Review: Front (Jackrabbit Theatre)

Venue: The Depot Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Jun 28 – Jul 15, 2017
Playwright: Michael Abercromby
Director: Michael Abercromby
Cast: Jack Angwin, Charlie Falkner, Elle Harris, Andreas Lohmeyer, Mary Soudi, Lincoln Vickery
Image by Tom Cramond

Theatre review
They are called Rough Cut Punt, a band that is going places, fuelled by big dreams, and even bigger egos. In Michael Abercromby’s Front, we meet four young men, talented but naive, trying to foster a career with only passion as guidance. Before too long, things begin to unravel, of course, in this age old tale of a partnership gone sour. Its narrative might be predictable, but the show is nonetheless enjoyable. Front is a story we have heard before, but its themes of betrayal and of innocence lost, will always retain their pertinence.

It is a tight and energetic production that Abercromby has directed. Scenes move past efficiently, with transitions, of time and space, handled remarkably well. The stage is effectively demarcated, by lighting designer Liam O’Keefe and set designer Shaynee Brayshaw, to offer a sense of vigour and action to keep us involved. Our frontman is played by Lincoln Vickery, whose vulnerability prevents us from being alienated by his poor behaviour. Vickery can seem a reluctant villain, but his charisma holds our attention even when the going gets tough. Charlie Falkner is relied upon to provide the comedy, as band guitarist and resident stoner, with his impeccable timing giving the production a much needed lustre. Also memorable is Mary Soudi as a recording executive, vicious and vile, accurately presented for some of the play’s more dramatic moments.

Like most people who fear being ordinary, artists are aghast by the thought of being generic. Rough Cut Punt wants to have a good time, but it knows that its survival depends on finding something original. Front may be an entertaining work, but we want it to say something new, so that its effects can last beyond the curtain call. Its prologue and epilogue are one and the same, both expressing the artist’s zeal for the vocation, but we see success eluding our protagonist, as he continues to ignore his craft.

www.jackrabbittheatre.com

5 Questions with Jasper Lee Lindsay and Nicholas Sinclair

Jasper Lee Lindsay

Nicholas Sinclair: What has been the hardest part of this role?
Jasper Lee Lindsay: I was really worried at first when I thought about the ‘social commentary’ aspect of the play, especially as it’s all very relevant in today’s society and I didn’t want to be the one to take a wrong turn and make people feel sour after the play. But atmosphere of the whole production is filled with such heart and care that I was able to settle in to the play and let go of the worry.

What are the similarities and differences between you and your character?
There are quite a few similarities, but the one I like the most is that we both like to think we’re the wittiest guy in the room, which is funny because Reid actually says his witty things out loud while I just sorta whisper them to myself and pat myself on the back for being so darn clever.

What is the best advice you have been given in regards to acting?
Best advice: “Listen”. I know it’s kind of a boring answer, but it’s how I keep myself happy in performance. Receiving what an actor is giving me in a scene and responding to it in the moment, whilst keeping it all in balance with all the technical work, is great for keeping me active and connected on stage.

What is your dream role?
Every role. *pats self on back*

Why do you think this play is relevant in today’s society?
I think this play is very much about the modern context and how things that used to be considered “taboo” are having more light shone on them today. Nothing is really off-limits to talk about anymore and whether it’s for better or worse, it might just be necessary.

Nicholas Sinclair

Jasper Lee Lindsay: How has it been taking on the role of someone struggling with gender identity?
Nicholas Sinclair: I’m not going to lie, it has been a challenge. As someone who has been lucky enough to have a very easy life in regards to coming out and accepting my sexuality, it was difficult to put myself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t have that same luxury. I feel the hardest part of this character is not making every choice or decision simple or easy to answer.

How does the Post family compare to your real family?
They are completely different! My grandparents aren’t racists and homophobes but like all families we do have our fights just like the Post family. We are really supportive of each other! I think the biggest similarity is that we love Chinese food.

