Review: The Jungle (Outrage Productions)

Venue: Darlo Drama (Darlinghurst NSW), Dec 14 – 18, 2018
Playwright: Louis Nowra
Director: Glen Hamilton
Cast: Gabriela Castillo, Nicole Florio, Gaurav Kharbanda, Jo-Ann Pass, Benjamin Pierce, Timothy Rochford, Hugo Schlanger, Andrew Singh, Romney Stanton, Annelies Tjetjep, Mark Wilson
Images by RMF Photography

Theatre review
A jumble of scenes situated in Sydney, with people that may or may not seem familiar, constitute Louis Nowra’s The Jungle. The stories are from 1995, and sensationalist in a way that was probably trendy for the time. 23 years on, its sleaze and general naughtiness can feel slightly pretentious, but the perspective it provides of an Australian city that is not concerned with the middle class, presents an opportunity to ruminate on the changes we have undergone in just one generation. Not yet nostalgic, but certainly reflective, The Jungle reveals the banal bourgeois values that have, in a relatively short period, taken over our town.

Glen Hamilton’s direction incorporates little in terms of visual design, leaving all of the production’s theatricality to a very hyperbolic ensemble. Their energy is admirable, players such as Nicole Florio and Romney Stanton are particularly animated, and they bring a valuable verve to the stage, but there is an overall lack of nuance that prevents the show from speaking with sufficient depth. Actor Gabriela Castillo does a remarkable job of her roles, turning three hapless girls in a frequently misogynistic piece of writing, into fascinating characters with moments of palpable drama.

It is a relief to see that we are no longer who we once were, for life is change, and stagnation can be dangerous. We might be tempted to say that change does not necessarily represent improvement, but to insist that things were better in the past, is to forget the many deficiencies of yesterday. Sydney may have lost some of its romance and idealism, but for the millions who choose to live here, we choose to believe in its potentials and the bright future that we so faithfully envision. The big clean up bears a momentum that refuses to ever come to a halt, but in our hearts, the memory of a dirty, dingy town still resonates, and the spirit of that old disreputable concrete jungle keeps on pulsating.

www.thejungleplay.com

Review: Crime And Punishment (Secret House)

Venue: Limelight on Oxford (Darlinghurst NSW), Dec 12 – 22, 2018
Playwright: Chris Hannan (from the novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
Director: Anthony Skuse
Cast: Jane Angharad, Hannah Barlow, Tim Kemp, Philippe Klaus, Beth McMullen, Madeleine Miller, James Smithers, Shan-Ree Tan, Charles Upton, Natasha Vickery
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
When deciding to proceed with his plan for murder and robbery, Raskolvikov thinks of his actions as merely an extension of attempts to participate, in an economy he considers to be entirely utilitarian. If one is to survive the world at all costs, and if cost is always a matter of subjectivity, then the concept of morality holds no currency, in a system determined to reward the self-interested. Chris Hannan explores the implications of what might be termed human conscience in his adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s Crime And Punishment. The protagonist wrestles with internal conflicts, emotional and intellectual, trying to escape punishment, from society and from himself.

The bleakness of Raskolvikov’s destitute existence is depicted persuasively under Anthony Skuse’s direction, whose own production design accomplishes an elegant evocation of Russia at a time we associate with the end of the Industrial Revolution, and the rise of urbanisation as we know it. Skuse’s sound design too, is an affecting element, if slightly repetitive in its rendering. Lights by Martin Kinnane bring visual interest, helpful in creating a sense of dynamism for the production. Actor James Smithers is convincing in the leading role, able to prevent us from feeling alienated, so that we stay engaged with the murderer’s narrative. Chemistry between performers can be improved for a more focused sense of storytelling, but individual characters are portrayed with good conviction.

The work posits the loss of religion as a possible equivalence to the loss of morality, thereby giving religion a great deal of credit where it may not be due. In the decades that have past since Dostoyevsky’s 1866 publication of Crime And Punishment, atheism has become a movement undeniable in its ubiquity, and secular societies have demonstrated that our capacity for upholding that which is truly righteous, has surpassed dogmatic and draconian structures that had come before.

