5 Questions with Christian Byers

christianbyersWhat is your favourite swear word?
Fuck, fucked, fucker and all it’s fuckin’ cognates. Favourite fuckin’ word. Fuck. Fuckin’ nothin’ like a fuckin’ good fuck. If I had to choose between ‘fuck’ and oxygen, I’d choose oxygen, I’m not an idiot but I’d be in no rush. Stretch it out long and sing ‘fuck’ super strong without pause for breath in the interim. Beautiful word.

What are you wearing?

What is love?
Tenderness and time dilation.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Double bill of Black Comedy and The Real Inspector Hound at SUDS, went on first night which was pretty good and again on final night, where vases were spontaneously smashed with hammers because directors deserve to cry. I kept a shard of the vase to remind myself to aaaaalways improvise, 5 stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
It fucking better be. Actually, no you know what, it’s going to be brilliant but I get the feeling it’s going to get its fair share of hate. But those who love it will start devoting their lives to adapting Greek tragedies. Or makin’ fuckin’ pies with fuckin’ people in. That’s our aim at least.

Christian Byers is playing the role of Tereus in Procne & Tereus part of Sydney Fringe 2014.
Show dates: 16 – 20 Sep, 2014
Show venue: TAP Gallery

Review: Out Of Gas On Lovers Leap (The Kings Collective)

thekingscollectiveVenue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Sep 9 – 14, 2014
Writer: Mark St. Germain
Director: Grace Victoria
Cast: David Harrison, Cecelia Peters
Image by Kate Williams Photography

Theatre review
USA in the 1980s was a time of great prosperity, when greed was good and the pursuit of riches seemed the only valid way of life. The pragmatism of money encouraged the dismantling of family units, and children grew up in the care of hired help, while parents explored possibilities in thriving economies. Mark St. Germain’s Out Of Gas On Lovers Leap is a lamentation that looks at two high school sweethearts, Myst and Grouper. Both characters are created with excellent depth and their backgrounds thoroughly elucidated. The script is dark and dangerous, with the aimless and misguided teenage couple discussing confronting subjects like abortion and suicide, and indulging in sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll before our eyes.

The play is about the gravity in these young lives, but Grace Victoria’s direction allows too much frivolity. The production is entertaining, and extremely high energy, but the dark nuances of the text is often lost. We hear the disturbing details of the dialogue but they do not resonate with a sense of urgency and tension. The cast is vibrant and enthusiastic, but they are not given enough instruction and the deeper social connotations of the story are sacrificed for a lot of clamour and amusement.

Cecelia Peters plays Myst, the talented daughter of a pop music celebrity. Peters’ fervour for comedy keeps the show buoyant, and she pushes effectively to create a sense of excitement. Her emotions are intensely portrayed, but not always appropriately so. The role of her boyfriend Grouper is performed by David Harrison, who is equally effervescent. There is a focus to his work that gives it a sense of polish, and he forms a complementary team with Peters, even if sexual chemistry between the two is a little lacking.

Entertainment is an important factor in assessing a theatrical work’s efficacy, and in the case of Out Of Gas On Lovers Leap, its cast does well at keeping us engaged. Not everything on stage needs to have poignancy and profundity but Mark St. Germain’s script requires a treatment that is more sensitive. The message is a serious one, and it needs to be presented with greater severity. The production concludes well, with Peters and Harrison showing wonderful commitment in the final scene, although a change in tone does occur suddenly. It is now thirty years after that fateful night at Lovers Leap, and Generation X is in its middle age, bringing up its own children. The circle of life may be perpetual, but questions relating to the heredity of emotional and psychological damage become increasingly relevant.


5 Questions with Lucinda Howes

lucindahowesWhat is your favourite swear word?
Unfortunately I say ‘shivers’ a lot, probably too often (I work with children, you have to find substitutes).

What are you wearing?
A jumper, jeans and gumboots.

What is love?
Buying someone flowers when you can’t afford shampoo.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The Winters Tale, Bell Shakespeare. It had its moments, good and bad. Three stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Yes, though probably not for the cast.