Has playing a teenager brought back any painfully embarrassing memories from your high school days?
Oh god… I guess? I feel I look better in a school uniform now than when I actually went to school. I remember one day when someone put a stink bomb in my bag at lunch time, that was pretty awful. I think my mind may have blocked any embarrassing moments because I’m really struggling to think of some right now.

This play is kind of a roller-coaster of emotions. How do you think the audience will feel at the end of the play?
I hope that they feel the same freedom that we as the characters feel. I want people to walk away with questions and excitement!

What’s your favourite use of the word ‘bitch’?
I think my favourite would have to be: “Whatever, bitch.” Mainly for when someone is trying to prove you wrong and you don’t have time for them anymore… and you also know that you’re wrong.

Jasper Lee Lindsay and Nicholas Sinclair can be seen in Bitch by Wayne Tunks.
Dates: 31 May – 17 June, 2017
Venue: The Depot Theatre

Review: Educating Rita (The Depot Theatre)

Venue: The Depot Theatre (Marrickville NSW), May 10 – 20, 2017
Playwright: Willy Russell
Director: Julie Baz
Cast: David Jeffrey, Emily McGowan
Image by Katy Green Loughrey

Theatre review
We meet Rita as she begins to realise her discontentment with banality. Going back to school, she wishes to make improvements to her life, although not entirely sure what a better existence should look like. Her tutor Frank on the other hand, is an alcoholic, and a poet who no longer writes. Both are subconsciously thinking “anywhere but here,” but only Rita knows to seek for answers in a productive way.

Willy Russell’s Educating Rita is about aspirations, and also, in its very British way, about class distinctions. Its humour relies on Rita’s lack of sophistication as a Liverpudlian hairdresser, but under Julie Baz’s direction, the characters speak as Australians, with our Rita in a broader, shall we say, working class type accent.

It is a bold decision that proves to be at times effective, and at others, quite awkward. The text mentions a slew of British places and personalities, and talks of Australia as a faraway country, so the production’s ability to assist with our suspension of disbelief tends to be inconsistent. However, the show remains otherwise attentive to the spirit of Russell’s writing, and we always feel that its heart is kept in the right place.

The actors take a couple of scenes to warm up, but when Emily McGowan gets comfortable in her role, Rita’s endearing qualities shine through, allowing us to engage with the play’s ideas and sentimentality. Both actors, McGowan and David Jeffrey, can on occasion slip into an unfortunate reticence with their parts, but when confident, their scenes become involving and quite amusing. Also noteworthy is Tim Linghaus’ music providing an air of melancholy appropriate to the characters’ inner worlds.

Rita and Frank cross paths, as they both embark on new trajectories. Life is change, but we do not have to think of moving up as the only meaningful way to achieve progress. We have to value the sense of surprise in all our narratives, just as we know to enjoy the simple straightforward increments in things we usually pursue. The universe will take us places, whether we like it or not. It is how we choose to understand them and delight in them, that makes all the difference.

www.thedepottheatre.com

5 Questions with David Jeffrey and Emily McGowan

David Jeffrey


Emily McGowan: What do you and your character Frank (your character in Educating Rita) have in common and what sets you both apart?
David Jeffrey: We’re both mad, I currently have too much hair on my head and I do like going to the pub, though I seldom get to enjoy this pleasure. The obvious difference between us is that Frank loves poetry and I love plays.

Tell us how Frank would spend his day if he could do anything, no expenses spared?
Frank would take Rita by the hand and time travel back to late 18th century London to invite William Blake for a pint at the Lamb & Flag.

I have hired you a private 3 hat Michelin chef for the night, what do you ask them to make you and why?
Love my classics. Shrimp Cocktail, Duck a l’Orange, followed by Baked Alaska.

What is one of the greatest challenges you have found working on Educating Rita?
Knowing what scene is coming next. Sounds simple but not in this play.

If you were an animal what would you be?
A Blue Dragon.

Emily McGowan

David Jeffrey: What do you like the most and the least about your character Rita in Educating Rita?
Emily McGowan: What I like the most about Rita is her heart. She is passionate about justice – she loves people! I love that she isn’t crippled or trapped by her inequities, but rather, she is a go-getter and takes every opportunity. Something I don’t like about Rita is that she can sometimes be a bit clueless, I often feel like saying “Come on girl! Screw your head on.” But really she is hard not to love.