There is no doubt that many lives have been improved by religion, but it is important that we recognise the evils that it routinely inspires and sanctions. At the end of 2018, Australian politics is abuzz with the prospect of introducing additional protections for religious practices, thereby safeguarding bigoted portions of those beliefs, and in effect, placing human rights beneath archaic doctrines. Raskolvikov killed people, not because of a loss of faith; the fact remains that the murders had taken place, in spite of all the religion being imposed upon him.

www.secrethouse.com.au

5 Questions with Alana Birtles and Alec Ebert

Alana Birtles

Alec Ebert: Describe Troilus And Cressida in a haiku.
Alana Birtles: Blood-stained earth in Troy / A massacre on both sides / Two lovers parted

Why is Shakespeare, and this play in particular still relevant to us today?
I believe Shakespeare is still relevant today because he deals with humanity and universal themes that we still easily relate to. This is evident in the numerous modern adaptations of Shakespeare today. Troilus And Cressida in particular deals with love and war and the question, ‘What is it that we are actually fighting for? Is all the bloodshed worth it?’ I believe this question still rings true today.

What character do you relate to the most from Troilus And Cressida and who is your secret crush out of all the characters?
I think I would say I relate to Ullyses as he seems to see the sense (or nonsense of war). My secret crush would be Hector I think, because he is such an infamous warrior. I also can’t help
thinking of Eric Bana’s ‘Hector’ because he was pretty fine!

What have you learnt most about yourself on this production, working with 18 other cast members?
I think working with such a big cast teaches you team work and helps you make fast friends. You really are part of an ensemble and it everyone plays their part in making the show great. I have
met some amazing people working on this production and I would love to work with each of them again. I also like to learn from watching other actors in rehearsals and on stage, and this cast has given me many talented people to look to.

If you could invent a superstition that, in 400 years would be religiously followed by actors, what would it be?
That you have to make an offering to the ‘theatre gods’ or playwright before opening night… a song and dance with the entire cast.

Alec Ebert

Alana Birtles: Hector! How do you see him and how do you connect with such an iconic and ancient hero/warrior?
I see Hector as a family man as well as a man of order and honour. I really think he sees war as a necessary evil, needing to be waged in order for life to continue. He doesn’t fight to be
the best warrior there ever was (though he is very good at it); he fights for his wife, his young son, his people and his family… having said all that, he is a proud man with a very healthy ego, so is prone to the fits that pride and ego bring out in even the best of us. I connected with Hector through reading mostly. The Iliad by Homer was my obvious source of most information – there’s some beautiful passages of Hector with his son, Scamandrius and his wife, Andromache. These family elements have helped me to understand Hector beyond an archetypal warrior-leader and is the secret to my forming a connection with him. In saying this, he is meant to be the only mortal warrior said to make Achilles himself afraid, so I needed to ground myself with some martial and physical work. I also took up sword fighting classes (shout out to Action Acting Academy – highly recommended) and an intense training programme to get pretty fit.

You have performed in numerous Shakespeare productions… what is it about Shakespeare that draws you in? Why does it need to be performed?
I asked you a pretty similar question! I think Shakespeare draws me in personally because I love the life in the characters, by which I mean their psychic complexity, mass of contradictions and bewildering actions! Also the stories rock – they are big but unmistakably real – themes of love, war, sex, passion, lust, race, racism, misogyny, pride, gender, revenge… the list goes on and on and on. These themes are current today, many are universal and a necessary condition for human beings and, while we might wish a lot of them weren’t, will be for a very long time to come. I think I’ve just answered why they need to be performed.

Who is your favourite Shakespeare character of all time that you would love to play and why?
I suspect in ten years’ time I’ll look back at this and have a different answer. It’s also grossly unfair: like asking me to pick my favourite puppy in a room full of puppies. I’m going to answer 3. Younger Alec loves Mercutio because he’s a force of nature, elemental and mercurial. Middle Alec loves Hamlet because, well, he is the ultimate human and I want to work with him before I’m too old. Finally old Alec loves Prospero, mostly because I love wizards, and when you combine Shakespeare’s words with a wizard, it’s like cheese goes with pizza. It’s amazing.

If you could play another character in Troilus and Cressida, who would it be and why?
I think Thersites. He’s probably the only honest character in the play and he’s a fascinating mix of narrator, comedian, cynic, wit and outsider that would be a blast to play. At least, Danen,
who plays him in this production, makes it look like a blast.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you during a show?
I was quite emotional in the last scene of a performance of The Two Gentlemen Of Verona, and I was standing right in front of the audience and blew a huge snot out of my nose. It was just obscene.

