Review: Tiny Remarkable Bramble (Kings Cross Theatre)

impendingroomVenue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Nov 6 – 25, 2016
Playwright: Jessica Tuckwell
Director: Cathy Hunt
Cast: Thomas Campbell, Lucy Suze Taylor, Catherine Terracini, Contessa Treffone, Geraldine Viswanathan, Michael Whalley
Image by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
Joy is the emotion that manifests as protagonist in the 2015 Pixar film Inside Out, which explores emotions as separate entities in a human child. Jessica Tuckwell’s Tiny Remarkable Bramble can be seen to be similar in approach, with the quality of melancholy instead taking centre stage. The play is cryptic, and surreal in style, allowing the viewer a certain amount of freedom for the creation of meanings that could lead to personal interpretations that resonate with power, or could simply be an absurdist comedy that proves itself inconsequential, depending on the viewer’s tastes.

Smart, snappy dialogue is inventively formulated for the creation of six very quirky characters. There is considerable profundity in Tuckwell’s writing, in spite of a less than gripping plot line that leads us to a predictable end. Cathy Hunt’s direction of the piece is vibrant, playful and energetic in its thorough excavation of erudite gems, submerged in the densely fertile text. The show is fun-filled, featuring a group of actors that seem to be in a state of complete merriment, thrilled to be delivering ripples of laughter in a series of brilliantly humorous sequences.

Central figure Alice is played by Geraldine Viswanathan, appropriately apathetic for a sarcastic depiction of dispassionate and hopeless lethargy. Thomas Campbell steals the show as the belligerent Brigadier, fantastic in all his flamboyant flourishes, with a deeply charming presence that has us mesmerised and wanting more. Equally endearing is the memorable Contessa Treffone, desperately adorable as Pipkin, fragile and literally bubble-wrapped, representing a part of ourselves that can be too delicate and overprotected. The cast’s excellent chemistry and confident timing are the production’s strongest features, responsible for a night of theatre simultaneously challenging and entertaining.

Much of life involves wrestling with negativity. Personal insecurities, fear and despondency are constant threats that prevent the development of each of our own potentials. Many of us find it difficult to participate in society because pessimism is crippling, and always just a membrane away from stifling our creative energies. In privileged societies, we have everything that we could possibly need, but our materialism forms the basis of many constraints that we so frequently encounter. We think we have so much to lose, until we remember the transience of being, and start to appreciate the possibilities that can only come before death.

Review: The Angelica Complex (Kings Cross Theatre)

siren1Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Nov 5 – 27, 2016
Playwright: Sunny Grace
Director: Priscilla Jackman
Cast: Naomi Livingstone, Lucia May, Kym Vercoe
Image by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review
Angelica is under tremendous pressure, having recently given birth to her first baby. The responsibilities of caring for a newborn, and the accompanying social expectations of being a perfect mother, are more than she can bear. Sunny Grace’s The Angelica Complex is about a woman’s painful struggle to cope with the idea of perfection, derived from the prevalence of social media and unrealistic parenting advice. We witness Angelica trying hard to get things under control, but she thinks herself a failure, putting blame on herself, her baby, and society. The entire play has her working through a process of internalised guilt and anger, while ignoring the fact that her husband is almost completely omitted from the narrative.

Angelica blames herself for believing in the myth that “women can have it all” but strangely, and frustratingly, forgets to take the baby’s father to task. While he is out doing whatever that is more important than taking care of his family, absolving himself of paternal duties, Angelica absorbs everything at home, drowning under self-hate and paranoia. She spends her time resenting the yummy mummies on Instagram who make things look a breeze, but accepts her spouse’s abandonment.

Angelica is played by Kym Vercoe, an actor full of energy, magnetism and acuity. Under Priscilla Jackman’s direction, Vercoe delivers an astonishing performance rich with insight and emotion, giving us the opportunity to understand and to feel, what it is like to be in those circumstances. The show’s rhythms shift dynamically and beautifully through the duration, even though the character’s state of mind remains fairly static. Sophisticated video projections by Velinda Wardell are introduced judiciously to add texture, and to inspire our imaginations. It is an involving production that speaks carefully and clearly to its audience, although its arguments are not always poignant.

Angelica does not tell us why she had wanted to have a baby in the first place. It is of course, much too late for her to change her mind, now that she discovers that the truth of parenthood is too overwhelming to cope on her own. The Angelica Complex asks several questions but one of its most potent, is the often unexplained desire to bring new life to the universe. The root of Angelica’s problems may well be the misogynistic manner in which women are told how they should look and act, but the play’s inability to address a rational person’s need to give birth is symptomatic of how our society can take the issue too lightly. Whenever the answer is “just because” or “it’s always been this way”, an opportunity for radical investigation emerges.