If you could live and work anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
This is a hard one as I have two bucket list places (in which I have never been to). It would be either Paris or New York. Both places seem to steam with possibility and culture – quite different ends of the spectrum, and they both embrace art so much. Paris might win though as I am addicted to croissants.

How do the challenges Rita faces to become ‘educated’ compare to your own life challenges to date?
I think Rita gets put in a box by many of the people around her – they label her as simple and at times stupid. Frank however believes in her and unlocks those boxes, showing her that if she puts her mind to it she can be educated. I had a teacher in high school, who very similarly believed in me and empowered me to case my dreams

You produce your own work as well as act. How does that work for you?
It’s great! Honestly, you can’t just sit around and wait for other people to hand you opportunities on a silver platter. I think being able to create a piece and bring people together really empowers me – more people should try. My big thing is don’t micro manage. I have my skill sets, you have yours. I’m not going to tell you how to do a job I know nothing about. But that is why I love making theatre so much, collaborating as a creative team is such a rewarding experience.

You’ve just been told you will become deaf and blind in 24 hours time. What do you do?
That’d be a nightmare! Spend all that time with my family, locking into the memory bank what they look and sound like.

David Jeffrey and Emily McGowan are appearing in Educating Rita by Willy Russell.
Dates: 10 – 20 May, 2017
Venue: The Depot Theatre

Review: Sex Object (Jackrabbit Theatre / The Depot Theatre)

Venue: The Depot Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Apr 19 – 29, 2017
Playwright: Charlie Falkner
Director: Michael Abercromby
Cast: Charlotte Devenport, Charlie Falkner, Andrew Hearle, Grace Victoria
Image by Omnes Photography

Theatre review
Ben is addicted to pornography, an increasingly widespread problem resulting from recent technological advancements, that have allowed unprecedented access to explicit sexual content. Unable to conduct a healthy relationship with his girlfriend, he decides to break things off, but Ron’s father has just passed away, and timing is a real issue. Charlie Falkner’s Sex Object may not be very sure about what it wishes to say, but its dialogue and characters are certainly amusing. We go on a delightful ride with the youthful foursome, entertained by the things they say and do, and even though we end up at a place quite unexceptional, the journey is ultimately a pleasing one.

The show is energetic, full of effervescence, and we are kept engrossed in each of its very chatty sequences. Director Michael Abercromby is determined to have interchanges occur with great exuberance, which holds the audience’s attention well, but it is doubtful if we ever find an opportunity to invest anything deeper than cheerful laughter. Falkner’s own performance as Ben is charmingly idiosyncratic, like a Millennial Woody Allen, struggling to make sense of his own world, while exposing the dysfunctions that we all share. Playing Gustav is the very funny Andrew Hearle, long-limbed and manic, prancing around the stage with uncontainable enthusiasm, and proving himself to be an awfully infectious presence.

The play beats about the bush, wishing to talk about sex in the modern era, but is unable to get deep and dirty with its ideas. Taboo subjects are by definition seldom discussed, and as such, we often lack the ability for their articulation. Not only do we lack the language, we lack the philosophy, because silence hampers how we communicate and how we think. It is clear that Sex Object wishes to interrogate something contemporary about our sexualities, at a time when technology and commerce are allowed to penetrate all that is intimate and private, but what it actually does say is insubstantial. In its inevitable and unintended prudishness, we receive instead a barrage of jokes, like children discovering sex, unable to appreciate it for its profundity, indulging instead in its many awkward and silly, although not unenjoyable, thrills and spills.

www.jackrabbittheatre.comwww.thedepottheatre.com

Review: Ellie, Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) (The Depot Theatre)

Venue: The Depot Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Mar 29 – Apr 8, 2017
Playwright: Monica Zanetti
Director: Monica Zanetti
Cast: Meagan Caratti, Margi De Ferranti, Sophie Hawkshaw, Geraldine Viswanathan, Monica Zanetti

