Review: Hello Again (The Factory Theatre)

Venue: The Factory Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Feb 20 – 28, 2020
Words & Music: Michael John LaChiusa (after La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler)
Director: Jerome Studdy
Cast: Denzel Bruhn, Lyndon Carney, Grace Driscoll, Stacey Gay, Charlie Hollands, Brendan McRae, Kate O’Sullivan, Anna-May Parnell, Harrison Vaughan, Emelie Woods
Image by Junior Jin

Theatre review
When first staged in 1920, La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler remained a scandalous work even though it had taken 23 years to go from initial publication to a theatre in Vienna. It dared to depict progressive sexuality as somewhat natural, and certainly spoke about promiscuity as as a phenomenon far less reprehensible than was the convention. A century later, there is little left in the work that feels even naughty, thankfully as a result of substantial advancements over time, in attitudes about sex.

Michael John LaChiusa’s Hello Again is a 1993 reiteration that transforms the ten dialogues from Schnitlzer’s original, into songs for the musical format. LaChiusa’s music is often experimental and infrequently melodic, with lyrics that now seem unsophisticated and lacking in wit. Each chapter takes us through the decades of the twentieth century, but direction by Jerome Studdy never makes that at all clear. The production feels rough around the edges, admittedly clumsy at points, but an enthusiastic cast almost holds everything together. Without microphones, the acoustically challenged auditorium proves demanding of those with smaller voices, but it must be said that the ambition of all involved is admirable.

La Ronde is about class as much as it is about sex. It represents an effort to look at humans at our most vulnerable and essential, stripped of all ornamentation and pretence, trying to understand ourselves at what should be our purest. Using sex as a common unifying mechanism, and hypocrisy as a theme through which we can access notions of manufactured identity, Schnitzler urges us to be honest, in the belief that truth will set us free.

Review: Wasted (The Kings Collective)

Venue: The Factory Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Dec 1 – 9, 2017
Playwright: Kate Tempest
Director: Elsie Edgerton-Till
Cast: Jack Crumlin, David Harrison, Eliza Scott
Image by Robert Catto

Theatre review
Charlotte, Danny and Ted live in England where, like in all developed nations, opportunities abound. It is never easy though, to get ahead, to carve out a life, even when all the fruit is ripe for one’s picking. We stand in our own way, with psychological barriers that exist mainly as a result of social conditioning, or maybe the competitive nature of our economies are determined to make losers out of some, in order that the rich can get richer.

Kate Tempest’s Wasted does not take a strong stance on the external factors that affect English youth, but makes a case for personal responsibility. These are able-bodied, heterosexual, white people after all. Tempest is frustrated with the way these twenty-somethings jeopardise their own lives, when they clearly know better. This generation is given all the information and resources they require, yet many are unable to create a meaningful existence, choosing instead to languish in drugs, alcohol, in a state of perpetual purgatory.

The play’s message is simple, but Tempest’s writing is extraordinary. The passion with which her ideas are articulated, and the emotive use of language, go for the jugular, and we are held captive by the sheer intensity that the playwright builds into every line of dialogue. Directed by Elsie Edgerton-Till, the production is correspondingly powerful. Choreography for several of its more theatrical moments could be improved, but there is no question that Tegan Nicholls’ music is a source of energy that adds a great deal of excitement to the show.

Most memorable of all, is the trio of actors that bring scintillating life to the piece. We are shaken by Eliza Scott’s compassion as Charlotte, whose purity of spirit shines through, amid the despondent confusion of her pessimistic narrative. Together with Jack Crumlin’s convincingly crestfallen Danny, the couple’s love story moves us, in spite of the carelessness with which they regard each other. Ted is played by the charming David Harrison, who entertains us with an inexorable ebullience. The three strike the perfect balance in providing amusement, along with a sincerity and a sense of urgency that keeps us heedful of the work’s pertinence.

For those who have the privilege of access, the only real definition of failure, is when they ignore the opportunities that have been made available. There is no need to subscribe to how the concept of success is generally construed, but one has to understand the destructiveness that can be self-inflicted. When we have the freedom to decide for ourselves, what is good and bad, values can be poorly judged, and individual lives can turn to waste. Not everyone should aspire to be a millionaire, but we must all try to give more than we take, and to leave the world a better place.

5 Questions with Brielle Flynn and Frankie

Brielle Flynn

Frankie: Why do you act?
Brielle Flynn: I ask myself all the time haha….I act because it was the first and only thing I felt alive doing and that felt right- like “yeh, this is what I want to do.” I love having the opportunity to delve into the life of a character and explore the complexity of humans. If it speaks to an audience, whether it’s personal or about an issue affecting us socially, I think theatre can really have the power to create discussion and thought. So not only do you get to play dress ups, you can cause a stir or realisation in someone else- that’s pretty cool.

Exactly how many heightened characters are you playing and… how?
Well, I’m playing 5 characters! I think the best thing for me through this process was finding a physical idea of them, and letting that affect the rest. I went with what traits I thought they might possess, the way they look at the context/people around them, and played around with vocal range. I don’t know where the Scottish ninja came from, but hey! Mainly, I just have fun within each one.

