5 Questions with Harry Milas and Jordan Shea

Harry Milas

Jordan Shea: What makes Cascadia different to all your other work?
Harry Milas: It’s surreal and it’s got a narrative. It’s also got a director (who I adore and deeply respect) and he’s keeping me focused on what’s important, what’s real and what’s valuable. Orson Wells said that the problem with magicians is they try to do everything alone. I can count on one hand magic shows that have had a director. Also I hate magic shows that are just “Look how clever I am” or god forbid making birds appear to music. There’s no connection to the audience at all. No contact. Cascadia follows a journey I took with a fascination for making things vanish from childhood to present day and the audience feature heavily in that every step of the way.

What animal would you like to study in depth if you had the money and time?
That is a very difficult question and I really had to think about it, and I think my answer is the Bonobo. They are incredibly good at forward rolls, and general movement. They’re also our closest living relative and are deeply interesting. They also need help as their numbers are dwindling. I’ve been to The Democratic Republic of the Congo briefly and I’d love to go back and really soak it up. 

Magic is timeless. It’s been around or thought about since people have co-existed. This new show, how does it appeal to a theatre-going audience?
Because it’s theatre. It’s theatre that happens to be a magic show. Magic seems steeped in tradition and stuffed with clichés but there are always new ideas and breakthroughs coming to the surface. People who call themselves magicians comprise a wide range of styles and personalities. I’ve written the show from the perspective of a writer and performer who happens to be a magician. But let’s be honest the appeal is mostly going to be people wanting to see how I’m going to make a volunteer vanish in that dark basement of a theatre.

What was the first piece of music you ever heard that really said something to you?
I remember my brother giving me a copy of Boards Of Canada’s Music Has The Right To Children when I was about 11, and the track “Telephasic Workshop” just kinda fucked me up in the best way. I remember I got so excited when I listened to that song for the first time that I did a forward roll and my headphones came off! That is an incredible album that’s overflowing with wildly creative and brilliant electronic music. 

Have you ever met Don Rickles? If so, give me a brief run down of how it happened? 
So strange you ask me that. I have met Don Rickles, yes. On my first trip to New York I went to see the debut production of A Behanding In Spokane, then Martin McDonagh’s newest work. It had Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken in the two main roles. It was my first broadway play and I was very excited. The play was fantastic and the production was amazing (Walken did some of the best non-acting acting I’ve ever seen) and after it finished I was expecting everyone to run out to the stage door, but instead they were all milling around in the stalls talking to someone. Turns out it was Don Rickles, who I have loved since I was a little kid. He was a total mensch and was shaking everyone’s hands. I managed to have a quick interaction with him as he left the theatre, and the most amazing part was instead of getting in a car he just did a forward roll and was somehow really far away at the end of it. I’ve never seen anyone move that quickly and he was really old at the time!!

Jordan Shea

Harry Milas: Do you know how Harry is going to make the audience member disappear?
Jordan Shea: I don’t. But that might be a lie. Harry’s practice, to me, is about the possibility he might be making all of this up. I won’t know until we’re there, present, in the moment, as to how he will make this person disappear. All I know is he will do it, and probably make you have a good laugh and maybe be a little scared doing it. I don’t think a lot of conventional plays or performances can do that-but Harry and his magic can.

Cascadia is a wildly different direction for you. What drew you to the work and why is it important?
Because it’s a challenge. I don’t know if I’ll ever do something like this again. As a director and maker, it’s important to challenge yourself and just do different things. It’s weird. It’s important because it is in no way preachy but at least it’ll make you think for a while after. I like one man shows as well, I think if you can find someone who can intimately hold an audience for 30 plus minutes, you should collaborate with them-because you can learn a lot.

What is a film you think is massively overlooked?
The Swedish film As It Is In Heaven. We saw it around my 12th birthday at the Orpheum and it is a film of such nuance. Go download/buy/google it. 

What do you reckon about… I don’t know…the lockout laws?
I think most decisions by NSW Liberals since their election in 2011 (including the lockout laws) are the most poorly thought out pieces of legislation in the history of our state. I don’t understand the government’s tact or ethos because they don’t really have any at all, and I think they are just blindly ruining this state year by year.

When was the last time you actually took a break pal? You’ve been working real hard for a long time now.
I went on extended holidays in June/July and it made me realise I need to do that more. I’m training as a school teacher next year, and hopefully I can afford to take at least two weeks somewhere. I try to go once a year, somewhere. I think everyone working should. No matter where you are, there’s more to see. 