Theatre review
Ellie has developed a crush on Abbie, and is trying to figure out how best to ask her along to their year 12 formal. Having only just come out to her mother, who is, predictably, struggling to come to terms with her daughter’s sexual identity, Ellie is lucky to have the ghost of her lesbian aunt show up to help navigate new terrains. Monica Zanetti’s Ellie, Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) introduces a new paradigm to the story of same-sex attracted girls. Not only does Ellie benefit from the guidance of role models, the play’s portrayal of lesbian and gay relationships in Australian high schools, as entirely normal and accepted, is thoroughly refreshing.

The work is elevated by Zanetti’s incorporation of LGBT political history. By placing emphasis on the hard won rights of Ellie’s community, we experience a gravity in our protagonist’s story without having to see her go through archaic narratives of homosexual agony. It is important that we make representations of LGBT youth in our art and storytelling that reflect the increasing normalisation of their place in society, while preserving their significance within conceptions of social diversity. Zanetti’s writing is sentimental but considered, innocent but sophisticated; it speaks intelligently to our young, and helps advocate for greater inclusiveness of sexual minorities.

The production is staged with minimal fuss. Little ingenuity is put into direction, and set design is overly bare, but the roles are soulfully realised. Appropriately, leading lady Sophie Hawkshaw is strongest of the cast, with a natural charm that endears Ellie to her audience from the very beginning. It is a gentle performance that feels effortless, but one that is surprisingly convincing. Hawkshaw makes us want the best for Ellie, and it is this emotional investment she elicits that keeps us engaged to the end.

www.thedepottheatre.com

Review: Bare (The Depot Theatre)

supplyevolutionVenue: The Depot Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Nov 30 – Dec 17, 2016
Book: Jon Hartmere, Damon Intrabartolo
Lyrics: Jon Hartmere
Music: Damon Intrabartolo
Director/Choreographer: Hannah Barn
Cast: Aaron Robuck, Sophie Perkins, Alex Jeans, Natalie Abbott, Timothy Langan, Teale Howie, Alexandra Lewtas, Caroline Oayda, Matt Laird, Stephanie McKenna, Ibrahim Matar, Tara Hanrahan, Annette Vitetta, Penny Larkins, Gavin Leahy

Theatre review
The musical is set in a Catholic high school. Peter and Jason are secret lovers struggling to come to terms with their gay relationship and the identity markers that will inevitably become a matter of controversy given the social context. It is an age-old story, but one that bears repeating. Our religious institutions remain unkind to those who do not conform to their narrow definition of acceptable sexual behaviour, and Bare‘s response is still important, even if its story offers little that would be refreshing for the twenty-first century.

Hannah Barn’s direction of the piece pays strong attention to the show’s emotive qualities. Every melodramatic flourish is amplified to passionately drive its point, and to captivate. The more humorous portions of the musical seem to be neglected, which results in a production that can feel slightly unvarying and predictable, but there is plenty of dynamism to be found in the music. Musical director Matthew Reid does wonders with his 8-piece band, providing injections of energy whenever required, and calibrating atmosphere with remarkable sensitivity throughout, but sound design, especially in the first half, needs to be refined.

It is a very committed cast of performers that take to the stage. Alex Jeans and Aaron Robuck play their leading parts with integrity, and even though their interpretations of characters can feel somewhat one-dimensional, both young men tell their stories with impressive enthusiasm. Along with Jeans and Robuck, accomplished singing by Natalie Abbott and Penny Larkins give the production a surprising polish that reflects a good level of professionalism and admirable devotion to the time-honoured craft of musical theatre.

Bare is yet another work that documents the struggle of gay men in a society that refuses to accept them as equals. We have heard it all before, but we must not stop telling these tales of oppression as long as the cruelty persists. For some of us, progressive political movements have brought us better lives, but for many others, the chains of injustice are a daily reality. We might like to think of ourselves as first world civilisations, but if we have children living in fear and in some tragic cases, taking their lives, our complacency has to take responsibility.

www.thedepottheatre.com