5 Questions with Yannick Lawry and Nicholas Papademetriou

Yannick Lawry

Nicholas Papademetriou: How confident would C S be today in a theological debate?
Yannick Lawry: I reckon Jack (apparently he hated the name Clive and used the name Jack all his life!) would have a decent answer for most theological questions. Even in our age of ‘hyper enlightenment’. The thing I’m less sure about is how he’d cope with debating in an age where it’s so easy to offend and apologies are rarely accepted..

If Lewis could date any modern celebrity of today who would it be and why?
In the context of Freud’s Last Session, Freud suggests Lewis was attracted to older, virtuous women after losing his mother at a young age. His wife, Joy Davidman, was an American poet and – like Lewis – converted to Christianity later in life. So a mature, devout, artistically minded woman from the other side of the Pacific. Unlikely to be anyone we know from the pages of OK! magazine!

What are you enjoying most as an actor about working on this production?
Our rehearsal process is somewhat intense. I’ve never had to work so hard to make using archaic props like pocket watches, gas masks and transistor radios look quite so natural, and I’m loving watching Nico as a master of character acting bring life and depth to Freud.

If Lewis actually met God what’s the first thing you think he would he ask him?
“Why this great test of life on earth before the great reward of heaven?”

Are you finding the play is making you question any of your own beliefs or theories?
Yes. Outing myself as a believer here, Freud’s arguments about theologians hiding behind their ignorance and creating a God-of-the-gaps where their explanations run dry still rings true in 2018, and has been one of my biggest difficulties with faith. Though I’ve equally enjoyed learning and absorbing Lewis’s many rational arguments for faith in the God of the Bible. Between Freud and Lewis on stage, I still don’t know who wins the argument in the show. Maybe we should give our audiences a scorecard each night!

Nicholas Papademetriou

Yannick Lawry: You’re playing Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalyis. To what extend does Freud’s Last Session portray him as the definition of sanity?
Nicholas Papademetriou: I think in today’s world he’ll come across as an eccentric but intelligent cuckoo. Although perhaps he was perceived as that in his day as well. He’s a combination of nerd, grumpy old man and nutty German psychoanalyst so he may not seem entirely sane, but he’s slightly insane in a good way.

What’s the most controversial thing Freud says or does in the show?
I suppose the most controversial thing he says is his comment about people’s sexuality – for the time, he was quite sensational. His open acceptance would have made him an absolute darling of the LGBTI community.

What’s the most controversial thing you’ve said or done personally (that you’re comfortable sharing with me)?
I have done and said so many controversial things in my life, the list would be far too long to list here (including being a stand-in for a hooker one night). But is that controversial or sensational? Or just plain stupid?

Theatre is a dying art, apparently. What do you reckon is ‘in’ theatre, both for audiences and artists?
I think theatre that is unpretentious, entertaining and easy to connect with is what really makes it for me. If symbolism, plot, message or themes need to be explained to me, then that is what would make theatre a dying art for me. Freud’s Last Session is definitely in!

Fart jokes, or highbrow humour?
I like my fart jokes to be highbrow. And my highbrow to be like dainty farts.

Yannick Lawry and Nicholas Papademetriou can be seen in Freud’s Last Session by Mark St. Germain.
Dates: 29 October – 10 November, 2018
Venue: Seymour Centre

Review: Ear To The Edge Of Time (Sport For Jove Theatre)

Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Oct 11 – 27, 2018
Playwright: Alana Valentine
Director: Nadia Tass
Cast: Belinda Giblin, Gabrielle Scawthorn, Christopher Stollery, Tim Walter
Images by Kate Williams

Theatre review
Martina is a young astrophysicist, poised on the brink of greatness. When she meets Daniel, a poet assigned to observe and write about her experiences at the culmination of her PhD work, a fissure transpires, revealing the entrenched gender inequity that works against Martina and other women in the field of science. Structural sexism is not an easy phenomenon to dissect, but in Alana Valentine’s Ear To The Edge Of Time, we are presented persuasive evidence of how power is wielded to the exclusion of women, especially at the highest ranks of our authoritative organisations. It is perhaps inevitable that substantial portions of the play would feel alienating for those dulled by science, or for those suffering from political apathy, but there is no denying Valentine’s embracive diligence in her crafting of this purposeful work.

