5 Questions with Claudia Barrie and Emily J Stewart

Claudia Barrie

Emily J Stewart: If you were lost in a labyrinth what would you do and why?
Claudia Barrie: If I was lost in THE Labyrinth I would have tea with the worm and his Missus, hang out with Sir Didymus and then dance with Jareth the Goblin King.

Destination you’ve not been to yet and why?
Japan. Desperate to go there. For the snow, food, culture. Everything.

How important was the casting of Time Stands Still?
Just as important as it is with any show. It’s not just about talent, chemistry and work ethic. It’s also about balancing personalities. Can I spend the next couple of months with this person? Luckily all of the cast (and crew) of TSS are a bunch of legends!

What has working in a non-conventional space been like?
Actually once we got past all the usual technical challenges, it’s been really freeing and as a result I think we’ve created a beautiful and very relaxed space.

If you weren’t doing what you are doing now what would you do?
Paint!

Emily J Stewart

Claudia Barrie: If you could have 3 dinner party guests who would they be and why?
Emily J Stewart: Prince; greatest creative musical genius and inspiration. My dad; to check in on how he’s going up there and tell him about the show. Nelson Mandela; he maintained such dignity through heartbreaking circumstances. Incredibly humbling.

What has been the best part of the Time Stands Still journey so far?
Seeing something that I have been working on for almost 5 years come to life with such incredible people involved.

Name your greatest inspiration?
My dad; He was a jazz muso. Played and wrote sheet music for near on 12 instruments. Extremely passionate, taught me to follow anything I wanted to do, as long as I did it with everything I have.

How have you navigated the complexities of the script for Time Stands Still?
There are so many layers of the text. Each layer takes time to build. Gradually layer by layer I’ve pieced Sarah together and each night the layers and connection deepens.

Do you see a life for this show beyond the Tap?
It would be great to add greater production value to the show, in a bigger warehouse with larger audience capacity.

Claudia Barrie directs Emily J Stewart in Time Stands Still by Donald Margulies.
Dates: 1 – 25 November, 2017
Venue: Tap Gallery

Review: Time Stands Still (Eclipse Productions)

Venue: Tap Gallery (Surry Hills NSW), Nov 1 – 25, 2017
Playwright: Donald Margulies
Director: Claudia Barrie
Cast: Laura Dejanegara, Matt Minto, Terry Serio, Emily J Stewart
Image by Katie Barget

Theatre review
After sustaining serious injuries in Iraq, Sarah returns to Brooklyn, under the care of her partner James. For the first time, the independent woman turns reliant, and we watch the nature of their relationship go through a gradual but drastic change.

Donald Margulies’ Time Stands Still examines the meaning of modern living for some of the more fortunate people of our times. The action is situated in a New York apartment, where its inhabitants engage in degrees of introspection, never having to worry about money, food or shelter. The play oscillates between concerns that are admittedly frivolous, with international issues that are unquestionably serious. It discusses responsibilities of the world’s rich, as other parts of the globe engulf in flames and disaster, while simultaneously worrying about the dwindling relevance of marriage and monogamy.

The production places its audience quite literally inside Sarah and James’ home. The intimate setting exposes us to the frequently caustic energy that seethes between its characters, although a greater sense of polish for the set, would improve the story’s ability to focus on its concerns regarding class and privilege. Claudia Barrie’s direction is strong for the piece; we are constantly reminded of its deeper resonances even when people are squabbling over the pettier things in life.

Leading lady Emily J Stewart is full of conviction, and effective in providing a quality of heightened sentimentality to the show, although her Sarah seems too persistently vulnerable, with an overemphasis on her role’s fragility, that can interfere with the play’s celebration of female autonomy. Matt Minto is persuasive as James, the journalist determined to retreat from the rough business of war correspondence. The actor is beautifully nuanced in his portrayal of a man struggling to dominate his household. Supporting players Laura Dejanegara and Terry Serio are both delightful and dynamic, adding charming effervescence with every appearance.