Alana Birtles and Alec Ebert can be seen in Troilus And Cressida by William Shakespeare.
Dates: 9 – 19 May, 2018
Venue: The Depot Theatre

Review: The Seagull (The Depot Theatre)

Venue: The Depot Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Dec 6 – 16, 2017
Playwright: Anton Chekhov (adapted by Anthony Skuse)
Director: Anthony Skuse
Cast: Jane Angharad, Paul Armstrong, Matthew Bartlett, Charmaine Bingwa, Alan Faulkner, Deborah Galanos, Tony Goh, Leilani Loau, Abe Mitchell, James Smithers, Shan-Ree Tan
Image by Bob Seary

Theatre review
The characters in Chekhov’s The Seagull seem to become increasingly obscure as the years pass. Our hectic lives are now the antithesis of Konstantin’s circle. Where Chekhov had lamented the futility of Russian lives that sat around talking too much and not doing any work, we are today, a century later, in an age where being busy is glorified, and rarely does anyone take the time to congregate and shoot the breeze. That is not to say that the truths of The Seagull are no longer valid, only that their resonance has inevitably faded.

It is a relief then, that director Anthony Skuse places emphasis on the comedy of the piece. Like the Real Housewives and the Kardashian family of reality television, the high-intensity dramatics of the wealthy are certainly fodder for laughs. Our reality involves so much time worrying about making money, but all these people seem to do, is worry about having nothing to do with their undepletable resources. Chekhov’s love for the representation of angst is however, not trivialised in the production. There are innumerable scenes of depression and anxiety, sensitively formed, often robust in their manifestation.

Skuse’s dramedy is highly enjoyable, with scintillating dialogue and playful, vibrant characters. Konstantin is performed by James Smithers, a genuinely forlorn presence, who introduces a sense of gravity that prevents the show from ever turning frivolously farcical. Deborah Galanos is outstanding as his narcissistic mother Arkadina, flamboyant with exquisite timing and an admirable capacity for nuance. Her sex scene with Abe Mitchell’s Trigorin is the unequivocal highlight, palpably revealing in more ways than one. Mitchell is himself a captivating actor, passionate and convincing. Equally memorable is Charmaine Bingwa whose emotions are as dark as they are fiery, for a viscerally despondent Masha.

Music is cleverly incorporated into many scenes, with Matthew Bartlett’s considerable talents showcased over a variety of instruments. Also noteworthy is Kyle Jonsson’s marvellous set design, providing an unmistakable aura of luxury and crumbling decadence, ably supported by the delicate lighting design of Liam O’Keefe.

The production is a dynamic one, but for all that we are able to see portrayed in its impressive range of emotions, there is a conspicuous lack of poignancy in The Seagull. We find ourselves in a strange situation, engaged but unmoved. Its personalities prove to be fascinating, but we struggle to connect with them. From another time and place, their concerns are not readily identifiable, perhaps irrelevant to the people we have become. Nevertheless, there is an undeniable beauty in the classic, that on this occasion, is splendidly revived. Relics are so called, because they survive, even as their lustre wanes.

www.secrethouse.com.au

5 Questions with Tony Goh and Shan-Ree Tan

Tony Goh

Shan-Ree Tan: So who’s Tony Goh, and how’d he come to be in a theatre in Marrickville with the rest of us?
Tony Goh: Tony is an Australian born Chinese. I was born in Brisbane, grew up in Marrickville, got married, lived in the US for 13 years, started a family – I have two young boys 15 and 13. I have returned to Marrickville through an odd journey and co-incidences. I am currently studying acting and was interested in doing a stage play. Over the past two decades, I dabbled in TV, commercials, and film – including two in the US. So, I have constantly re-inserted acting into my life, perhaps because I am always interested in the lives of others, how others live.

You play a character who’s a big fan of theatre in this play. What’re you a big fan of in real life in that way?
Definitely a fan of movies, but then again who isn’t? I was bitten by the acting bug really young, at age 16, when I went heard they were auditioning for the role of an Asian shopkeeper in a very shortlived TV series called “Arcade” shot in Cremorne shopping arcade. I couldn’t really turn my back away after that even though I never got the part. I’m also a fan of cooking and staying in shape.