Lucinda Howes is playing the role of Procne in Procne & Tereus part of Sydney Fringe 2014.
Show dates: 16 – 20 Sep, 2014
Show venue: TAP Gallery

Review: Out Of Fear (Night Sky Theatre Co)

nightskytheatreVenue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Sep 3 – 14, 2014
Writer: Dominic Witkop
Director: Garreth Cruikshank
Cast: Chris Miller, Kayla Stanton, Matt Thomson
Image by Geoff Sirmai

Theatre review
There are very dark themes in Dominic Witkop’s Out Of Fear, with murder and destruction in the family unit serving as inspiration. The writer explores masculine anxiety in a heavily surreal world that calls to mind David Lynch’s Lost Highway and its own Jekyll & Hyde references. Witkop’s narrative structure also borrows elements from Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, such as its unusual take on the love triangle dynamic between two men and a femme fatale. The script is a brave attempt at something left of centre and while it does not avoid feeling derivative at times, it is certainly not run-of-the-mill. Witkop’s mise en scène is innovative, but the text requires further editing. A flair for words is only one of the aspects a playwright needs, and Out Of Fear lacks a greater theatricality in terms of the physicality and temporal dimensions of a live performance.

Direction of the work by Garreth Cruikshank aims to create a sense of conventional storytelling, with an emphasis on realism in character portrayal and development. This contradicts Witkop’s writing style, and misses the opportunity for a more visceral approach to performance. The people look like they exist in our world, but they speak as though from dreamland, with coherence proving a challenge. Surrealist theatre has evolved its own traditions and embellishments, but they are negated on this occasion, except for lighting design that attempts to add a more dramatic dimension to proceedings. Also dramatic is Chris Miller’s performance as Travis, whose energy levels are to be admired. The intensity of the role is a highlight of the production, and Miller’s enthusiasm for his character’s mania is fascinating, if a little repetitive. All three characters feel disappointingly distant, but Miller manages to keep us engaged in many of his scenes.

It is noteworthy that the play’s serious social implications do not overwhelm, and it is to the production’s credit that the work retains an experimental edge that prevents it from turning into something generic or melodramatic. On the other hand, a lost message could result in an exercise that feels somewhat inconsequential. Poignancy may elude it, but the work contains gravity, ambition and an earnestness that gives it a quiet lustre.


5 Questions with Scott Lee

scottleeWhat is your favourite swear word?
The C-bomb… but only in the confines of my car so know one can actually hear me say it.

What are you wearing?
A green hoodie I stole from my twin brother cause I’m a knob, and the only pair of pants I own (which conveniently has a massive hole in the crotch).

What is love?
I don’t know if I’ve fully figured that one out yet. For me I think it’s the moment when you let all those silly walls we all build down and have the freedom to be yourself (which in my case is being a bit of a nut).

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Rebels With a Cause directed by Simon Doctor. Was a cool little showcase at NIDA with a whole bunch of scenes from Shakespeare, Chekhov, Harold Pinter, Clifford Odets and other pieces I didn’t recognise but it was great fun and I’d give it 4 stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
I bloody reckon it will be! 🙂 It’s such a fun play that, I think, already has a massive following. Kenneth Lonergan’s writing is mental! It’s so spot on and human and we are all having a ball rehearsing. The play really speaks to me as a young adult and hopefully will to those who come and see it… but at the very least it’s a hilarious play and I think everyone who sees it will have a giggle, maybe even a laugh out loud.

Scott Lee stars in This Is Our Youth, part of Sydney Fringe 2014.
Show dates: 17 – 21 Sep, 2014
Show venue: TAP Gallery

5 Questions with Megan McGlinchey

meganmcglincheyWhat is your favourite swear word?

What are you wearing?

What is love?
Zero zero in tennis.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Constellations and I would give it 5 stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Yes, sir.