Which of your characters do you enjoy the most and why?
I actually really enjoy playing the rabbit- I think she has a very intimidating energy but at the same time is so unsure of what she is saying. She sort of talks her way through hidden insecurity. 101 gets an honourable mention too- she’s wacky and I have lots of fun playing with that role.

What does the theme of the play mean to you?
To me, it explores the blur between reality and imaginary- that as actors we try to push for realism, but puts a question on how much this can affect your mental health, and how it’s dealt with by those around you.

When you are not acting, you are… ?
Working in retail, writing, and more often than not, daydreaming.


Brielle Flynn: Tell us about Frankie?
Frankie: I’m going to go literal here. After a series of terrible events, I needed a fresh start, and so I had my name legally changed to Frankie.

What was the process for the idea of this play?
I began to write draft one of Hypnagogism using nothing but a blank Word document and a psychology textbook. Twenty pages in, I went to a psychiatric hospital. While I was in there, they wouldn’t let me near a computer. I had to rely on messy scribblings in a journal. For me, idea formation is violent and uncontrollable. Ideas assault me- one after the other- it happens fast. The ideas replay over and over until they’ve safely landed on a page. The moment I write one down, another one pops up and they’re all connected in complex ways. I look at them, up there, in my prefrontal cortex (which at this point has stealthily extended itself way out past my forehead), and watch the threads link each idea together in a specific order, an order I must memorise. My fingers are not fast enough. My working memory hits limiter. I chunk each thought as quickly as I can. More space. More room. More ideas are coming. My shorthand gets shorter and my notes become more abstract but they’re there- they’re all there and when I look down at my notes I see my ideas once more, up there, in my invisible brain. It’s exhausting. It’s exhilarating. By the time I was discharged from the hospital, I had a collection of memory jogs. I pieced them together like a three-dimensional puzzle, and then, manically, I typed up the rest of draft one in four days. This was in 2015. I spent a couple of years obsessively learning how to write good. Then I fixed everything up, got it down to 90 pages, and Hypnagogism became an actual, real play.

Why did you want to write it?
My original plan did not involve a play. After I was psychologically injured at drama school, I realised that what happened to me was common, and so I set out to fix the problem. It was Dr Mark Seton, co-author of the Australian Actors Wellbeing Study, who suggested that I write a play. So I did.

How does it feel seeing it come to life?
Sometimes in the rehearsal room it was like watching a memory, which is tough, because trauma symptoms. Luckily the cast, lighting designer, and my co-director have brought more to it than I ever could. Seeing the finished product, I’m bewildered. It’s something else.

Who are your inspirations?
I identify quite a bit with the guy who did Tokyo Story, Yasujiro Ozu. I kinda just do my own thing. But there’s a catch: convergent evolution of ideas. It’s impossible to be original. I seem to be a weird mix of Tom Stoppard, Samuel Beckett, and Sarah Kane (so I’ve been told). It’s also impossible not to be influenced by things you’ve been exposed to. This particular play seems to draw inspiration from Alice In Wonderland, The Wizard Of Oz, and old school South Park. It was more that I wrote a bunch of things, then noticed what influenced the things that I wrote. Douglas Adams probably influences my writing a great deal too. I’d say though, and this has nothing to do with writing, that Jane Goodall inspires me the most.

Brielle Fiynn is appearing in Frankie’s Hypnagogism.
Dates: 4 – 14 October, 2017
Venue: The Factory Theatre

Review: Hypnagogism (Balter Theatre Co)

Venue: The Factory Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Oct 4 – 14, 2017
Playwright: Frankie
Directors: Luke Beattie, Frankie
Cast: Kate Allison, Bretany Amber, Daniel d’Amico, Brielle Flynn, Lachlan Mcnab, Vonne Patiag, Ash Sakha, Tivy Siripanich
Image by Margaret Grove

Theatre review
Michelle goes to acting school everyday, where teachers tell her to dig deep for emotions worthy of display. Trauma is fetishised, but little care is given to the young adults who find themselves in a constant state of vulnerability, with open wounds that are left to their own often inadequate devices. Michelle suffers from a history of sexual assault and finds herself encouraged to exploit those very painful memories.

Frankie’s Hypnagogism portrays with striking persuasiveness, the neglect of mental health in some of our less proficient institutions. Although lacking in polish and maturity, the play makes salient points about how we train our actors, by drawing attention to problematic practises that are usually hidden from the public eye.

It is essentially a work of dark comedy, with a strong tendency to turn very melodramatic in its efforts to maintain emphasis on Michelle’s struggles. Directors Luke Beattie and Frankie herself, use the stage with commendable imagination, but edits could be made at more than a few junctures, to achieve a considerably crisper result. Playing Michelle is the confident Bretany Amber, one of an impressively well-rehearsed and cohesive team of young talents. Flamboyant actors Brielle Flynn and Daniel d’Amico are memorable in comedic roles, both bringing exuberance and excellent entertainment value.

The infinitely multi-faceted nature of art, allows for participation by artists of all kinds. It is easy to identify the ones who go to extremes, but more than a few level-headed individuals have found success on their own terms. In the process of art however, the extant discovery of self and environment is fundamental, meaning that limits and boundaries must always be explored. Where and when one chooses to transgress, is perhaps how art is best able to get involved, in the creation of meaning.