Harry Milas and Jordan Shea collaborate in Cascadia: A Magic Show.
Dates: 23 – 25 November, 2018
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre

Review: Eurydice (Mad March Hare Theatre Company)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Nov 14 – Dec 15, 2018
Playwright: Sarah Ruhl
Director: Claudia Barrie
Cast: Alex Malone, Jamie Oxenbould, Nicholas Papademetriou, Ariadne Sgouros, Ebony Vagulans, Lincoln Vickery, Megan Wilding
Images by Marnya Rothe

Theatre review
In the afterlife, Eurydice is reunited first with her dead father, before briefly seeing her husband Orpheus come to rescue her. Having crossed over from one realm to another, things can no longer be the same, and in Sarah Ruhl’s version of Eurydice, we observe human consciousness undergo celestial transformations when the body fails, in a fantastical speculation of how it might be.

Mournful but awash with beauty, the play is deeply romantic, as it vacillates between optimism and hopelessness, for a theatrical experience that fills us with a sensation of melancholic longing. Claudia Barrie’s direction take us on a rocky ride, through sequences that vary in levels of efficacy. Although not always sufficiently compelling, Barrie’s work is consistently delicate, with ethereal atmospherics removing us temporarily from the unrefined tedium of our daily existences. Set design by Isabel Hudson provides the humble auditorium with a transfigured grandeur, along with the marvellous scent of fresh cut wood that dominates the space. Benjamin Brockman’s lights are relied upon for a lot of the heavy lifting. His meticulous imagination is determined to place us in one dream state after another, resulting in an impressive delivery of arresting imagery for every scene. Sounds by Ben Pierpoint are the soul of the event, precise in its calibrations of mood and impact.

Ebony Vagulans takes on the eponymous role with palpable conviction, slightly lacking in complexity with her renderings, but an endearing presence nonetheless. The three Stones, mystical ghost-like creatures, are played by Alex Malone, Ariadne Sgouros and Megan Wilding, who introduce a splendid sense of mischief to proceedings, refreshing at every appearance. Jamie Oxenbould and Lincoln Vickery play father and husband respectively, both actors finding moments of pathos that reveal the emotional investment we hold, perhaps surprisingly, for the story. A campy Nicholas Papademetriou offers valuable comedic balance to a show that can get very gloomy.

Nobody knows what the hereafter is, but our conjectures about it are crucial to the way we are. It is that sense of eternity that concerns us. Even the slightest chance of having to exist in an unrelenting permanency for all of tomorrow, is enough to terrify, so we occupy ourselves with fabrications of what could be, using instinct, desire and fear, to concoct visions that help provide semblances of assurance. There is a need to satisfy questions about the self, and about loved ones we have lost. Anxiety is a sensation that requires release, and grief is an emotion that must be eradicated. When we worry, and when we mourn, our capacity to see meaning in darkness becomes paramount.

www.madmarchtheatreco.com

Review: Degenerate Art (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Oct 17 – Nov 4, 2018
Playwright: Toby Schmitz
Director: Toby Schmitz
Cast: Septimus Caton, Guy Edmonds, Giles Gartrell-Mills, Henry Nixon, Megan O’Connell, Rupert Reid, Toby Schmitz
Images by John Mamaras

Theatre review
If it were a painting, Toby Schmitz’s Degenerate Art would comprise a thousand tiny brush strokes, too detailed and too intricate, but they collude to present broad strokes that are imperiously forceful, certain to make an impact. Like other bad boy artists of renown such as Adam Cullen and Damien Hirst, the work is brash and obnoxious, replete with evidence of genius, but unlike white box museums that allow us to glance, gasp and swiftly walk past, Schmitz’s 100 minutes of grandiose cocky art, holds us hostage in our overly snug seats, intimidating us into thinking that some very big meaning lies behind all that is being waxed lyrical in the playwright’s very many excessive diatribes.

The play is ostensibly about Hitler’s relationship with art, and the ironic and incongruous phenomenon of fascist attitudes always seeming to surround the dissemination and consumption of art. We see prominent Nazi figures of the time, arguing over art like any healthy society should, but the way these white men cannot help but escalate their competition of penis extensions into acts of violence, is despicable and telling. Visually sumptuous, the staging is provided a glossy glamour by Alexander Berlage’s diligent lighting design. Schmitz assembles a testosterone fest that begins desirous but eventually turns shrill, with shouty blokes intent on asserting their importance, a reminder that art cannot help but imitate real life.