Guilt means nothing if it is not an intermediary emotion that leads to proactive action. With the proliferation of information technology, big business sells us news stories about terrible things happening near and far, and we live in a state of constantly feeling bad as a result of this new capitalism. Disaster porn is lucrative, and we pay for it with money and with languishing in sadness, wondering who is left to go and solve the problems.

www.eclipseproductions.com.au

Review: The Big Funk (Suspicious Woman Productions)

suspiciouswomanVenue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Mar 11 – 21, 2015
Playwright: John Patrick Shanley
Director: Michael Dean
Cast: Michael Drysdale, Jasper Garner-Gore, Alixandra Kupcik, Jess Loudon, Bali Padda

Theatre review
Philosophy and theatre are bosom buddies. Theatre means little without an attitude that is intent on questioning the nature of things, and philosophy becomes significantly more meaningful when brought to flesh beyond the realm of ink and paper. John Patrick Shanley’s The Big Funk looks at life with wonderment and passion. The writer’s words are powerful and his ideas are exciting, with an abstraction at its core that disallows narrative and simple logic from diluting its sophisticated concepts. The play positions itself outside of real life, examining it at a distance, always extricating itself when it becomes too involved in drama and emotions. There is a great deal of intellectualism to enjoy, but what a viewer can garner here, as is for every piece of complex work of art, depends largely on their own worldview and mental capacities.

Michael Dean’s direction adds a playful dimension to the piece, with an eagerness for creating a lively theatre that locates all the physical and interactive potentialities in Shanley’s writing, turning a cerebral text into an effervescent stage experience. Dean does well at introducing some elucidation to the often convoluted existential reflections of characters in The Big Funk, but much of their rumination remains out of reach. Original thought is rarely easy, and we should probably not expect to be able to absorb everything from a single encounter of a dense script, especially when presented at a jaunty pace. Nevertheless, moments of resonance occur throughout the production, and although inconsistent, they are often effective and poignant.

Performances are thoughtful and well-crafted, with excellent chemistry between all members of cast. Alixandra Kupcik is memorable for her vulnerability, and Jasper Garner-Gore for his exuberant and authentic presence, but both are to be lauded for their extremely confident approach to their prolonged sequences of nudity at Sydney’s most intimate venue. Annabel Blackman does solid work as designer, with a set that does very much with very little, and elegant costuming that helps with characterisations and storytelling. Lights and sound, however, do not contribute sufficiently to manufacturing ambience that would live up to the extravagant surrealism and absurdity of contexts being explored.

We live in a world filled with uncertainty and angst, but life is how we choose to interpret and understand it, and in The Big Funk, we are encouraged to reflect upon the way we think about our environment and how we interact with it. It is important that life has a sense of meaning, and Shanley is right in saying that each person should determine their own relationship with their own existence, without the burden of inheritance and baggage. There is a way to make rules and to establish codes from one’s own consciousness, to provide guidance for our days on this earth but it is the ambiguous and tricky hazard of the human conscience that we need to be mindful of.

www.suspiciouswomanproductions.com

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

End

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Photography by Roderick Ng, Dec 2014

Click here to see Best Of 2013

5 Questions with Jacki Mison

jackimisonWhat is your favourite swear word?
My favourite swearword is ‘motherfucker’ because hey, why limit yourself to just one? I love the fact you can elongate either, or both words for extra emphasis.

What are you wearing?
PJ’s, which involves a singlet & a pair of boxers.

What is love?
When you rejoice in someone else’s being… and that includes my dog!

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The best thing I’ve seen in the last few months, which I absolutely loved, was Sugarland at ATYP.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Well if you feel like watching something that is sharp, witty, will make you laugh out loud and is NOT 3 hours long, then yes, it is good, very, very good! So come along and enjoy….

Jacki Mison is appearing in The God Of Carnage, by Yasmina Reza (translated by Christopher Hampton).
Show dates: 26 Nov – 7 Dec, 2014
Show venue: TAP Gallery

Review: Five Women Wearing The Same Dress (Act IV Theatre Co)

activtheatreVenue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Oct 28 – Nov 2, 2014
Playwright: Alan Ball
Director: Deborah Jones
Cast: Nadim Accari, Kaitlin DeLacy, Chloe McKenzie, Eleanor Ryan, Melinda Ryan, Wendy Winkler
Image by Tim Levy

Theatre review
Weddings are traditional affairs that expose the roles that we play for others in daily life, and our obligations as friends and family members. Participation in weddings often involves some level of reluctance, and most would probably prefer to be some place else doing something less painful. Alan Ball’s fabulous script is about the interactions between five bridesmaids after a wedding ceremony. The women have distinct personalities, with nothing in common, except for the hideous purple dress forced onto their bodies, and an unconcealed dislike for the bride. The play’s context positions the women in relation to the concept of marriage, and we observe how the supposed universal ideal of matrimony is no longer relevant to modern lives. Ball’s fascinating characters reveal their individual idiosyncrasies and it becomes clear that fulfilment and happiness might have little or nothing at all to do with marriage.

