Review: Blink (Stories Like These)

storiesliketheseVenue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Feb 9 – Mar 4, 2017
Playwright: Phil Porter
Director: Luke Rogers
Cast: James Raggatt, Charlotte Hazzard
Image by Robert Catto

Theatre review
It is a love story between a simple man and a complicated woman. Phil Porter’s Blink is a work of fantasy that magnifies the experience of infatuation, to sometimes inappropriate levels of obsession. We can choose to see Jonah as a creepy stalker, even though the play tries to show him only as naive and sweet. His actions are clearly harmless, but that of course, is what most men will say about their fixations. Sophie is made mastermind of Jonah’s actions, and although there is something gratifying in having a woman orchestrate her own experience of romance, the reprehensible fact that Jonah is a Peeping Tom who follows her everywhere, thinking that the object of his desire is completely oblivious, cannot be discounted.

Ultimately though, the characters do develop mutual feelings, and what the play does with their relationship is wistful, and very whimsical. Anna Gardiner’s set design corresponds with the quirkiness of the text, for a performance space imaginatively conceived to provide an enchanting sense of innocent wonder. Director Luke Rogers brings good coherence to a piece of unfettered mosaic-like writing, and his ability to balance upbeat energy with a daydream quality, gives the production its charming, and distinct style. In the role of Jonah is James Raggatt, awfully adorable and convincingly wide-eyed in his Tim Burton-esque interpretation of a young man smitten. His gentle but animated approach almost makes you believe his trespasses to be no more than a little innocuous skylarking. Sophie is a much more complex character, played by Charlotte Hazzard who portrays a woman’s need to be seen, with vital delicate care.

We all want to be acknowledged, for to be invisible is intolerable, but we are not always ready to pay the price for a bit of attention. Sophie wants to be on Jonah’s mind, but is unwilling to offer anything in return. Relationships do not always fit definitions or expectations. People can connect in unexpected ways, but convention can be agonising, and if we let it, can pull us apart. What a happy ending looks like, is familiar to everyone, but when destiny takes us in different directions, we may have to modify our beliefs, and see an alternate image of fulfilment.

5 Questions with Charlotte Hazzard and James Raggatt

Charlotte Hazzard

Charlotte Hazzard

James Raggatt: What is your earliest memory of theatre that inspired you to become an actor?
Charlotte Hazzard: This is terrible, but I actually don’t have an early memory of theatre that made me want to be an actor… I have one memory of watching a production of Romeo And Juliet which involved a rap at some point, and remember thinking, this is just not right. However, I do remember watching Frances O’Connor in the film of The Importance Of Being Earnest and thinking ‘that’s what I want to do’.

If you could have been born and lived in any other period of history, which would it be and why?
Mmm tough question… Instantly I think I would want to live around the time of Henry VIII or Queen Elizabeth, that could be because I’ve always wanted to play Queen Elizabeth the First and have always been interested in the stories from that era in history… interested but equally horrified.

Being an actor often requires continuous learning and adapting. In your career so far, what project have you learnt the most from?
It’s difficult to pinpoint as each project I’ve worked on has taught me something (or many things) and forced me to learn and adapt. However, I was lucky to work on a production of War Crimes by Angela Betzien for ATYP a couple of years ago. And in my career to date, it by far it has taught me the most in terms of life / skill / challenge / craft / everything. I think mostly because it really reignited in me the power and importance of storytelling.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever heard of anyone doing in the name of love?
I’m sure I’ve come across some other really crazy stories… However, the only thing I can think of right now is when I was in High School a friend of mine was seeing a boy and he got her name tattooed just above his pubic region. I remember thinking at the time that was very crazy. I think it has been covered over since.

If you could have anyone in the world stalk you, who would it be?
Besides you James? I’m not too sure, maybe Beyonce. Because she is Queen B.

James Raggatt

James Raggatt

Charlotte Hazzard: If you weren’t an actor, and couldn’t pursue the arts, what would you be doing?
James Raggatt: I have a myriad of answers ranging from marine science to politics. But when I was a little boy I was obsessed with everything to do with trains, so I’d likely be a train driver. Legit. I’d love to be a professional traveller, write for Lonely Planet or National Geographic from bizarre global locations. I’ll stop here before I get carried away.

You can have one superpower. What is it?
I’d be ‘super-lingual’, able to speak fluently any language from anywhere in the world.

What’s the greatest gesture of love you’ve ever given or received?
Years ago I had someone write a song about me. It’s one of the sweetest memories I have. I think I still have the track somewhere…

The play focuses on observation; the act of observing and the need to be seen. What would you prefer, to be watched or do the watching?
I’m definitely an observer. I love soaking up information and learning about things and people.

Finally… From now until forever you can only have one… sweet or savoury?
Savoury all the way.

Charlotte Hazzard and James Raggatt are appearing in Blink by Phil Porter.
Dates: 9 Feb – 4 Mar, 2017
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre

Review: Minus One Sister (Stories Like These)

storiesliketheseVenue: SBW Stables Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Sep 9 – Oct 3, 2015
Playwright: Anna Barnes
Director: Luke Rogers
Cast: Kate Cheel, Lucy Heffernan, Liam Nunan, Contessa Treffone
Image by Brett Boardman

Theatre review
Unlike Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac that did not eventuate, Agamemnon killed his daughter Iphegenia to appease the goddess Artemis, in order that the lives of many others could be saved. In Anna Barnes’ retelling of the ancient tale, place becomes Australia and the time is now. Her poetic language borrows from Greek theatrical traditions and combines it with the speech of today, for a fascinating and modern take on the dramatic form. Early passages are slow-moving, with repetitions that do not seem to serve a clear enough purpose, but when the blood-letting begins, Minus One Sister takes on the intense energy of a classic tragedy. Transposing the story to a contemporary context involves a hindrance that the play tends to evade. The chain of murders originates at a point of supernaturality, which in Barnes’ version for the twenty-first century, is not entirely reasonable or convincing. Even though her revenge narratives are powerful and full of intrigue, the first transgression occurs with insufficient persuasiveness, and without that foundation, emotional investment in the piece becomes challenging.

