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.
♥ 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 2016 | Best of 2015 | Best Of 2014
Venue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Sep 24 – 28, 2013
Director: Aaron Robuck
Choreographer: Aaron Robuck
Writer: Aaron Robuck
Musical Director: Gavin Lockley
Performers: Aaron Robuck, Leah Simmons, Gary Robuck
Aaron Robuck is an extraordinarily talented young man with big ambitions. The Hardest Part Of Love sees him stretch his abilities to the limit, working as producer, writer, director and choreographer, in addition to being the only lead performer in his show. Robuck has good charisma and timing, and has no problems connecting with his audience. His impressively powerful singing voice comes across as his strongest asset, but it eclipses the other elements in the show that can appear pale by comparison.
The ensemble of back up dancers and singers are accomplished, but they are not always incorporated well. They are effective in the comedy sections, but at other points, their presence is not always necessary and can expose the weakness in Robuck’s choreography. The story is a very personal one, and Robuck’s performance abilities are more than enough for him to put up a great show without too much razzle dazzle. It would be interesting also, if a director was appointed to lend some objectivity and to focus Robuck’s talents to greater effect.
Religion plays a big part of Robuck’s story and it is responsible for a lot of the show’s success. It adds colour and idiosyncrasy, providing unusual insight and gives an interesting voice to an otherwise conventional coming-of-age story. Ultimately, the fundamental joy in this production is Aaron Robuck’s singing, and some editing to the staging would have elevated it to something even more spectacular.
Venue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Sep 26 – 28, 2013
Performers: Hayley Flowers, Kiruna Stamell, Damien Noyce, James Cunningham, Josphine Lancuba, Asphyxia
Image by Jeff Tan
Inspiration Porn features six different acts presenting their individual works. Their common thread is the idea of inspiration, and what results is a moving night at the theatre.
Kiruna Stamell’s Coffee & Sheep is mainly physical theatre, although there are monologual elements. She also uses burlesque in her act, as well as a good dose of absurdity, which all adds up to a form of performance that resists categorisation. Stamell is simultaneously funny and serious, and the audience is never too sure whether a message exists in her work. What is certain though, is the irresistible magnetism of this performer, and the effectiveness of her work. She keeps you enthralled, bewildered, and wanting more. Stamell is the kind of artist that cultivates a loyal following, a natural star.
James Cunningham presents a highly unusual dance routine based around the loss of the use of his left arm. He also demonstrates an exercise involving a mirror that helps him negotiate his new physicality. Almost creating an illusion of symmetry using his functioning arm, Cunningham talks us through the process and we are thoroughly transfixed. In his presentation, we witness the strength of spirit that has been awoken by his unfortunate accident.
Finally, we are served an extract from The Grimstones, a gothic marionette performance that is truly sublime. These wooden characters by artist Asphyxia, possess a kind of hyper-reality and they convey emotions that no real actor can. Their story is simple but due to the way their world has been constructed and presented, every gesture they make becomes deeply touching. Even though their world is far removed from our daily lives, there is a sense of authenticity that connects with us, and we feel the puppet masters earnestly tugging at our heartstrings.
Venue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Sep 26 – 28, 2013
Writer: Becky Mode
Director: Alexander Butt
Actor: Nick Curnow
This work is a vehicle for showcasing the talents of actor Nick Curnow, and the incredible versatility of his voice. The main character is Sam, who works in a windowless basement office, but he speaks to forty different characters on phones and intercom, and all are played memorably by Curnow. The experience of watching this production feels as though at a magic show, where the audience is kept fascinated, amused and gobsmacked for the entire duration.
The actor switches characters at lightning speed, and we marvel at his ability in portraying such an astounding range of people, as well as his extraordinary memory, which in the absence of other actors, is the only thing he can rely on. Like an athlete on stage, we admire the skill, technique and sheer hard work he has obviously put in for this production.
A strong feature of the show is the relentless air of frenzy that permeates it. Most of the characters are on edge, upset, or nervous, and the sense of urgency and tension is created very well by the actor and his director Alexander Butt. There are, however, a few comic moments that seem to have been sacrificed for the sake of speed and excitement. The script’s humour might have been more fully realised if the intensity of the piece is allowed to slightly relax at times.