It is a simple staging, directed by Nadia Tass, who puts immense faith in her actors to deliver all. Gabrielle Scawthorn is astonishing with several big passages of science speak, that she launches into with tremendous aplomb. Some depictions of emotional turmoil can seem slightly exaggerated, but she provides admirable clarity in her depiction of Martina’s oscillating mental states, to unveil the intricately shifting strategies required of women in managing our careers. Daniel is played by Tim Walter, impressively precise, and a passionate, dependable presence adept at sustaining energy levels. Supporting roles are manifested with rich vibrancy, by Belinda Giblin and Christopher Stollery, who introduce unexpected complexity to their parts, both engrossing and delightfully entertaining.

Women navigate their careers in different ways, but by virtue of simply being women, we have additional hurdles put before us, all along our trajectory towards the glass ceiling. Ear To The Edge Of Time is by no means unique in its messaging. These issues have in recent times, been discussed repeatedly and quite obsessively. It is undeniable that the problem has now become visible, but the solutions that it asks for, remain elusive, at least in our art. There can only be two ways that this groundhog day will conclude; either our concerted efforts will help us make headway and we progress onto a new consciousness, or feminism will once again fall out of favour. We need only to look at legacies of the three previous waves for answers, and be able to find assurance that change is indeed afoot.

www.sportforjove.com.au

Review: Inner West Side (Seymour Centre)

Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Sep 18 – 22, 2018
Book: Jake Bayssari
Music: Tom Cardy
Lyrics: Jake Bayssari, Tom Cardy, Lucille MacKellar
Director: Jake Bayssari
Cast: Amy Bennett, Georgia Britt, April-Rose Desalegn, Elouise Eftos, Lincoln Elliott, Britt Ferry, Alexandra Gonzalez, Freddy Johnston, Roy Joseph, Grant Loxton, Rhianna McCourt, Laura McDonald, Lily O’Harte, Gautier Pavlovic-Hobba, Ruby Teys
Image by Christopher Dinh

Theatre review
Andrea is leaving the parochial suburbia of affluent northern Sydney, to find a more grounded, but glamorous, existence in the city’s inner west. She sets out to denounce the shallow values of her birthplace, determined to create for herself something new and meaningful, only to duplicate old ills at a new locale. Inner West Side is a new musical, centred around the community of Newtown, where the dissonance of things earnest and ironic can coincide, and where million dollar apartments are dressed up to look shabby and resolutely anti-establishment. Featuring observational humour at its most scintillating, the show is as vibrant as it is incisive, enormously entertaining from the very start.

Directed by Jake Bayssari, whose rigour and talent shines through in every scene, the production offers an ingenious representation of our young, with all their contradictory concerns forming the basis of a most amusing work. Tom Cardy’s music is refreshingly varied in style, performed with admirable enthusiasm by a five piece band, although sound engineering does leave a lot to be desired. Antony Robinson’s set design is a simple solution that sets the tone with accuracy and efficiency, and costumes by Adrienne Dell deliver playful interpretations of archetypes that help us identify so distinctly the milieu being examined.

A wonderfully cohesive cast of energetic performers take to the stage, for an unforgettable venture into the formidable task of creating an original musical. Leading lady Laura McDonald is a spirited presence, splendidly funny and tremendously likeable as Andrea, the Collaroy rich bitch in exile. Elouise Eftos leaves a remarkable impression as sultry Monica, vampy queen of the hive, powerful in her depiction of a privileged woman believing herself to be a born ruler. Chameleon entertainer Ruby Teys is delightful in a myriad guises, displaying extraordinary skill, in each of her hilarious and scene-stealing incarnations.

