Suzy Goes See’s Best Of 2014

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2014 has been a busy year. Choosing memorable moments from the 194 shows I had reviewed in these 12 months is a mind-bending exercise, but a wonderful opportunity that shows just how amazing and vibrant, theatre people are in Sydney. Thank you to artists, companies, publicists and punters who continue to support Suzy Goes See. Have a lovely holiday season and a happy new year! Now on to the Best Of 2014 list (all in random order)…

Suzy x

 Avant Garde Angels
The bravest and most creatively experimental works in 2014.

 Quirky Questers
The most unusual and colourful characters to appear on our stages in 2014.

♥ Design Doyennes
Outstanding visual design in 2014. Fabulous lights, sets and costumes.

♥ Darlings Of Dance
Breathtaking brilliance in the dance space of 2014.

♥ Musical Marvels
Outstanding performers in cabaret and musicals in 2014.

♥ Second Fiddle Superstars
Scene-stealers of 2014 in supporting roles.

♥ Ensemble Excellence
Casts in 2014 rich with chemistry and talent.

♥ Champs Of Comedy
Best comedic performances of 2014.

♥ Daredevils Of Drama
Best actors in dramatic roles in 2014.

♥ Wise With Words
Best new scripts of 2014.

 Directorial Dominance
Best direction in 2014.

♥ Shows Of The Year
The mighty Top 10.

♥ Suzy’s Special Soft Spot
A special mention for the diversity of cultures that have featured in its programming this year.

  • ATYP

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Photography by Roderick Ng, Dec 2014

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Best of 2018 | Best of 2017 | Best of 2016Best of 2015Best Of 2013

Review: Belle Of The Cross (Harlos Productions / Sydney Independent Theatre Company)

sitco2Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Nov 18 – 29, 2014
Playwright: Angelika Fremd
Director: David Ritchie
Cast: Gertraud Ingeborg, Colleen Cook
Image by Katy Green Loughrey

Theatre review
Sydney’s Kings Cross is completely unique. Always controversial, vibrant and newsworthy, the area is a tiny geographical spot, but its infamy reaches far and wide. Residents of the precinct range from the very wealthy to the impoverished, including the homeless who often gravitate towards its parks and colourful alleyways. Angelika Fremd’s Belle Of The Cross is not biographical, but Belle is a composite, created from Fremd’s observations of “streeties” in the neighbourhood during her eight years at the Cross. The play is poetic, atmospheric and emotional, with only a light narrative thread holding scenes together. The writer depicts the extraordinary community with affection and dignity, rejecting contexts of mental illness that might cause a reductive reading of her subject matter.

Direction of the work by David Ritchie is sensitive to the considerations of the script, and he builds a sense of grace into the production, but its unrelenting gentleness prevents sufficient dramatic tension from taking hold. Scene changes tend to be overly subtle, with indistinct shifts in time and mood. Gertraud Ingeborg’s performance in the title role personifies warmth and sincerity. Her focus is impressive, and even though the stillness in her presence gives weight to the show, a lack of tonal variation results in a character that does not seem to develop adequately. Belle is an interesting personality that we have a lot of curiosity about, but the play needs to provide more insight to satisfy our desire to know her.

We all have times of loneliness, but Belle’s struggle is to do with isolation and aloneness. Although she is quite content with her own company, we must question our capacity and willingness as neighbours and community to furnish an environment that is safe and nourishing. Homelessness is a complex issue, one that crosses paths with a society’s stance on human rights and its economic ideologies. Belle Of The Cross gives a voice to the often seen but rarely heard, and is therefore essential and important, if we believe ourselves to be civilised.

www.sitco.net.au

Review: The Les Robinson Story (Type Faster Productions / Sydney Independent Theatre Company)

sitco1Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Nov 18 – 29, 2014
Playwright: Kieran Carroll
Director: Ron Hadley
Cast: Martin Portus, Matt Thomson
Image by Katy Green Loughrey

Theatre review
When a person commits their life to the arts, it is often a conscious decision to go against many societal expectations, and therefore, to become resolutely anti-conformist. Many struggle to make ends meet, and few achieve great critical success, yet there are those who persist through hardship, believing that it is their devotion to their art that provides the greatest meaning. Les Robinson was a Sydney writer who had had only one book published, The Giraffe’s Uncle, in 1933. Between the 1920s and 1960s, the eccentric figure lived a one-man bohemia in shacks and caves around the Sydney harbour, listening to records, fishing and of course, writing.