Ball’s writing is entertaining, whimsical and punchy. The charming language of the American South is showcased beautifully, and the women’s lives are vividly imagined, with a familiarity that allows us to find points of association. Their worlds seem real, because Ball exposes their imperfections in a way that demonstrates a humanity that we can relate to. Direction of the work is provided by Deborah Jones who brings a clarity to narratives and motivations. She keeps energy levels high, but there is a stasis to the atmosphere that prevents the show from providing a more dynamic experience. The comedy is written well, but it is not a uniformly strong cast, so the results of delivery are mixed and chemistry is not always fine. It must be noted that although some performances are less effective, every actor is clearly full of conviction and focus, and the stage is always an engaging one.

Eleanor Ryan is outstanding in the role of Mindy, a jovial lesbian who exemplifies the liberated individual in a world overrun by peer pressure and broken promises. Ryan’s comic timing is a highlight of the production and her creation is the most endearing of the group. Her style is much more flamboyant than her colleagues, but she retains a grounding authenticity that keeps her character believable and interesting. The complex role of Georgeanne is played by Wendy Winkler, who captivates with a clever blend of tragedy and irony. Her depiction of strength and optimism in the role’s banal existence is delightfully inspiring.

This is a play about women from a man’s perspective, and even though it is debatable if the writer knows the gender well, he certainly does understand the human condition. The anxieties it expresses and the desires it explores are absolutely real for many of us. Five Women Wearing The Same Dress often feels like light entertainment, but what it leaves behind is altogether more deep and meaningful. We think about the choices that present themselves, and the ones that seem elusive. The decisions that we make shape the life that we live, but so do the circumstances that seem to be beyond control. When a wedding invitation arrives, one can only choose to accept or decline, but to respond with honesty and truth is infinitely more perplexing.

www.activtheatreco.com

Review: Brother Daniel (TAP Gallery)

brotherdanielVenue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Sep 24 – Oct 5, 2014
Playwright: James Balian
Director: Travis Green
Cast: Vincent Andriano, David Attrill, Mel Dodge, Jeannie Gee, Adam Hatzimanolis, Errol Henderson, Richard Hilliar, Naomi Livingstone
Image by Mark Banks

Theatre review
James Balian’s Brother Daniel discusses the concepts of heroism and revolution. His work is dense and intellectual, but the ideas that he introduces into the play are vibrantly refreshing. We are made to examine our relationship with heroes, and that incessant need to turn narratives into tales of inspiration and motivation with headlining objects of worship. We elevate people into positions of sainthood and martyrdom, by obliterating the very qualities that bind us as the human race. We have a need to make real our abstract ideals so that aspirations can be formed and individuals or groups can find ways to progress. The betterment of society requires epitomes, but those examples of perfection can only exist in our imagination. Daniel is a legend in prison, and a revolution is taking place outside. The crowds are moved by the memory of Daniel’s legacy, but we are in his cell, witnessing an iconoclasm and the deconstruction of a national hero.

Although Travis Green manages to direct the play with an appropriate severity, there is a stasis to his style that prevents sufficient dramatic effect from taking shape on the stage. Balian’s wordy script proves a challenge, and the heavy reliance on dialogue with very minimal visual inventiveness is challenging for its audience. We need to understand the writing not only through our ears, but when in the theatrical space, our other faculties have to be equally addressed. It is noteworthy that sound design is a well considered element, efficiently adding a foreboding dimension to the atmosphere.

The cast is a strong one, bringing confident presence and polish to the production. Daniel is played by the effortlessly enigmatic Adam Hatzimanolis whose committed performance grounds the show. His interpretation of the personality’s ambiguity is beautifully presented, and he adds to his scenes, a powerful intensity that leaves an excellent impression. The play features several roles that feel too surface, mainly due to their brief stage time, but Daniel is dimensioned and unpredictable, with a depth that is crucial for a central character.

We are not told where the action takes place, but our minds go to the current demonstrations in Hong Kong, where civilians are taking to the streets in protest of their totalitarian government. Revolution is bold, and Brother Daniel is at heart, a bold piece of writing, but what transpires on stage needs an approach closer to anarchy.

www.tapgallery.org.au