Those of us who get to choose where we live, must count ourselves exceptionally lucky. The world is often an ugly place, but when one comes across a tiny pocket that seems perfect in every way, it is the greatest of fortunes to be able to call it home. Whether an address is ideal, however, depends so much on how we are, on the inside. Newtown and its surrounds, are not for everyone, but for those who love it, the inner west is a beacon of beauty, peace and joy. Its characteristics are distinct, but the nourishment it provides, it must be noted, is by no means unique. The best town in Australia, is in fact, everywhere.

www.facebook.com/innerwestside | www.ultracult.com.au

Review: Moby Dick (Sport For Jove Theatre)

Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Aug 9 – 25, 2018
Playwright: Orson Welles (based on the novel by Herman Melville)
Director: Adam Cook
Cast: Danny Adcock, Rachel Alexander, Mark Barry, Badaidilaga Maftuh-Flynn, Jonathan Mill, Wendy Mocke, Thomas Royce-Hampton, Francesca Savige, Vaishnavi Suryaprakash, Bryden White-Tuohey
Images by Marnya Rothe

Theatre review
Ahab’s war on nature in Moby Dick seems altogether too familiar yet tragic. The eternal discord between humankind and our environment, is the site on which we can examine the disquiet of who we are as a species, especially in relation to our curious inability to be at one, and in peace, with nature. We are determined to extricate ourselves, always asserting a superiority that can never be. Orson Welles’ adaptation of Herman Melville’s classic, is abstract, often impenetrably so, but its concerns about our adversarial relationship with nature lay appropriately at its centre.

It is essentially a fight with the self that Ahab has to go through, and our vantage point allows his story to function as a sort of introspective interrogation, in order that we may recognise that futile struggle that we too, resolutely participate in. Director Adam Cook’s show is a vibrant cornucopia of activity that brings to energetic life, the whaling obsession that Ahab and his crew of sailors embark on. Their dialogue may confuse, but the production is a rich tapestry from which our creative minds can detect symbols, decipher language and find meanings.

A very accomplished merger of design talents help sustain a sense of magical fascination. Set and costumes by Mark Thompson are handsome, evocative and grand. Lights are industriously assembled by Gavan Swift, who manufactures a surprising beauty for the story. Sound designer Ryan Patrick Devlin keeps things lively with exciting music, much of which is thrillingly performed on stage by percussionist and actor Tom Royce-Hampton.

Danny Adcock leads the cast, suitably rhapsodic as Ahab, with an impressive presence that proves to be highly persuasive, in this mad man’s tale. Rachel Alexander is compelling as Pip, particularly memorable in a powerful scene with Ahab discussing things political and esoteric, then proclaiming with theatrical histrionics, “death to whiteness”. The role of Queequeg is beautifully portrayed by Wendy Mocke, who introduces valuable glimpses of emotional authenticity to a slightly too distant universe.

We send rockets out into the ether looking for life, trying to find points of connection with all that we deem to be alien. Back on earth, we go to great pains to alienate ourselves, in a never-ending project of division and of segregation. We have convinced ourselves that we are inexorably distinct from flora and fauna, and further, have formed an interminable habit of creating power structures and hierarchies within all our human societies. The albino whale swims in peace; its violence is only ever a result of provocation.

www.sportforjove.com.au

Review: Which Way Home (Ilbijerri Theatre Company)

Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Jul 4 – Aug 4, 2018
Playwright: Katie Beckett
Director: Rachael Maza
Cast: Katie Beckett, Kamahi Djordon King
Images by Snehargho Ghosh

Theatre review
Tash and her father are on a road trip to Lightning Ridge. Even though Tash is the one behind the wheel, she is jittery and hesitant, while her father is at peace, completely trusting that they are going to reach their destination with no troubles at all. Katie Beckett’s Which Way Home is a tender work about the father-daughter relationship, and a look at the ageing process. Young and old are placed in contrast with one another, for an appreciation of the way we mature, and for the value that elders embody in our communities. At its best, the play contains profound observations about family that are rarely articulated in our art, but a tendency to mollify the harder questions about kinship, results in a reduction of poignancy with what is being delivered.