Megan McGlinchey stars in Gruesome Playground Injuries, part of Sydney Fringe 2014.
Show dates: 24 – 28 Sep, 2014
Show venue: TAP Gallery

5 Questions with David Harrison‏

davidharrisonWhat is your favourite swear word?
The current favorite is ‘slunt’. My best friend Ashleigh can’t bring herself to say c-word but deems this an appropriate substitution.

What are you wearing?
An op-shop find – reversible Giants Baseball Jacket, grey t-shirt and some pajama pants that have cartoon pictures of peanuts on them with the slogan: “Go Nuts”. Yes these are my work clothes.

What is love?
In the paraphrased words of Jeanette Winterson: ‘You don’t fall in love like you fall in a hole. You fall like falling through space. It’s like you jump off your own private planet to visit someone else’s planet. It is a big surprise falling in love because you thought you had everything just right on your own planet and that was true, in a way, but then somebody signaled to you across space and the only way you could visit was to take a giant leap. Away you go, falling into someone else’s orbit and after a while you might decide to pull your two planets together and
call it home. And the falling was really the big jump that you had to make to be with someone you don’t want to be without. That’s it.’ Essentially, love = space travel.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
I actually just saw Hedda Gabler at Belvoir. I think it was a really worthy experiment in theatre making and I respect and admire both Ash and Adena very much for their talent and courage in an artistic and social climate that doesn’t necessarily support their vision. I give it 4 stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
I’m a big fan of shows with a lot of heart and compassion. I think that is what the writers and actors have all brought to the table and if we can deliver that to the audience, then we’ve done our job.

David Harrison‏ stars in Out Of Gas On Lover’s Leap, part of Sydney Fringe 2014.
Show dates: 10 – 14 Sep, 2014
Show venue: TAP Gallery
Image by Sally Flegg

Review: Four Places (Outhouse Theatre Co)

outhouseVenue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Jul 29 – Aug 10, 2014
Writer: Joel Drake Johnson
Director: Nicholas Hope
Cast: Amanda Stephens Lee, Jeremy Waters, Kim Hillas, Briony Williams
Image by Richard Farland Photography

Theatre review
Death affects everyone, but how each of us relates to it differs. People have different expectations about how terminal illnesses should be managed, also which individuals are to be held responsible for the well-being of the dying, and certainly our ideas about the “afterlife” are informed by a wide range of religious and spiritual beliefs, or lack thereof. Joel Drake Johnson’s script explores life at its final stages for the average middle class person, with ruminations about fear, love, family and ideology.

Nicholas Hope’s direction keeps the action very subdued. Its naturalism is so thorough that we often feel like eavesdroppers, and the family that we observe are going about their business with as much mundanity as any other party of three at a casual dining spot. They talk about serious matters, but they rarely allow themselves to react too dramatically. These are not people very open with their feelings, even if one of them is a psychologist. They each have their own secrets, and they seem content with not knowing too much about each other’s. We see the mother character Peggy, wearing an over sized crucifix as a pendant, and we are tempted to associate the stifling oppressiveness with their religious and cultural background.

Peggy is played by Kim Hillas, who is believable and truthful in her interpretation of the script, but she is often too subtle. It is a rare joy to see a play with an older female as its lead character, but we long for greater drama and stronger comedy. The theatre can be a reflection of real life, but it is also storytelling, and we need embellishments in order that our empathy can be amplified and made meaningful. Amanda Stephens Lee has the unenviable task of playing Ellen, the psychologist daughter, who is also a widow still in mourning. The character is a repressed one, and the actor portrays effectively, the dread that is felt when having to manage one’s parents’ illnesses. The role of her brother is performed by Jeremy Waters, who does his best to prevent familial disquiet. We see the character’s frustrations even if his lines give little away, and Waters makes good use of each opportunity that allows some range to his work.

To connect with an audience, a story needs to locate its points of universality and give it emphasis. Four Places has themes that we can relate to, but its characters are not accessible to all. If we do not understand them, their problems become diminished. If they do not fascinate, we lose interest. Every person on a stage has a tale to share, but it is the artistic choices they make that determines how many will be able to hear them.