Although little room for nuance, Degenerate Art is a showcase for some remarkable performances, and the rhapsodic peacocking of its six male actors proves to be truly impressive. Megan O’Connell too, is an effective and memorable narrator, despite never really being able to overcome looking like an afterthought. It is frustrating that we are still being subjected to groups of white men talking about Nazism. To some, it might make sense that white male villains can only be played by white men, but for others, this is completely counter-intuitive, and a lazy, even irresponsible way of getting into discussions about fascism. Actions speak louder than words, especially when the words are deafening.

www.redlineproductions.com.au

Review: The Humans (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Sep 5 – Oct 7, 2018
Playwright: Stephen Karam
Director: Anthea Williams
Cast: Di Adams, Madeleine Jones, Arky Michael, Diana McLean, Reza Momenzada, Eloise Snape
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
It is Thanksgiving and as is customary for American families, the Blakes gather to mark the occasion. All do their best to make it a joyous evening, but each have individual lives that are not going at all well. Stephen Karam’s The Humans talks about the hardship of modern existence for our lower-middle classes, and explores the resilience required to survive, with family being a source of strength that can provide some degree of support and grounding. It is an exceptionally subtle work, but intensely intriguing, that lures us deep into a discussion about concerns that are perhaps not immediately apparent.

The show is surprisingly entertaining, considering the coyness of its approach. Director Anthea Williams introduces a generous quotient of dramatic tension to accompany the deceivingly mundane goings on, and comedy aspects are certainly very well executed under her supervision. Family dynamics feel authentic, with a bitter-sweetness that many will find strangely comforting.

An ensemble of six likeable personalities take us through the messy business of celebrations at home, with Di Adams especially compelling as Deirdre, whose suffering is demonstrated palpably alongside a zest for life, for a splendid depiction of human spirit at its best. Similarly poignant is Eloise Snape’s performance as Aimee, a young woman with little to be grateful for, but who we see sustained by an extraordinary inner strength. The actor delivers some gloriously funny moments, whilst portraying, terribly convincingly, a painfully tragic character.

These people face considerable challenges, but loneliness is not one of their problems. They are unable to fix each other, but their love does try to conquer all. For those who have family to rely on, it is a refuge that can soothe the ravages of life, and that provides the assurance that for all the anxieties we must endure, an embrace is always there waiting. Home is where the heart is, and those who have a way back, must count themselves lucky.

www.redlineproductions.com.au

Review: King Of Pigs (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Aug 1 – Sep 1, 2018
Playwright: Steve Rodgers
Director: Blazey Best
Cast: Mick Bani, Wylie Best, Christian Byers, Ashley Hawkes, Ella Scott-Lynch, Kire Tosevski
Images by John Marmaras

Theatre review
Actor Ella Scott-Lynch plays several characters, in this work about men’s violence against women. She embodies different personalities, but what they encounter in Steve Rodgers’ King Of Pigs, are essentially the same. The current climate of fervent interrogation into matters relating to gendered abuse, requires the male of our species to confront hard truths about their behaviour. It is a time of reflection and re-evaluation, and the play speaks directly to their conscience, asking them to examine the imbalances inherent in heterosexual dynamics.

It is an earnest work, perhaps too simplistic and obvious in style, but the urgency to make a point is certainly evident. Stories in King Of Pigs are very familiar, and although predictable, they still are able to have an impact. Direction by Blazey Best is suitably grave in tone, with a meticulousness to its naturalism that holds our interest. Isabel Hudson’s set and Verity Hampson’s lights collude to offer a sense of theatricality for the intimate situations under scrutiny, both effective in conveying a quality of ominous danger to the plot.

Scott-Lynch is convincing in all of her roles, each one thought-provoking, with little reliance on sentimentality. Kire Tosevski and Wylie Best provide strong partnership in family scenes that offer momentary consolation, through their warm rendering of a loving home, placed precariously alongside damaging relationships. Mick Bani, Christian Byers and Ashley Hawkes play the three perpetrators, each with memorable instances of character vagaries that point to pertinent questions about masculinity.

It is never easy to have those who hold power understand the depravity that results from their dominance. For sexism to be quelled, men have to participate in the feminist project, which although ultimately benefits all, many will perceive to be a threatening relinquishment of power. A world without the problems of gender requires a great number of processes, all of which can only be initiated by epiphanies derived from opportunities like King Of Pigs.

www.redlineproductions.com.au

5 Questions with Mick Bani and Kire Tosevski

Mick Bani

Kire Tosevski: List three words that best describe King Of Pigs.
Mick Bani: Intense. Thrilling. Unpredictable.

The abuse of women at the hands of men is an important theme throughout the play. What do you think audiences are most likely to walk away with after experiencing the show?
I think they’ll walk away with a better understanding on how much pressure society place upon us men. With the play focusing on surface issues, hopefully this will give the audience an opportunity to reflect and talk about the causal issues instead.