Review: Misterman (Siren Theatre Co / Red Line Productions)

sirenVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jun 9 – 27, 2015
Playwright: Enda Walsh
Director: Kate Gaul
Cast: Thomas Campbell
Image by Diana Popovska

Theatre review
Enda Walsh’s Misterman addresses the very contemporary concern of fundamentalist religiosity and its place within secular societies. The tension between the private and the public seems to be approaching its breaking point with our obsessive attention on terrorist activity around the globe. The principle of individuals keeping religious beliefs to themselves has always been precarious, and now we see every day, the violent trespass of those beliefs upon the lives of others. Thomas lives in a small Irish town, and like Travis in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, he becomes increasingly frustrated by the sins he perceives to be thriving around him. Further parallels can be drawn with other “outsiders” like Norman Bates and Carrie, and accordingly, Misterman appeals to our sentimental feelings for the underdog, as well as that undeniable dread arising from seeing the oppressed struggling at the end of their tether.

Beautifully imagined and directed by Kate Gaul, the intimacy of the venue is utilised to enhance the confrontational quality of the text. Her show is a bold one, with an abundance of creative devices invented to provide intrigue, interest and dimension to the monologue format. Subtleties of Walsh’s writing can sometimes be drowned out, but the intensity of what is being presented proves to be arresting, and we engage with the work thoroughly for its entirety. The holistic incorporation of design faculties demonstrates a sophistication that reflects a deep understanding of the nature and capacities of theatre. Set by Gaul, lights by Harley T A Kemp, music and sound by Nate Edmondson contribute much more than atmosphere. The way we understand the protagonist’s environment and his psychology happens through the accomplishments of this formidable design crew, and their exhaustive exploration of space and fantasy.

Thomas Campbell gives the performance of a lifetime in Misterman. His affinity with the material at hand, and the vast amount of depth he has discovered in the text and within himself, have conjured up a tremendous character, rich with life and poignancy. Campbell pushes hard and what he attains is glorious. The focus, energy, sensitivity and intuition he displays, is a rare gift to audiences that we must accept with a gratitude as sincere as what he puts on stage.

The play is about the way we break, and because we are all, to some extent, broken people, the work is accessible in spite of Thomas’ oddness and idiosyncrasies. The isolation and cruelty he experiences is exceptional but also familiar, and through his story, we can perhaps learn about understanding and compassion, which are necessary but often lacking. We don’t need much to survive, but the basic things don’t come easy. |

Review: The Violent Outburst That Drew Me To You (Siren Theatre Co / Griffin Theatre Company)

griffinVenue: SBW Stables Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Jun 18 – Jul 12, 2014
Playwright: Finegan Kruckemeyer
Director: Kate Gaul
Cast: Emily Ayoub, Renee Heys, Michael Cutrupi, Natalia Ladyko, Anthony Weir

Theatre review
Teenage life is difficult. In The Violent Outburst That Drew Me To You, we observe that adults are really just teenagers covered in calluses. The essence of things do not change, but we lose our innocence, choosing to cope with the world by growing thicker skin wherever possible, and also to turn a blind eye whenever required. Connor and Lotte are younger and purer versions of us. They are old enough to detect and to call bullshit on offending circumstances, and young enough to remain unconvinced that evils are ever necessary. Their idealism is rarely a match for machines of the establishment, and Finegan Kruckmeyer’s writing invites us to lament the brevity of youth and to reflect upon the many years we live in states of compromise and imperfection, that we thoughtlessly term “growing up”.

Kate Gaul’s direction is a celebration of youth. Her creation is energetic, mischievous and very vibrant. Borrowing elements from children’s television and theatre, the production is joyfully buoyed by big characters, song and dance numbers, and colourful costumes. There is even shadow play, with the stage turning into an over-sized zoetrope on several occasions. Jasmine Christie’s production design and Daryl Wallis’ sound design help transform script into action. The show arrests our senses, providing an immersive experience that makes adventurous use of the theatrical form. We have lots to see and hear beyond the writer’s words. The spirit of collaboration is alive under Gaul’s stewardship.

Connor is played by Michael Cutrupi, whose portrayal of the teen spirit is amusing yet genuine. His sense of rebellious wonder is deeply appealing. We relate easily to his character, who bears qualities that are universally familiar. Anthony Weir is memorable for a host of personalities, all whacky and wonderful. Weir is able to make every line tickle, especially in song. His vocal abilities are limited, but his commitment as a comedic actor is outstanding. Renee Heys brings extraordinary passion and presence to her roles. She is a versatile actor who is effective, quiet or raucous, and her talents are showcased remarkably well in this production. Not every role gives much room for showing off, but every performer on this stage is focused, precise and strong.