We’ve got a pretty diverse cast for a Chekhov, I reckon. Do you feel particularly as an Asian face you’ve got more to prove as an actor? Or does it not really worry you? It worries me…
If I were to enter the entertainment business today, I would feel more pressure to prove myself. Sure there’s still pressure, it comes with the territory. But back in my day…god I sound old, there were fewer parts for Asians, mostly stereotyped roles. I think the Australians are now accustomed to seeing Asians as being well, just Aussies, so there’s little in the way of having to conform to some image. We can just be actors/characters/people. However, I also think there are more roles for Asians nowadays which means there’s a lot more opportunity to showcase the available talent. I think the pressure to prove as an Asian actor could stem from the fact that Asian culture is one of conformity. Conformity and creativity are at odds. It is those Asians or any migrant culture who best absorbs the available culture that will be able to grow and develop as both actors and members of society. I think the issue is one of broader acceptance. We’re lucky in Australia in some respects because we tend to focus on producing drama, which opens the way for dramatic roles, character based. Whereas when I cast my eyes to Hollywood, there tend to be more stereotyped Asian roles. The US is getting better sure with shows like “Fresh Off the boat” but those are few and far between as you’d be hard-pressed to see many Asian actors playing characters as opposed to caricatures.

You’re always a terrifically jovial presence in rehearsal. What have you enjoyed the most about director Anthony Skuse’s process?
I have enjoyed Anthony’s insight, creativity, and patience. He is a great communicator, as a result, you have a clear picture of what is expected of you and what he wants from the scene, the emotion. One of the questions he’s asked us, certainly me, is who is my character, and what do the people around the character mean to my character. Those are questions to shape my own thoughts and bring my own interpretation of the character, yet remain truthful. It is amazing what that has accomplished and the clarity it brings to the preparation process. I also enjoy the cast. We’re a mixed bunch and get along well. We know we have a job to do and we’re not assholes going about it.

What kind of role/project would you want to tackle next, if you had to make a total change from this gig?
A tough question. I won’t go into the personal side of my life, but let’s just say the last four years of my life have been a wild ride, an adventure if you will. I feel I am still trying to find my way in life. I would very much love to pursue further acting endeavours, perhaps as a regular on TV drama series – the typical lawyer, doctor, cop thriller comes to mind. I have long since given up on the dream of making a living in acting, so whatever morsel comes my way I am deeply grateful for.

Shan-Ree Tan

Tony Goh: What are you enjoying about working in this play?
Shan-Ree Tan: Ah, everything. Even the challenges of rehearsing on a co-op schedule and all the technical
curveballs that come with any show. Working with Anthony has been brilliant – I’ve really gotten a lot out of his literate, rigorous approach to text and his direction, which is somehow both entirely intuitive yet absolutely precise, and demanding while also being really supportive – and he’s got a great sense of humour. Really enjoying soaking up the learning from our experienced and generous castmates and crew too: serious about the work without taking themselves seriously at all. Definitely feeling like I have to jog very very briskly to keep up, but same, I’m grateful for the chance I’ve got even to share a stage with these folks.

What do you see as the future of acting in a multi-cultural Australia?
Big question! I’m not equipped at all to make any informed predictions – but like you, I’d like to see the performing arts here get to a point similar to where the UK industry seems largely to have gotten to, where it’s largely unremarkable to see culturally diverse actors in almost any production. “Unremarkable” is probably the wrong word. What I mean is that I hope that we can work to make two things happen: one is that we get to an overall much, much better place with “any ethnicity” or colourblind casting where that’s appropriate, and the other is that the appetite for the kinds of Australian stories where an actor’s cultural or ethnic background is an active asset, and can be appropriately provocative, continues to increase. The challenges will be quite radically different for actors from different cultural backgrounds – Indigenous representation or Middle Eastern representation are good examples – so the solutions to perennial hurdles like stereotyping and tokenism will be different.

We’ve seen a quite a few trailblazing Asian arts and media personalities take stage here in recent years and it’s going to be really interesting to see that develop. I’m particularly interested in what’s going to happen in the conversation between media/arts representation reflective of folks like us who grew up in Sydney and are more Aussie than anything else – out in the Hills in my case and in Marrickville in yours – against the popular culture of the beachhead communities of the “new Asia” who are paying attention to a whole other vast entertainment industry. The cultural gulf there alone can be huge, I’m keen to see how it plays out. As far as our production goes: people may wonder why this particular diverse cast was chosen to portray a bunch of ostensible 19th century Russians, particularly with our wildly differing regionalisms, but I like that it adds a new musical range and quite a powerful meta element to it. The play is literally about trying to reinvent theatre in a social context, so I reckon it rewards the approach that Anthony’s taken.