Directed by Rachael Maza, the show feels warm and buoyant, and whether or not we are able to identify with its characters, an effortless charm from both actors keeps us engaged in their journey. Beckett takes on the role of Tash, proving herself a detailed performer adept at telling stories with remarkable clarity. Kamahi Djordon King is an affable presence, with an inviting sense of humour that wins us over. A more naturalistic approach to acting would provide a more authentic experience, but the pair brings a beautiful energy to the piece that many will find reassuring.

Life’s lessons require time. Words of wisdom can be spoken but they are not always heard. It is perhaps our greatest weakness, that the young are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past, but nature will have its way and insist that we let it take its course. Tash learns all she can from her father, but she can only take things at her own pace. We all have a duty to leave this a better place than how we had found it, and the older we get, the more salient that notion becomes. The children must be taught the best we know how, and we can all but hope that things do keep getting better.

www.ilbijerri.com.au

5 Questions with Katie Beckett and Kamahi Djordon King

Katie Beckett

Kamahi Djordon King: How do you feel about playing back on home turf at the Seymour centre with a different actor in the role of Dad?
Katie Beckett: I am so excited to be playing back in Sydney. I love Sydney. The west and the inner west are my hoods. I was born out in Western Sydney, went to primary school there in north St Mary’s. Moved to QLD, then moved back. And as an adult lived around the inner west, Redfern, Newtown, Enmore, Glebe and now Lilyfield. So Sydney holds a special place in my heart. The last time I did the show in Sydney it was part of the Sydney Festival at Belvoir and we smashed it out of the park. Sold out with an extra week. 

I love working with Kamahi as Dad. My dad even loves Kamahi as playing him. Kamahi brought a breath of fresh air to the character, love and comedy to the role. Professional and easy going to work with. It’s been a dream having him.

Has the end result of the work surpassed your expectations on how the work is received by audiences?
Yes!! I’m surprised for me it was just a little family yarn. A way of healing and coping with dad’s fifth heart attack. So I write with heart. And it’s beautiful seeing the audience take it.

Question to the writer. What are three things you would change about your character and why?
Considering it’s my first play and I now have a bit more experience of writing I would change my character to be softer in moments. And make her grow up a bit more. I find her annoying and childish at times. But I also did that to get the comedic elements to work with the dad.

What did you see yourself doing at this age twenty years ago?
I saw myself working in the camera department in film and tv industry. I dreamed of being a cinematographer. But here I am an actor and writer for theatre, film and tv.

What has the impact been on you as an actor with a new person stepping into the dad role? 
The impact has been fantastic and I found things I discovered before in my character. I have a different connection with Kamahi so it’s easier to do.

Kamahi Djordon King

Katie Beckett: Were you worried about coming into a role that has already been played by another actor?
Kamahi Djordon King: I was a little at the start until I figured you and Rachael were not expecting me to be exactly the same as the other actor. 

What made you say yes to taking on this role?
It was going to be my first tour with an Ilbijerri produced play and I though it would be nice to work on a tour again.  Especially a long tour like this.  Plus it was an affirmation that I was getting older and playing someone’s dad is the best thing for that, as an actor challenge-wise I mean. 

I’m impressed with you learning the script in 2 weeks. Can you share your secret to learning and developing your character in a short time?
Yes, the honesty and truth of the character comes from the physicality of the actions.  The memories are created by rehearsing the script up on the floor.  It is almost like muscle memory with dancers.  After a while the lines sink in together with the actions of the character and a memory is created so that when you are doing the play, the memories become your inner monologue and you deliver your lines with their actions creating honesty or truth.  I learned this from The Actors Workshop in Brisbane with Lynn Kidd.