The work ends abruptly. The narrative quickly turns serious, and the tonal transformation happens faster than we are able to adapt. It suddenly loses connection at the end, but the message can still be heard. The flaw is small but the opportunity for greater poignancy seems to have been missed. Regardless, Kruckemeyer’s writing concludes wisely and we are served up substantial food for thought. The play is meaningful for young and old, perhaps in different ways, but it contains truths that will resonate with every open heart.

Suzy Goes See’s Best Of 2013

Images from a few 2013 stand-outs: A Sign Of The Times, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, All My Sons, Hamlet, Empire: Terror On The High Seas, Hay Fever, Bodytorque.Technique, Waiting For Godot.

Images from a few 2013 stand-outs: A Sign Of The Times, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, All My Sons, Hamlet, Empire: Terror On The High Seas, Hay Fever, Bodytorque.Technique, Waiting For Godot.

This is a wrap up of special moments since the commencement of Suzy Goes See in April 2013. A personal selection from over 100 productions seen in Sydney. Thank you to artists, companies, publicists and punters who have supported Suzy Goes See in 2013. I cannot wait for more shenanigans with you in the new year!

Update: Click here for the Best Of 2014 list.

Suzy x

♥ Avant Garde Angels
The bravest and most creative experimental works in 2013.

♥ Quirky Questers
The most unusual and colourful characters to appear on our stages in 2013.

♥ Design Doyennes
Outstanding visual design in 2013. Fabulous lights, sets and costumes.

♥ Darlings Of Dance
Breathtaking brilliance in the dance space of 2013.

♥ Musical Marvels
Outstanding performers in cabaret and musicals in 2013.

♥ Second Fiddle Superstars
Scene-stealers of 2013 in supporting roles.

♥ Champs Of Comedy
The cleverest, sharpest, and funniest performances of 2013.

♥ Daredevils Of Drama
Bold and excellent acting in dramatic roles in 2013.

♥ Wise With Words
The most interesting and intelligent scripts of 2013.

♥ Directorial Dominance
The most impressive work in direction for 2013.

♥ Shows Of The Year
Nice coincidence to have different genres represented: drama, musical, dance, comedy and cabaret.

♥ Suzy’s Special Soft Spot
For an exceptional work I saw in Melbourne.


Penelope (Siren Theatre Co)

penelope1Venue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Sep 12 – Oct 6, 2013
Playwright: Enda Walsh
Director: Kate Gaul
Actors: Nicholas Hope, Thomas Campbell, Arky Michael, Philip Dodd, Branden Christine

Theatre review
Attending a work by independent theatre companies in Australia is unpredictable. We hope for the best, and expect the worst. Resources are limited, and it is a challenge for semi-professional groups catering to audiences who are accustom to productions by dominant, well-funded companies. Siren Theatre Co rises to that challenge with a formidable cast and crew that have come together successfully and exceed expectations. Penelope showcases excellent work by all its actors, designers and technicians, with Kate Gaul at the helm, directing, producing, and proving herself to be a woman of exceptional ability and a brilliant visionary.

The show is at once intelligent, funny, emotional, audacious and confounding. Artistic licences are de rigueur, and no moment is spared of theatricality. The actors, all equally impressive, constantly negotiate the spaces between narrative and extravagance in their performances. There is a strong element of vaudeville in their work, and it is their commitment to the creation of a distinct style that gives the production a specific and memorable voice. Nicholas Hope shows himself to be quite the force of nature, playing the role of Quinn with extraordinary focus and strength. His no-holds-barred mode of performance is disarming and wonderfully mesmerising. Arky Michael’s Dunne is an amalgamation of rock star and Norma Desmond, an outlandish and madcap portrayal that is absolutely joyful.

Production design features prominently. It services the plot perfectly, transforming the relatively small space into one that is full of possibilities for the actors, while carving out an aesthetic for the production that is vibrant and innovative. Indeed, this is a show characterised by its vibrancy and innovation. This company has created something that overflows with ideas and enthralment, and because Enda Walsh’s script is not a simple one, one is compelled to revisit Penelope to experience her more deeply. The femme fatale beckons.

5 Questions with Michael Cutrupi

michaelcutrupiWhat is your favourite swear word?
A tie between Cunt Face and Fuck Knuckle.

What are you wearing?
Right now… not much in the throws of dressing for the day, I think. A dark green jean and French striped top.

What is love?
“Oh baby don’t hurt me anymore.” Love is understanding, passion and knowing when to shut up.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Penny Plain by Ronnie Burkett in Geelong, Vic. I give it 5 stars; a beautiful one-man marionette show about the end of the world. It was stunning.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Good? No! It will be great. 4 of the funniest men in speedos in a drained swimming pool speaking the words of one of the world’s contemporary theatre masters, Enda Walsh.

Michael Cutrupi is stage manager for Penelope.
Show dates: 12 Sep – 6 Oct, 2013
Show venue: TAP Gallery