It is noteworthy that the sound cues in this staging are crucial to the plot, and they are beautifully executed. One could imagine the sound booth being as intense as the action on stage with the incessant rings, beeps and buzzes that need to be produced perfectly in order for the play to work. This is entertaining, impressive and exciting theatre, with an actor who is perfectly cast. The next performer who takes on the show faces an onerous task, as it is difficult to imagine anyone possibly doing a better job of it.
Venue: Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre (Sydney NSW), Sep 25 – 28, 2013
Playwright: Elena Gabrielle
Director: Carl Whiteside
Performers: Elena Gabrielle, Marco Fusco
Image by 3 Fates Media
Virginia Poppycock is very keen to lose her virginity. Describing her as frustrated would be a gross understatement, but fortunately for us, that frustration manifests itself in a series of uproariously funny songs that come together wonderfully in a cabaret style comedy musical.
Elena Gabrielle is the star of the show, and her performance is a real joy to behold. Her supreme confidence and passion for the stage is met with a stunning singing voice and a keen sense of comic timing, giving rise to a giddily funny show full of entertainment. This is a brave performance that requires the performer to be in contact with the audience constantly, and it is that rapport she is able to maintain that keeps us amused and fascinated. Her counterpart Marco Fusco plays Richard “Dick” Scrotumsberry III, with less effectiveness, but he brings a thoroughly enjoyable campness and has great chemistry with his leading lady. They are a convincing couple but Gabrielle’ energy is difficult to match and there is a sense of unbalance at certain points.
Carl Whiteside directs every number with flair and brilliant humour. Each song is thoroughly choreographed so that no comic opportunities are missed. The overall structure of the show, however, has some imperfections. It starts with a bang, but slightly weakens halfway through, and the conclusion appears somewhat suddenly. Keeping in spirit with the theme of the musical, one would hope instead for a slower build, leading to a grand explosion at the end. Nevertheless, Virginia Poppycock is a delightful character who will speak to audiences everywhere, and Elena Gabrielle’s performance in that role is truly outstanding and should not be missed.
Venue: Bedlam Bar (Glebe NSW), Sep 25 – 27, 2013
Due to the recent loss of Craig Annis’ grandmother, he wisely chose to steer his show Nanna’s Boy away from its original concept, and move it towards a more general style of stand up comedy. The short sequence where he does talk about his grandmother, is beautiful and strong, but it is evident that the performer is not ready to delve too heavily into that emotional space. The rest of the material though, varies in effectiveness, and does not always deliver the best results. It is fortunate then that Annis is an excellent performer, and his natural talents easily makeup for a few shortfalls in the writing.
Annis’ greatest strengths are his charm and energy. He is easily buoyed when the audience responses well, and never falters when a punchline misses the mark. The enthusiasm for his work is highly infectious, and that is half the battle won. Most memorable moments include a hilarious impersonation of comedy celebrity Dave Hughes (with a French twist) and a very amusing interchange with a puppet that involves inter-species affection. Nanna’s Boy may not have a perfect selection of jokes, but his grandmother would be very proud indeed of Annis’ skills at telling them.
Venue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Sep 11 – 29, 2013
Playwright: David Ives
Director: Raf Nazario
Actors: Steven Corner, Lisa Fletcher
Sure Thing is a very short play, running approximately 15 minutes, but it is marvellous. Certainly, “a quick game is a good game”, but this production also demonstrates that great writing and great performances can provide as much satisfaction as any two hour piece. David Ives’ writing is superb, and the condensation of time in the play creates a structure which ensures that every moment packs punches.
Raf Nazario’s direction shows a thorough engagement with the text. His insistence in working with the most minute of nuances creates a sense of multi-dimensionality that quickly draws the audience in and keeps us involved to the end. Things move quickly, but nothing feels rushed. Humour and cultural references are allowed their flashes of brilliance, and we relish them all.