Luke Rogers’ direction brings to the stage a wild and decadent destructiveness that is often mesmerising, in the shape of a finely tuned drama that provides many exciting moments. Although the production does not deliver great poignancy, its sensuality resonates effectively, with beautifully crafted tension holding together a show that is full of fragility and volatility. Marvellously designed by the dynamic team of Georgia Hopkins (set and costumes), Sian James-Holland (lights) and Nate Edmondson (sound), we are transfixed and overcome by a sordid world populated by unimaginably dark thoughts and evil plans. The ruin of purity could perhaps be handled with a harsher brutality, but the family’s misery is depicted with a melancholic, almost gothic, sensibility that appeals to our taste for storytelling with an edge of morbidity.

The four young actors make a compelling cast, each with a distinctive presence, and an enthusiasm for agile atmospheric shifts that keeps the show from turning predictable. Contessa Treffone, as Chrysothemis and Clytemnestra, is especially powerful, and impressive with the range of temperaments that she is able to conjure up for her scenes. Tender, resolute or cruel, she is full of conviction and we are consistently drawn to her every surprising expression. Electra, the angry and vengeful sister, is played by Kate Cheel whose ability to portray chilling ruthlessness gives the play a gravity and a foreboding that are essential to its apocalyptic plot trajectory. Cheel’s climatic moment of devastation requires greater passion, but her work is memorable for its intellectual clarity and her flair for sombreness.

Minus One Sister is concerned with the disruption of family and innocence, but its message comes across mildly, in spite of its severe and horrific episodes. There are obvious efforts at making key personalities empathetic, but their experiences do not come close enough to our reality. Nevertheless, the production is a polished and sometimes spectacular one. There is a generous amount of talent on display, and every one of its fabulous facets welcomes our genuine and immediate admiration.

5 Questions with Tom Stokes

rsz_stokes-tom-2013-pic-e1380091246743What is your favourite swear word?
Fuck. So many variations and uses, ie: “All those fucking fucks are fucked, ay.”

What are you wearing?
I’m wearing some very loud shorts that are making up for the fact that I have no shirt on. It’s very muggy. The shirt I just took off, though, was an AS Colour t-shirt, shadow cut, navy blue. Available online or in store for $24.99.

What is love?
I think love is a simple word for a lot of very complex things. I think it means an array of different things to different people, so I don’t know that I can come up with a sufficient answer. What it is to me is the feeling I have with my family, with Liz Blackmore, with a few friends and with the Fremantle Dockers.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Once In Royal David’s City. It was tops. I admire how much of himself Michael Gow is prepared to put into his plays. He’s a seasoned professional that still gets that writing what you know is very effective. 4/5

Is your new show going to be any good?
Ken Oath.

Tom Stokes is appearing in Music, from Stories Like These is part of Griffin Theatre’s 2014 Independent Season.
Show dates: 2 – 26 Apr, 2014
Show venue: Griffin Theatre

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.


Best of 2018 | Best of 2017 | Best of 2016Best of 2015Best Of 2014

Fireface (Stories Like These)

FIREFACE   Production PhotosVenue: ATYP Under The Wharf (Walsh Bay NSW), Aug 1 – 17, 2013
Playwright: Marius Von Mayenburg, translated by Maja Zade
Director: Luke Rogers
Actors: Darcy Brown, Darcie Irwin-Simpson, James Lugton, Lucy Miller, Ryan Bennett
Image credit: Phyllis Wong

Theatre review
The “nurture vs nature” debate is always a lively one, so building a play around that theme almost guarantees an exciting and instantly controversial exercise. Director Luke Rogers’ take on Fireface is powerful and thought-provoking. He deliberately restricts his work from providing easy answers, relying instead on the strength of the questions themselves to captivate his audience. Arguments and counter-arguments are presented with subtlety, producing theatre that is cerebral and discursive.

Set design is beautifully simple. The director’s use of the awkward wedge-shaped stage, basing all the action around a singular big table shows talent and thoughtfulness. Lighting and sound are pushed to their limit in terms of how much they can be utilised in what is essentially a narrative based play. They add to the drama, and assist with the innumerable scene changes in Von Mayenburg’s script, but are at times too noticeable and distracting. The final moments are fractured by several successive black outs, which unfortunately impede the story from developing with a greater sense of urgency.

Darcy Brown stars in the lead role and turns in a stunning performance. In addition to his enigmatic charisma, his artistic choices always feel just right, and the character he has created is simultaneously strange, compelling and frightening. James Lugton plays the distant, withdrawn father with painful accuracy. His role might be characterised by stupefying inanity, but the actor’s every appearance is entrancing. This is a strong cast, and their cohesion within the show’s unusual style and tone is thoroughly impressive. Together with Rogers, the work they have created here is intellectually demanding, and an artful triumph.