How do you connect with the character that you’re playing?
When I auditioned I said to Steve and Blazey, “this character reminds me of my former self.” Ex footy player, career cut short through injury, worked at dead end jobs, and fell into depression. But the important thing now is I connect to the character knowing full well that there is hope (for everyone) at the end of the tunnel.

What do you feel you’ve learned about yourself from being involved in this production?
I’ve learned so much of myself than as an actor since rehearsals began. The cast & crew are amazing. The stage has and will give me a platform to not only showcase my talent but to express (in a controlled environment) what most men do behind closed doors.

If you had the opportunity to play another character featured in the play, who would it be and why?
I would actually play Man 1 because he’s amongst all the drama. To me, Man 1 plays a vital part in each of the character’s lives. With his professionalism he sees each person eye to eye, and supports each of them throughout their ordeal.

Kire Tosevski

Mick Bani: List three words that best describe your character.
Kire Tosevski: Sensitive; weary; thorough.

What’s the biggest challenge about taking on this role?
I’ve often been cast to play larger-then-life characters – villains, overtly passionate eccentrics – and this man is a departure from that. He’s much more contained. He also spends a lot of time being a silent observer to the often intense interactions between other characters. Building and maintaining a complex inner-life that can be easily read by the audience, especially during such moments, can be quite challenging.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
How quickly events can turn; how slippery the proverbial gates that lead relationships towards crisis are. That, and how the rearing of boys cannot be overlooked in dealing with issues of male-on-female violence.

Due to the theme of this production, how have you had to prepare for it?
My character is the one who talks to both the victims and perpetrators of the violence, so simply watching the other scenes play out becomes a simple and direct way to stimulate the imagination. Plus there’s no shortage of literature and media content on the subject. It can all be quite confronting and it naturally leads you to look at yourself as a man. I definitely spent some time thinking back on some past relationships with women.

Based on the contents of the play, what advice would you give to your younger self?
As often as possible, try to make choices based in love, not out of fear.

Mick Bani and Kire Tosevski are appearing in King Of Pigs, by Steve Rodgers.
Dates: 1 Aug – 1 Sep, 2018
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre

Review: Permission To Spin (Apocalypse Theatre Company)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jul 3 – 28, 2018
Playwright: Mary Rachel Brown
Director: Mary Rachel Brown, Dino Dimitriadis
Cast: Yure Covich, Anna Houston, Arky Michael
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
Cristobel is suffering an existential crisis, having learnt about her music being used for gravely nefarious purposes. After 14 years in the highly commercialised industry of children’s entertainment, her integrity is now unable to escape scrutiny, but corporate interests deny all her attempts to quit. Art and commerce are once again at loggerheads, in Mary Rachel Brown’s Permission To Spin, a dramedy that interrogates not only artistic purity, but also our general complicity and participation in the often ugly world of big money.

It begins with a big bang, two businessmen are snorting cocaine, in the midst of a lot of ruckus, wondering how to solve a problem like Cristobel. The laughs are loud and abundant, courtesy of Brown’s witty, often very incisive, dialogue. It is evident however, that the play is intent on seriously exploring our social, economic and political lives, and a gradual but marked change in tone occurs about midway through the hour-long presentation. Direction by Brown and Dino Dimitriadis provide good clarity to ideas, even when the writing turns dense. The contrast in mood, as the play crosses over from funny to heavy, involves an inevitable drop in energy levels, but we are kept attentive by some very resonant postulations.

Three excellent performers accompany us on this trip, helping us navigate the combative activity of Permisson To Spin, and in the process, locate a sense of our communal ethics. Anna Houston provides soul to the piece, simultaneously vulnerable and strong, with incredible nuance that speak volumes in her interpretation of Cristobel. Yure Covich is splendid as an obscene and irredeemably vile corporate asshole, powerful in his embodiment of our social ills and perfect as the show’s bad guy. Arky Michael is wonderfully comical, landing every punchline with remarkable precision and aplomb, displaying himself to be the kind of actor any production could rely on, for charm and interminable effervescence.

All our occupations contribute to greater consequences, even if we think them insignificant. Cristobel is meant to be creating music that is educational at best, innocuous at worst, but she is unable to stop her work from being repurposed in a manner that contradicts all that she believes in. There is a machine that absorbs and integrates us into its operations, to serve its purposes. We do not always have control over its desires, as is proven again and again, by the flaws and inadequacies of the way we execute our democracy. “It was music we were making here until they told us, all they wanted was a sound that could kill someone from a distance… I just pray that someone there can hit the switch.” Kate Bush, Experiment IV, 1986

www.apocalypsetheatrecompany.com