5 Questions with Kathy Petrakis

kathypetrakisWhat is your favourite swear word?
It would have to be ‘shit’. I probably say it the most frequently. I save ‘fuck’ for the more serious occasions.

What are you wearing?
I have to admit it’s afternoon and I’m still in my pink striped PJs. Writer’s prerogative.

What is love?
Putting someone else’s needs above your wants. A respect and desire to bring out the best in the other person.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The Crash Test Drama finals at New Theatre. The best of the 10 minute plays for the season with excellent performances all round – a tough one for the judges. I would give it 4.5 stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
It’s going to be fantastic! If it can make you shed a tear, it’s done its job. A talented cast really brings the script alive and it’s definitely different to anything else out there right now.

Kathy Petrakis is directing her own play Black Rainbow.
Show dates: 13 – 24 Aug, 2014
Show venue: TAP Gallery

Review: Phaedra (Lies, Lies And Propaganda)

liesliesVenue: TAP Gallery (Surry Hills NSW), Jul 17 – 26, 2014
Playwright: Euripides (based on Hippolytus)
Director: Michael Dean
Cast: Danielle Baynes, Melissa Brownlow, Sinead Curry, Cheyne Fynn, Richard Hilliar, Katrina Rautenberg, Nathaniel Scotcher, Jennifer White
Image by Sasha Cohen

Theatre review
The art of making theatre requires the consideration of space and time. It needs to set itself apart from literature and recorded media like film and music. The audience’s immersive experience is not parenthetical or supplementary, it is central to the appreciation of a work. Michael Dean’s Phaedra uses space and bodies not only to tell stories, but also to enthrall, delight and fascinate our senses. By extensively exploring the possibilities of holding a captive audience, it does what no other art form can. Along with Catherine Steele’s design and Christopher Page’s lighting, we find ourselves inside a blood-soaked painting that is at once romantic and abhorrent. The four fabulous actors who make up the chorus are relentless in acknowledging our gaze, and the seductive power they wield, pulls us further into a world where tears are shed, blood is let and everyone loses their mind.

Phaedra’s story is about desire, its origins, its moralities, and its effects. She falls in love with her stepson, and all hell breaks loose. Phaedra struggles with her thoughts and emotions, and we examine the meanings of our own relationships with love and sex. The production’s director is part of the action, positioned behind two turntables, underscoring performances with old vinyl records that he distorts and scratches. The soundtrack is often discordant, attempting to place distance between us and the characters. We see Euripides’ universe, but we are also reminded of our realities; the two are pitched playfully against each other.

Danielle Baynes as Phaedra, exemplifies sensuality and beauty. She portrays longing and pain with a quiet authenticity, and executes stage directions elegantly. Baynes’ voice and physicality are disciplined and the actor is eminently watchable, but the show wants more intensity from her. Drama is the order of the day, and there is no limit to how much ostentation an actor can bring to the role. Hipploytus is played by the equally beautiful Richard Hilliar, whose presence almost overwhelms the tiny venue. The feminist subversion of his role gives him much to play with, and his choices are shrewd. His lines are flamboyant and powerful, but also primitive and offensive by today’s conventions. The need to be restrained in delivery is appropriate, and Hilliar finds a good balance, constantly shifting between subtlety and theatricality. Theseus is performed with strong emotional commitment by Katrina Rautenberg. It is interesting that her interpretation of the role does not obviously deviate from its inherent masculinity. There seems a missed opportunity for greater commentary on gender, but Rautenberg playing things straight displays effectively, her impressive focus and precision.

The queer aesthetic extends beyond the casting of Theseus. It informs many of the production’s creative decisions and the result is something that feels original and daring. Dean’s show is memorable and exciting, and adds to our cultural landscape, a voice that is not sufficiently represented. It espouses a different way of doing things, one that is thoughtful, spirited, and full of flair. It is irreverent and mischievous, but also dark and heavy. It is why we need the theatre.