided ingénue, but also disarmingly hilarious with her exquisite comic timing. Boy is played by Charles Wu, fantastic with the animated physicality and incredible voice he brings to the part. Their chemistry as a team is unbelievably flawless. Both actors bring a marvellous sense of depth to the characters they inhabit, allowing Golden Blood to venture into outlandish and wondrous spaces, without compromising even a fragment on authenticity.

When the definition of success is narrowed down to mean little more than material wealth, the result is an existence that can only ever be empty or exasperating. Girl and Boy were never taught right ways to be, not by their families, and not by the wider communities of which they belong. All they perceive are superficial markers of happiness, designed mostly to obfuscate and not reveal the truth. In Golden Blood we see, that the truth is persistent, even when we try hard to avoid it, and to honour it, is perhaps the only meaningful way to be.

www.griffintheatre.com.au