What movie/theatre stars do you admire and why?
Too many, for too many different reasons. A few completely random names from things I’ve seen this year:
Blazey Best. Not reasonable for someone to be able to be that funny and musical while literally standing on her head in the Wharf Review this year. Rob Brydon/Steve Coogan/Michael Winterbottom, the collective team. The Trip was life-changing. Takeshi Kitano. Big fan of his consistent ability to find the darkest, driest laugh possible at everyone’s expense and that he keeps finding new ways to provoke. Kate Mulvany. That lady knows how to Shakespeare. Gary Oldman. He seems to know precisely where to set the dial for whatever movie he’s in. Taika Waititi. What a mad Kiwi wizard. Thanks to my girlfriend for forcing me to sit down to watch What We Do In The Shadows for the first time earlier this year. We’re also at a moment where creatives are using whatever recognition they have to take a stand and speak out on the critical social and political issues that are roiling us right now, even at massive professional and personal cost to themselves. That’s hugely admirable.

What do you think happened (to the characters) after this play?
Is it still possible to spoil the ending of a 120 year old classic? Chekhov’s got a very particular definition of “comedy” – things are just not going to work out well for most of them are they…? Your character, Shamraev, probably makes off all right – I like to think he basically gets left with the estate to do with as he likes. Your wife Polina might have convinced the good doctor Dorn to run off with her before then though. Masha: cirrhosis. Medvedenko: pneumonia, from all that walking through Russian snow.

What don’t your friends know about you, that only your closest, or longest time friends do?
All my vocal impressions of people are now actually just take offs of Rob Brydon doing far superior impressions of those people. To be fair, people work that out pretty fast.

Tony Goh and Shan-Ree Tan can be seen in The Seagull by Anton Chekhov.
Dates: 6 – 16 Dec, 2017
Venue: The Depot Theatre

5 Questions with Laura Djanegara and Danen Young

Laura Djanegara

Danen Young: This production has a cast of 17, how have you found working with such a large group of
actors?

Laura Djanegara: Everyone involved in this production is really fun and easy to work with. Although on
stage, I only really work with a few actors in terms of engaging with them in performance. The few
moments where we’ve had all cast involved, the only thing I needed to work on was being 100% sure where
I needed to be and where I was going to avoid running into people. It took a little while to get to know the performers on this production due to the size of the cast but entering tech week we are all bonding more as an ensemble.

Many scholars regard The Winter’s Tale as one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays”. What have been some of the biggest challenges so far in bringing this story to life?
With quite a lot of Shakespeare productions, and indeed with this one, there are a few cuts to the script to ensure a good running time of the performance. One of the tricky things this leads to is getting the full character arc because you lose moments or dialogue that may have assisted. I think this play has managed to work around that. It means having a really clear understanding of turning points in the script is essential. Knowing what you are doing and why and where you change your mind etc. This should be the case with any show but especially with Shakespeare or heightened language. Understanding the thought process of your character and getting the speed of thought is important.

Your character is Camillo, traditionally a male character. What would you say to those who argue
against the changing of a character’s gender?

In 2017 and among theatre practitioners I can’t really imagine anyone arguing against gender fluidity in
performance. Especially in a Shakespeare, whose performance history is littered with gender changing,
having initially had all characters played by men. If I were to encounter anyone who would oppose I would
be happy to discuss it. I would ask ‘Did you lose the meaning of the play through having that character
portrayed by someone of an opposite gender?’. If anyone still argued against it I would encourage them to
have a more open mind.

Shakespeare’s works are 400 years old. Why do you think he is still so oft performed, and why do
people place such a high value on the importance of his work?

Shakespeare’s writing is just beautiful. 400 years on, he still manages to write in a way that is
accessible even though the circumstances might be so far removed from what we now experience. I think he
is performed because there is still so much we can learn from his writing. It is also crucial to understand, appreciate and respect the history. Shakespeare, for me and I’m sure many others, stands out because of his masterful use of the English language.

What’s your go to easy snack for rehearsals?
I am not much of a snacker to be honest. I’d probably have to say coffee if I had to pick. Can’t function
without my good friend caffeine.

Danen Young

Laura Djanegara: Can you explain the basic plot of The Winter’s Tale without using the letter e (except when in a characters name i.e perdita)
Danen Young: Good pals King Leontes and King Polixenes bond in Sicilia. 9 months pass. A baby is within
virtuous Hermione, Leontes’ Lady. Leontes flips out, angry, and says the baby is Polixenes’. Suspicious of an affair, Leontes throws out the child, and puts Hermione in jail. Leontes grows in confusion and hurt, and bad stuff occurs. 192 months pass. Perdita (Leontes’ banish’d baby) is now grown, living a lowly life with Shepherd and his son Clown in Polixenes’ Kingdom. Perdita wants to marry Florizel, Polixene’s son. A party is had, drinks had, goods sold, songs sung and young luv burns bright. But! Polixenes is not privy to this fact that Perdita is actually King Leontes’ banish’d baby, and so forbids said marrying. Polixenes flips out, and things start falling into… You must go to show to know what flows on from this.