I hear you are close to Constantina Bush. Any chance she will pop up along the tour? Has she said anything about the show?
Yes, we are close although very much in competition with each other all the time.  I think she said she is popping in to do shows in Mildura and Canberra. She reckons she will try to catch the show at one of those places although I wouldn’t count on it.  She has never once seen one of my shows.  Nor I hers for that matter… 

You are a true artist… writer, actor, singer, dancer, painter, female impersonation. And do it all incredibly well. And always in demand. How do you manage to balance all your artistic ventures?
The balance seems to happen naturally, very rarely do I double book, although it has happened. The art is something that keeps me busy when either of us has no work.  The visual art side of things is something that I have been doing for a long time and it does sell which keeps me in money when the performance side is quiet.  I come from a family of artists so that is natural. The performance is something that i have had to learn and perfect though and I only get better with everything that I do and take on such as this play.  It will be great for when I have to play someone’s dad again, haha.

Katie Beckett and Kamahi Djordon King can be seen in Which Way Home , by Katie Beckett.
Dates: 24 Jul – 4 Aug, 2018
Venue: Seymour Centre

Review: The Rolling Stone (Outhouse Theatre)

Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Jul 5 – 21, 2018
Playwright: Chris Urch
Director: Adam Cook
Cast: Henrietta Amevor, Nancy Denis, Zufi Emerson, Damon Manns, Mandela Mathia, Elijah Williams
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
Dembe is an 18 year-old gay man living in Uganda. His family thinks of themselves as being exemplary Christians, but for many in their culture, the killing of homosexuals is not only a permissible deed, it is often exhorted to be a godly act. When Dembe falls in love, the personal and the social can no longer be reconciled. The persecutions illustrated in Chris Urch’s The Rolling Stone, are extremely cruel, but we know them to be factual. Urch pulls no punches in his storytelling; the passions are wild, whether evil or virtuous, and we are not spared the worst of human nature, even as we delve into the purest of our emotions.

Much of the play is horrifying and depressing, but an overt theatricality in the production’s tone chooses our minds over hearts, in how it wishes to keep us engaged. Adam Cook’s direction requires of us, a cerebral approach in our appreciation of his show, so that we may come to a greater understanding, of the colossal stakes at play, and of the mechanisms that drive the barbarism being depicted. The Rolling Stone steers clear of ever turning itself into torture porn, ensuring that Dembe’s conflicts and suffering are used, not for masochistic indulgence, but for a greater sociopolitical purpose.

Elijah Williams is a powerhouse leading man, completely captivating with a larger than life presence, and disarming with the extraordinary degree of vulnerability he is able to convey. Dembe’s love interest Sam, of Northern Irish and Ugandan descent, is played by Damon Manns, deeply impressive with the nuance he puts into the portrayal, of a man unable to escape the oppression he has to endure for his sexuality, in both Europe and Africa. The actor delivers remarkable dynamism and complexity, for a role that he makes wonderfully convincing.

Also very endearing is Henrietta Amevor as Naome, the young woman who has lost her voice to trauma. Amevor’s performance speaks louder than words, perfectly calibrated to tell us all we need to know of her secret story. Zufi Emerson proves herself very likeable, pairing an effortless warmth with technical precision, for a surprisingly memorable turn as Dembe’s sister Wummie. Nancy Denis and Mandela Mathia are splendid in more dramatic scenes, both bringing chilling power to the formidable malice they represent in this painful tale.

There are noteworthy technical elements in the production, including Isabel Hudson’s sophisticated take on scenic design that adopts traditional style wings to complement the show’s classic acting traits. Lights by Sian James-Holland give the stage an astonishing beauty, even when the action turns daunting. Ryan Devlin and Nate Edmondson keep music and sound design understated, but there is no denying the efficacy, and elegance, of what they accomplish.

The Rolling Stone is an important story for people of colour everywhere. LGBT activism has achieved exceptional advancements in many white communities, but whether in developing or industrialised nations, there is no question that gay liberation has thus far failed many queer people of colour. The abuse and murder of gay and trans people that occur every day, no longer make the Australian news. With the passage of marriage equality, we have convinced ourselves that the work is complete. Even if we do not wish to spare a thought for atrocities overseas, what happens in the neglected enclaves of black and brown Australia must not be ignored.

www.outhousetheatre.org