Review: Kiss Of The Gallery Guard (Scene Theatre Sydney)

Venue: Sydney Philharmonia Choirs Hall (Walsh Bay NSW), May 11 – 26, 2018
Playwright: Carol Dance
Director: Murray Lambert
Cast: Justin Amankwah, Jesse Northam, Chloe Schwank, Cara Severino
Images by John Leung

Theatre review
After making the local news in less than dignified fashion, Amber leaves her rural town in shame, and lands a job in a city art gallery. Carol Dance’s Kiss Of The Gallery Guard asks if it is possible for the leopard to change its spots, and through its own discussions about the ever evolving meanings of art, the play looks at the constantly mutating quality of human nature, in relation to art objects that are characterised as stable and inanimate.

It is a concept worthwhile of exploration, but Kiss Of The Gallery Guard has a plot structure that tends to be overly tangential, with a writing style that mature audiences will find too expositional. Performers for the show are not short of conviction, although their exaggerated approach can interfere with the authenticity that they attempt to bring to the narrative. Cara Severino is a delightful presence as Amber, impressive with the detail she brings to the role, even if the excessively animated mode of presentation is a blemish.

The ephemeral nature of theatre, is what sets it apart from other art forms. A work can always be revisited, revised and remounted, and no two shows can ever be exactly the same. People will grow, and artists will transform. Much as we are inclined to hold unshifting opinions about others, we also know that the world is a surprising place, and people will always have the potential to evade underestimations.

5 Questions with Eli Saad and Sana’a Shaik

Eli Saad

Sana’a Shaik: You play multiple roles in Future Seekers, how did you find tackling each character?
Eli Saad: I love a challenge so I was really excited by the idea of having 5 characters to play in one show. It’s given me an opportunity to showcase something different, and also go really extreme and do something unexpected with some of the characters. I’m excited for audiences to see them.

If you were able to invite anyone in the world to come watch you perform, who would it be?
Max Mutchnick – I love his work. I’d also take the opportunity to convince him to add me into the Will & Grace cast!

What thrills you more, drama or comedy?
I would have to say drama. I do love comedy and I enjoy making people laugh, but making people cry is far better, haha. No really, there is something about being able to really move someone with a performance on a deeper level and taking them on a journey with you.

Future Seekers takes us from Russia to Australia, where is the best place you’ve travelled to?
Definitely Kenya. I first went in 2011 and a 5 week trip turned into a 3 month stay. I then came back to Sydney in March 2012 and returned to Kenya again in December 2012. It’s just a stunning country, I really did feel like I was home being there. The people, the culture, the animals – by far one of the greatest experiences of my life. I also volunteered with an organisation called Tushinde who do amazing work in the Mathare slums, so it also taught me a lot about the world and myself. Working with Tushinde also connected me to my sponsor child, Shadrack, who has now been in school for 5 years, which is just incredible. I can’t wait to go back and visit him again.

Are you more a sweet or savoury kind of guy?
Most definitely sweet. Just ask the cast/crew of Future Seekers. I show up to rehearsals with a different cake I’ve baked each time! Delicious but dangerous.

Sana’a Shaik

Eli Saad: When you’re not acting what are you doing?
Sana’a Shaik: The polar opposite! I work in funds management. The silver lining is that I get an endless supply of paper to print all my scripts!

What excites you about being part of the Future Seekers production?
Being able to explore multiple characters and different storylines all in one play. I’ve never been a part of anything like this script, its exciting. One minute I’m a Russian/English immigrant the next i’m a pregnant pubescent teen in Australia. It’s been challenging working my way through each individual character. Making each role separate from the last has been something the entire cast has worked very hard on. Also being able to work with my Beirut Adrenaline family again has been wonderful. Everyone in the production brings something special to the show.

If you could play any role, who would it be?
Princess Jasmine from Aladdin!

Which of your characters in Future Seekers is your favourite, and why?
Linda is probably my favourite. She’s been dealt some really unlucky cards but she never uses that as an excuse. She’s determined, ballsy and optimistic.

What is your favourite line/moment in the show?
Oh I have two! First is when Mr Brown (Eli Saad) has a semi-breakdown and needs to escape the theatre for some smokes. Second is the banter between Sally (Neveen Hana) and Marta (Me). Sally tries to explain to Marta it’ll be social suicide to not go into the company sweep!

Eli Saad and Sana’a Shaik can be seen in Future Seekers by Carol Dance.
Dates: 20 – 30 Apr, 2017
Venue: Sydney Philharmonia Choirs Hall