Kieran Carroll’s lovingly crafted play immortalises a forgotten soul, one whose stories provide us with insight into an unusual life, and a fresh perspective of the city that we love. Carroll’s work is deeply melancholic, but it is also wonderfully inspiring. We hear about iconic artists everyday, but to learn about one of the others, is unexpectedly comforting. The Les Robinson Story could easily be a depressing one, but Ron Hadley’s direction takes care to serve up the joy with the sorrow, always leading us to the light at the end of each dark tunnel. The depiction of time’s passage however, could be made clearer, in order for us to gain a more detailed impression of the character’s evolution.

Martin Portus is not a neglected writer living under a bridge, but the actor certainly makes us believe that he and Robinson are one and the same. The level of authenticity he achieves is the great beauty of this staging. Portus’ presence is strong and sturdy, and his eagerness to share this buried tale is quite moving. As with all great storytellers, we often find ourselves suspended in time with the performer, losing awareness of before and after, completely captivated by right now.

The Les Robinson Story might be about disappointments, loss and regret, but it will be remembered for the man’s spiritedness and his tenacity at living a life of truth and honesty. Robinson never pretended to be anything but his genuine self, and that alone trumps everything else.

www.sitco.net.au

5 Questions with Martin Portus

martinportusWhat is your favourite swear word?
Bum. My father used to say it, along with something else very odd – a load of old cock!

What are you wearing?
Black. Going to Melbourne for a few days to chair an ideas forum.

What is love?
Steadfastness, patience and laughter.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Switzerland, the terrific new thriller and ideas comedy from Australia’s Joanna Murray Smith, which will be an international hit and, I’m sure, a film. Four and a half stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Yes, we’ve perfected it now with two earlier seasons and it avoids those pitfalls of one person-shows. This eccentric Sydney writer Les Robinson really wants to reach his audience, and win their laughter and empathy for him and his times.

Martin Portus is starring in The Les Robinson Story, with Type Faster Productions.
Show dates: 18 – 29 Nov, 2014
Show venue: The Old Fitzroy Hotel

5 Questions with Gertraud Ingeborg

gertraudingeborgWhat is your favourite swear word?
I don’t swear that much, I’m much better at it as a character, like as ‘Belle’. But ‘damn’ might have to do it!

What are you wearing?
Leotard (because I just went to a ballet class), leggings, a black soft top and flat shoes.

What is love?
Love, there are some many types of love, for a man, your children, your dog, your family. It’s all about caring, I think and giving.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
At the Old Fitz. The Irish play, Howie the Rookie, 3 stars

Is your new show going to be any good?
Yes, of course it will be, the writing is very good and so is the directing by David Ritchie and Colleen Cook who is going to do a great strip! My acting – of course it is good!! (At least my director thinks so).

Gertraud Ingeborg is starring in Belle Of The Cross, with Harlos Productions.
Show dates: 18 – 29 Nov, 2014
Show venue: The Old Fitzroy Hotel

Review: V.D. (Copanirvana Theatre Co / Sydney Independent Theatre Company)

sitco2Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Oct 28 – Nov 15, 2014
Playwright: Pete Malicki
Director: Lisa Eismen
Cast: Eliza St John
Image by Katy Green Loughrey

Theatre review
This is a story about a woman in love only with two things; herself and alcohol. Pete Malicki’s script is crafted with some skill. His jokes are incessant, and timed with a natural flair. His characters are abused and ridiculed, and no one is presented in a positive light. There is very little beauty and inspiration in the play, but it has a humour that will appeal to many. It is a harsh truth that Australians find alcohol funny. We laugh at people making destructive decisions and falling over due to drunkenness, and V.D. capitalises on that unfortunate part of our culture. It also takes advantage of the fact that making women desperate and dateless gets laughs easily. Sophie Webb is hopeless, almost idiotic, but she is not unrealistic, and of course, our artistic landscape must make room for all kinds of characters no matter how undesirable.