Your character is a troubadour of sorts with a slight case of kleptomania. How do you relate?
Well I love songs for their story telling capabilities. Music and poetry are wonderful vehicles for ideas
and expression, and even more fun when the character is cheeky. As for the kleptomania, mainly I steal
things accidentally. Usually lighters.

Why do you think it is important for audiences to see this play? What universal themes still ring true?
I feel like The Winter’s Tale is not as well known as some of his other plays. It’s an eclectic mix of action, thriller, drama and comedy, with a bunch of very fun and interesting characters. In a way its a sort of coming-of-age story, with Time passing o’er 16 years, and we get to see the long term effect of making heavy decisions on a whim based off an emotional impulse.

This is your second production with Secret House, what are your favourite things about working with this production company?
Secret House are incredible. I only came in late to Cymbeline last year with these guys, but it was clear from the moment I stepped in to the rehearsal room that they were focused on putting on the very best show they could. Jane and James really love bringing theatre to the people in Sydney, and that’s infectious. Also, their sets are incredible!

In Shakespeare’s times all female roles were played by men, if you could play any female character from any of his plays who would you pick and why?
Female role. That’s tough. There are so many strong female roles. I would have say a tie between
Helena or Hermia from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’m a huge fan of the Lovers’ scenes from that play, and the girls always stand out for me with their passion and fire, but also how they love and get hurt. For me they would just be a joy to play.

Laura Djanegara and Danen Young can be seen in The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare.
Dates: 27 Sep – 7 Oct, 2017
Venue: The Depot Theatre

Review: The Winter’s Tale (The Depot Theatre)

Venue: The Depot Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Sep 27 – Oct 7, 2017
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Director: Sean O’Riordan
Cast: Jane Angharad, Alison Benstead, Alana Birtles, Russell Cronin, Laura Djanegara, Alec Ebert, Neil Sun Hyland, Derbail Kinsella, Dave Kirkham, Grace Naoum, Roger Smith, James Smithers, Romney Stanton, Charles Upton, Richard Woodhouse, Emma Wright, Danen Young
Image by Liam O’Keefe

Theatre review
No one can really claim to know Shakespeare’s personal politics, and the further along we progress, the harder it is to investigate with any objectivity, how he would have thought about the way societies should be managed. In The Winter’s Tale however, there is no doubt that modern standards can only judge him deeply misogynist.

Leontes is a king who decides on his own whim, that his pregnant wife is being unfaithful, then proceeds subsequently, to cause the death of both mother and their newborn daughter. Later in the piece, we witness the king becoming consumed by guilt, until the end, where he is unjustly rewarded with their resurrection, in the play’s quite absurd happy ending. Like Leontes, Shakespeare inflicts beastly harm on the two women, in order that his own purposes of creating presumably sensational drama may be served, then summons them back for a tidy and convenient conclusion.

Domestic violence is hugely topical, but The Winter’s Tale is clearly not the right story for our times. There is no need in any contemporary existence, to see an abuser get away with murder, and subsequently be absolved of all his sins.

Nonetheless, the production is an earnestly assembled tribute to the literary great. Isabel Hudson’s meticulous work on set design is laudable, and Liam O’Keefe’s dynamic lights are a crucial element in the many tonal transformations between scenes. Director Sean O’Riordan works closely with his young actors to create opportunities for their talent, where they exist, to be displayed, or at least to demonstrate a sense of exuberance where a natural flair for the stage may be absent. There are issues with blocking, if solved, that could improve the efficacy of what the cast attempts to provide.

Leontes is played by Charles Upton, who although lacks the appropriate level of maturity, is a sturdy and persuasive presence, providing a centrifugal vitality that the play’s narratives rely on to develop. Laura Djanegara is memorable as Camillo, with a confidently naturalist approach that feels authentic and refreshing. Also noteworthy is Russell Cronin who offers excellent timing as the Clown, energetic and adorable, with an unmistakable intuition for performance.

It is appalling that one Australian woman is killed every week by her partner (as reported by the Australian Institute of Criminology), yet our national consciousness continues to struggle with the severity of that fact. We spend inordinate effort on debating things like border protection, while all the real atrocities are happening inside our homes. The inability to see the evil within, is unquestionably harmful. We have to be vigilant with that which is too often taken for granted, including those we consider heroes of our artistic experience.

www.secrethouse.com.au