Lisa Fletcher plays Betty, the straight man in this comedic two-hander. The audience identifies with her authenticity and she provides an anchor to the script’s frenzy. Steve Corner’s performance as Bill is magnificent. He plays a character that manifests in many different forms, with what seems like a hundred faces and voices, all compelling and charming. There is always a sense of joyous play in his work, and also a focus that is intense but never laboured. He plays his jokes on many levels, but whether subtle, obscure or hammy, Corner shows himself to be a rivetingly funny actor… and this little quickie leaves us pleasantly surprised and delightfully sated.
Venue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Sep 24 – 29, 2013
Playwrights: Kate Dunn, Oliver Featherston
Director: Lucinda Vitek
Actors: Linda Ngo, Davey Friedman, Ian Ferrington
Three people take a voluntary one-way journey from Earth to Mars. This simple premise opens up countless questions, themes, ideas, and scenarios, and Colony does well in exploring a wide range of these concepts. It is a script that does not shy away from complexities, but also prevents itself from over-thinking and becoming too abstract. It is a strong script with interesting characters that consistently fascinate, and succeeds in bringing the science fiction genre to a minimal stage.
This is a production that relies heavily on its actors. Atmospherics are crucial in this genre piece, and in the absence of more substantial sound design, the players are required to create a sense of mystery, foreboding and tension but they only succeed occasionally. Linda Ngo is slight in stature but her presence is strongest in the cast. There is an element of daring to her performance that is alluring, and she provides a necessary dimension of levity to the earlier scenes. Davey Friedman brings the drama, and gives the most polished performance to the play. His character development is distinct and we are captivated by the way his role transforms through the course of the show.
The production begins well, and ends impressively. Director Lucinda Vitek does a wonderful job in handling the surreal turn later in the story, and all the explosive action as the end approaches. It is unfortunate that the tightness and urgency does not appear earlier. There are scenes in the middle that could benefit from being more lively; perhaps some editing would help in achieving greater tension. Nevertheless, this is an interesting work with intriguing concepts and an entertaining story that would appeal to theatre-goers everywhere.
Venue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Sep 24 – 29, 2013
Playwright: N. Gregory Finger
Director: N. Gregory Finger
Actors: Nicholas Richard, Sydney Abba, Logan McArthur, Ryan Knight, Daniel Hunter, Brendan Paul
Narrow As The Line is a clever and entertaining work set against the backdrop of war and destruction. N. Gregory Finger’s script is witty, thoughtful and intelligent. Its structure is simple and efficient, which allows for creative space on stage. Characters are interesting, although speech patterns could have been written more differentiated for greater distinction between personality types.
The actors are youthful and committed, with some displaying good skill and potential. Nicholas Richard shines in the role of Lieutenant Parsons, delivering a strong performance that anchors the production, giving it a sense of sure-footed solidness. Sydney Abba takes on the comic role of Colonel McGrath, delighting at every entrance. She connects well with the audience, and creates the most memorable character in the play. In general however, the cast plays the show too naturalistic. There is a good dose of absurdity in the script but the actors tend to underplay their scenes, attempting instead for believability and misses an opportunity for more heightened satire.
This is an impressive production that showcases young talent and a very smart script. The prominence of the writing does however, encourage the desire for a team of more experienced actors, and more adventurous direction. It is evident that a more dynamic show can be created from Finger’s words but as far as baby steps go, this is a monumental one.
What is your favourite swear word?
As a child raised by Spongebob Squarepaints and Patrick Star, my favourite phrase in times of frustration is ‘Tartare Sauce’. I also really like Tartare Sauce.
What are you wearing?
Clothes (this is a fairly big thing for me).
What is love?
Love is a river that drowns the tender reed. At least that’s what some say.
What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Last show I saw was Lifeforce at King St Theatre by Joanna Weinberg. 4 out of 5.
Is your new show going to be any good?
I’m going to go with yes. It’s gonna be great!
Aaron Robuck is director, choreographer, writer and star of The Hardest Part of Love, part of Sydney Fringe 2013.
Show dates: 24 – 28 Sep, 2013
Show venue: New Theatre