Review: DNA (Last One Standing Theatre Company)

Venue: Erskineville Town Hall (Erskineville NSW), Sep 5 – 9, 2017
Playwright: Dennis Kelly
Director: Jeremy Lindsay Taylor
Cast: Holly Fraser, James Fraser, Alfie Gledhill, Jesse Hyde, Jess-Belle Keogh, Alex Malone, Josh McElroy, Bardiya McKinnon, Xanthe Paige, Millie Samuels, Emm Wiseman

Theatre review
It is a terrible existence that the teenagers in DNA endure, but none are truly aware of the repugnance that is thrust upon them. Injustice and suffering is completely normalised. Life simply is often unbearable; they see it all around, people finding ways to put up with a world that is never good enough. Dennis Kelly’s play talks about the cycle of poverty and disadvantage, and an idea akin to fate that makes people settle for very little, in places like England where much has been taken from the lower classes.

One of the group has died in an accident, and the rest scurry and scheme to evade blame. They make no effort to retrieve the body, and are certainly unwilling to provide authorities with any assistance. Kelly puts on show a sickening reality, that when viewed from a position of our bourgeois objectivity, is painfully reprehensible. It confronts aggressively, our sense of social responsibility as developed nations who should know better, but who are culpable in the woeful damage caused by the persistent continuance of inequities, reinforced by the ever-increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots.

The production appeals strongly to our capacity for curiosity. Director Jeremy Lindsay Taylor keeps us questioning the motives and behaviour of his characters, by enacting an inner logic for DNA that always feels alien, in spite of its dramatic cogency. We understand the story, but we cannot believe how things have got to this point. It is a marvellous cast of eleven young stars who draw us in, with excellent conviction and discipline, having us convinced of the bizarre cruelty that occurs in our midst. Their work is revelatory, powerful in their unflinching dedication to the text’s inherent darkness.

It is not an entirely pessimistic exercise. We witness an urge to break these patterns of despondency in Leah (poignantly performed by Millie Samuels), who resists conventions of ignorance and resignation. While others continue with narratives of captivity, her impulse is to escape. It may be the only sensible thing to do, but it is also the exception, and a serious conundrum that requires our rumination.

www.lastonestandingtheatreco.com

5 Questions with Rizcel Gagawanan and Jasper Garner Gore

Rizcel Gagawanan

Jasper Garner Gore: Describe Undertaking in five words.
Rizcel Gagawanan: Mysterious. Unexpected. Exciting. Unpredictable. Enlightening.

Who should see this show and why?
First of all, people who love thrillers, scary movies etc. People who are looking to have a good time and take a risk. People who are okay with putting themselves in a situation where they don’t know what’s going to happen. And anyone who loves theatre! You go to watch shows to experience something different and new and this show will definitely be a theatre experience you’ve never had before. Immersive theatre is quite a unique form, there’s not many happening in Sydney so this could be people’s chance to see it for the first time.

What has been the most challenging part of rehearsing this show?
Our rehearsal process hasn’t been the typical rehearsal process that I’m used to, like you get your script, you memorise your lines, you work out your blocking etc. There’s a script and a plot but a lot of the scene stuff we’ve put together through improv and collaboration which is a first for me but it’s been super fun. But I would say the most challenging has been trying to rehearse with an audience that’s not there yet. We won’t know how it’s going to go and what’s going to happen until we get our audience on previews, opening night and every night the show is on. To prepare, you can come up with all the possibilities but there’s always going to be something that the audience will give that you didn’t think of, so that’s scary but also exciting at the same time.

What is the scariest place you have performed in?
This place. I have always performed on a stage with a spotlight and cues and wings. This is immersive theatre, so there’s no wings to hide in or take a break here! There’s no backstage or green room. You are on “stage” the whole time. Also when I first came to this space I was already freaked out even in daylight. The space has a weird feel to it. It’s even worse when all the lights are out.

Are you afraid of the dark?
Yes.

Jasper Garner Gore

Rizcel Gagawanan: Since we can’t give too much away about this show, describe Undertaking in 5 words.
Jasper Garner Gore: A Big Scary Space, Murders.

Because the show is “immersive theatre”, how do you feel about not performing on a stage but performing with the audience?
I’ve done a little bit of this sort of this stuff before, nothing quite as involved. I think it makes rehearsing interesting because you do have to guess a bit, it’s like rehearsing a dance without the other person you’re gonna be dancing with. But it’s also really really exciting because I think like there is an appetite for this kind of work and for work that activates environments and audiences this way. And you feel kind of like you’re in the vanguard of something which is fun.

What’s the funniest, weirdest or most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you on stage?
One time I was doing a production of Amadeus and I had taken my costume stockings home to wash and I left them there. And I realised shortly before I was getting dressed to go on that I didn’t have any stockings. So I had to turn to the girl playing Constanze, who’s a friend, and be like, “please give me your stockings”, not her show stockings but her actual human stockings and they didn’t quite go all the way up, they covered just above my knee. So the whole show the pantaloons I was wearing were very breezy. During the whole thing I was worried, y’know, hoping no one would look up my pants, ‘cause they would just see bare thigh. That probably wasn’t the worst but it was pretty bad.

What’s great about rehearsing and performing in the space in The Enclosure at the HPG Festival Hub?
Nutting it out. We’re solving a novel space, which is super fun, finding out where you can play, where you can be seen, where you can be heard. It’s new, it’s exciting and it’s weird. It’s a weird place with all sorts of strange possibilities.

Jasper, as the king of puns, can you make a pun or a funny dad joke about Undertaking?
Undertaking? Ha, the morgue the merrier!

Rizcel Gagawanan and Jasper Garner Gore are appearing in Undertaking, part of the Sydney Fringe Festival 2017.
Dates: 6 – 30 September, 2017
Venue: Sydney Fringe HPG Festival Hub

Review: Idiot Juice (Jackrabbit Theatre)

Venue: The Factory Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Aug 29 – Sep 2, 2017
Playwright: Charlie Falkner
Cast: Charlie Falkner, Alex Malone, James Sweeny
Image by Luke McMahon

Theatre review
Charlie Falkner’s creation provides a simple structure for Idiot Juice, with three siblings hawking “medium juice” at a funeral, claiming that it provides visions of the dead for an hour, with each dose consumed. Within this context, performers improvise jokes in accordance with its predetermined plot trajectory. With death positioned at the centre of the action, we find ourselves on fertile ground for dark comedy, and opportunities are certainly present for poignant existential reflection, but the trio keeps things resolutely light.

Each comedian brings to the stage a distinct style of humour, with James Sweeny’s brassy approach proving invaluable in holding our attention captive. Alex Malone’s whimsy prevents the show from turning predictable, and Falkner’s self-effacing impulses are key to his charm. It is a cohesive group, and when the chemistry works, their show vibrates with a sense of unmistakable excitement, but an inability to maintain a consistently tight rhythm at several points, exposes unfortunate deficiencies in dexterity and confidence.

To be able to laugh at death, requires that we interrogate and excavate the deepest of our humanity. It forces us to examine how we apportion value, to identify the things that matter in life, or more accurately, to question those that reveal only frivolity. Idiot Juice is about gullibility, and how we are easily fooled into adopting ideals that are nothing more than myth or romance. As the saying goes, only death and taxes are certain in life, so everything else must only be a manifestation of the subjective imagination, and what we become, has a lot to do with choices.

www.jackrabbittheatre.com