The script is skilfully executed by director Lisa Eismen and actor Eliza St John. Presentation of the comedy is wide ranging, from the very broad to the very subtle. Character development is sometimes uncomfortable in the plot, but the women manage to create a narrative that is often believable, although the show’s ending is quite bewildering. St John’s performance is masterful. She is wild, intuitive and considered, with a conviction that can turn water into wine. Her work is completely absorbing, and she manages to endear herself to her captive crowd, like using sleight of hand techniques to mask the hideous uselessness of the woman she portrays.

The world can be an ugly place, and it is necessary to know its flaws. The theatre is not reserved for snowdrops and daffodils, and artists must not be censored, but audiences look for morals in stories, and maybe even find meaning in listening to what is being said. What V.D. articulates is sometimes true, but also very sad indeed. Life is worth living because of hope, and we need to acknowledge the darkness that we live with, but we must always recognise it as such.

www.sitco.net.au

Review: November Spawned A Monster (Fly-On-The-Wall Theatre / Sydney Independent Theatre Company)

sitco1Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Oct 28 – Nov 15, 2014
Playwright: Alex Broun
Director: Robert Chuter
Cast: James Wright
Image by Katy Green Loughrey

Theatre review
Morrissey’s music courses through the veins of his fanatic devotees, and William is a young Melbournite who has the rock star’s records underscoring key events of his life. We meet him at a time of mourning, having recently encountered a deep personal loss. The struggle for clarity, direction and a new lease on life is a familiar experience, and Alex Broun’s script is an honest representation of that shared phenomenon. Melancholia is created beautifully in a plot that takes us from everyday banality to extraordinary circumstances, with gentle humour and a generous slew of Morrissey songs that provide poignant irony, and a remarkable coolness.

Also very cool, is Benjamin Brockman’s lighting design for the production, which gives a sense of differentiation between scenes so that we perceive a variety of moods as the leading man goes through scenes of transformation and evolution. Brockman’s work is intelligent and sophisticated, giving the show a visceral sensuality that connects with Morrissey’s omnipresence. Robert Chuter’s direction of the one-man show cleverly finds every opportunity to manufacture shifts in tone, preventing the production from ever being monotonous in spite of its monologue format. Chuter finds nuance in William’s journey and depicts the human condition at a time of sorrow with great sensitivity.

In the role of William is James Wright, who has the challenging task of memorising an eighty-minute play entirely on his own, along with singing a big selection of the idol’s highly idiosyncratic greatest hits at regular intervals. Wright is an enthusiastic performer who has the ability to be engaging, but his confidence levels are inconsistent, and on this stage, there is simply nowhere to hide when the actor’s consciousness is fractured, however briefly. Notwithstanding its energetic rhythm, November Spawned A Monster is chiefly about pain, which Wright does not sufficiently embody. It is almost a metaphysical quality that can be perceived when a person lives with a broken heart, and on the stage, that quality can be forcefully seductive, but that brand of charisma which we can see in Morrissey, is sadly absent in this show.

“Youth is wasted on the young”, said George Bernard Shaw, but William’s story is a reminder that feeling stranded in one’s youth is important for achieving an understanding of grief, and therefore, gaining an appreciation of all that is significant in life. It is not all a bed of roses, but that’s how people grow up.

www.sitco.net.au

5 Questions with James Wright

jameswrightWhat is your favourite swear word?
Fuckery.

What are you wearing?
A jacket over a hoodie over a shirt because I’m in Melbourne.

What is love?
An addictive but glorious mixture of total comfort and mild paranoia which turns you into a happy idiot.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The Last Confession.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Yes, as long as I remember all those bloody lines/lyrics/directions.

 

James Wright is appearing in November Spawned A Monster, with Fly-on-the-Wall Theatre.
Show dates: 28 Oct – 15 Nov, 2014
Show venue: The Old Fitzroy Hotel

5 Questions with Eliza St John

elizastjohnWhat is your favourite swear word?
Fuck.

What are you wearing?
Shortie pyjamas.

What is love?
A belly full of laughter.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Wicked the musical. Ten thousand green stars!

Is your new show going to be any good?
100% guarantee or your money back babay!

 
 
 
 
Eliza St John is appearing in V.D., with Copanirvana Theatre Co.
Show dates: 28 Oct – 15 Nov, 2014
Show venue: The Old Fitzroy Hotel

Review: Howie The Rookie (Red Line Productions / Strange Duck Productions / Sydney Independent Theatre Company)

redlineVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Sep 30 – Oct 25, 2014
Playwright: Mark O’Rowe
Director: Toby Schmitz
Cast: Sean Hawkins, Andrew Henry
Image by Kathy Luu

Theatre review
Howie and Rookie are two young Irish men who live epic nights and emerge to relay their experiences to anyone who would listen. They are base and depraved, with values a world away from the middle classes of theatre-land, yet their lack of pretension and extraordinary candour allow us to find identification with a shared essence of humanity. Their stories are terrifying and sickening, but they are never alien, for our instincts understand what it is to be like them, much as we spend our days fighting tooth and nail to create distance from their godforsaken universe. Mark O’Rowe’s script is a detailed look into a life driven by impulse and unaffected appetite, formed by two monologues written with a brand of poetry that is gritty and coarse, although irresistibly beautiful at many points. It is geezers doing lyricism, and art in its enemy’s territory.

Direction by Toby Schmitz delves into the psychology of his actors, to create characters that feel palpable and real, although both are highly theatrical in expression. A thorough authenticity is manufactured by instituting clarity in thought and intensity of emotion in the performers, which translates into wonderfully vivid storytelling and stunning performances. Schmitz reduces the stage into an exaggerated intimacy so that the only thing that matters is the cast.

Design aspects are extremely subtle, for they aim to disappear, but all elements contribute effectively to the power of the men’s dynamic presence. Lights by Alexander Berlage and sound by Jeremy Silver are sensitive and elegant, with many manoeuvres that are practically undetectable but crucial to atmosphere transformations. Stage manager Nicholas Foustellis executes these changes perfectly. Lisa Mimmocchi’s set and costume design takes a minimal approach but the vision she creates resonates with accuracy, even in its spacial abstraction.

Andrew Henry performs the first half of the piece in the role of Howie. He first addresses the audience out of character, with mundane information about mobile phones and emergency exits, using the opportunity to establish humour and a camaraderie that he brings into the play. Henry maintains eye contact with us throughout, insisting that we hear every word, and we do. The actor’s delivery in both physical and vocal terms is almost acrobatic in its agility. He is funny, outrageous and disturbing, always keeping us firmly in the palm of his hand, and the range of emotion he portrays can only be described as impressive. A major mood transition occurs at the end of his soliloquy that is absolutely breathtaking, and a must-see for any fan of the dramatic arts.

Also remarkable is Sean Hawkins, who takes on the latter half of the production as Rookie. Hawkins’ energy is vibrant and sprightly, providing a clever contrast to the darker Howie. Hawkins is a passionate raconteur who brings brilliant animation to his tales, and the stripes shaven into his temples to match his Adidas tracksuit, indicate the depth at which the actor has absorbed the text. Revealing all that the character believes and feels, Hawkins’ face is mesmerising. It tells us all that Rookie wishes to divulge, and then some. The performer lays bare an honesty that lets us read into a complex portrayal of what seems to be a simple existence.

Small theatre can refer to budgets, venue sizes, or the actual scope of content being produced. In the case of Howie The Rookie, it is the serendipitous meeting of all three that has created something sublime. More extravagant expenditure or auditorium capacity will not improve the colossal genius presented on this very special occasion.

www.sitco.net.au