Review: Idiot Juice (Jackrabbit Theatre)

Venue: The Factory Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Aug 29 – Sep 2, 2017
Playwright: Charlie Falkner
Cast: Charlie Falkner, Alex Malone, James Sweeny
Image by Luke McMahon

Theatre review
Charlie Falkner’s creation provides a simple structure for Idiot Juice, with three siblings hawking “medium juice” at a funeral, claiming that it provides visions of the dead for an hour, with each dose consumed. Within this context, performers improvise jokes in accordance with its predetermined plot trajectory. With death positioned at the centre of the action, we find ourselves on fertile ground for dark comedy, and opportunities are certainly present for poignant existential reflection, but the trio keeps things resolutely light.

Each comedian brings to the stage a distinct style of humour, with James Sweeny’s brassy approach proving invaluable in holding our attention captive. Alex Malone’s whimsy prevents the show from turning predictable, and Falkner’s self-effacing impulses are key to his charm. It is a cohesive group, and when the chemistry works, their show vibrates with a sense of unmistakable excitement, but an inability to maintain a consistently tight rhythm at several points, exposes unfortunate deficiencies in dexterity and confidence.

To be able to laugh at death, requires that we interrogate and excavate the deepest of our humanity. It forces us to examine how we apportion value, to identify the things that matter in life, or more accurately, to question those that reveal only frivolity. Idiot Juice is about gullibility, and how we are easily fooled into adopting ideals that are nothing more than myth or romance. As the saying goes, only death and taxes are certain in life, so everything else must only be a manifestation of the subjective imagination, and what we become, has a lot to do with choices.

Review: The Days And Nights Of BeeBee Fenstermaker (Phable Productions)

phableVenue: The Factory Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Nov 29 – Dec 3, 2016
Playwright: William Snyder
Director: Candice Story
Cast: Jack Berry, Eileen Camilleri, Ryan Madden, Lauren Orrell, Bronte Sparrow, Helen Stuart, Charles Upton, Chantelle Von Appen
Image by Lauren Orrell

Theatre review
When we first meet Beebee, she is a young woman full of optimism and ambition, poised to conquer the world. We soon find out that although she has the ability to envision a bright future, our protagonist is ill-equipped to make her dreams come true. William Snyder’s play is about the lessons that we need for a good life. It makes us consider if all the knowledge that we inherit, from family and from school, can ever protect us from falling. Beebee takes a great big tumble, in spite of all her smarts and confidence, and we are surprised that her story is not of the fairy tale ilk, but understand simultaneously, that she can always pick herself up again. No matter how battered and bruised life leaves us, for those of us who are still here, we know that hope always remains.

Candice Story’s direction of the piece is effective in its more melodramatic sections. The stage is ignited by big, vivid emotions when characters get into fierce altercations, but the production is less resonant in scenes that require humour or melancholy. Nevertheless, it is an engaging story relayed with sufficient clarity to comfortably sustain our attention for its two-and-a-half hour duration.

Actor Chantelle Von Appen keeps us invested in Beebee’s misadventures. Her passion drives the play, and even though a more technical and precise approach would give her portrayal a greater sense of psychological accuracy and hence allow us to identify better with her adversity, we never lose interest in how the character evolves. A trio of sisters, played by Eileen Camilleri, Lauren Orrell and Helen Stuart, sends sparks flying with their depiction of complex family dynamics. All the love and hate we experience at home is never easy to articulate, but these sisters, and their understated but potent chemistry, allow us to reflect on how we act and how we feel, when dealing with the nearest and dearest.

In a world determined to tell us what we cannot do, it is the brave and resilient who will get the most out of life. Nothing special comes from an easy ride, and the ones who refuse to accept defeat, will always emerge greater. Beebee may not have begun her journey with every privilege to make everything run smoothly, but the hard knocks that she endures, will provide what is necessary for her to survive and thrive. It may not be that she will end up where she had wanted at the play’s beginning, but with some luck, she will discover peace of mind and happiness, as we should all hope for, for ourselves, before too late.

Review: Alex & Eve – The Complete Story (Bulldog Theatre Company)

bulldogVenue: Factory Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Aug 25 – 28, 2016
Playwright: Alex Lykos
Director: Alex Lykos
Cast: Chris Argirousis, Anne Marie Cavaco, Sylvia Dritsakis, Michael Kazonis, Janette La Kiss, Alex Lykos, Paul Miskimmon, Jadah Quinn, Kate Ryerson, Sal Sharah

Theatre review
There are many among us who are conservative and traditional, but in multicultural places like Australia, their tendency to be inflexible with visions of how we live together can be problematic. Salwa is Lebanese Muslim, and George is Greek Orthodox, both insular and intolerant of other cultures, refusing to accept the validity of other ways of life, until their offspring force them into a confrontation of wills through the classic contrivance of a mixed marriage. Alex Lykos’ Alex & Eve: The Complete Story combines three episodic plays to tell the couple’s story from their first meeting to the birth of their first child. Its duration is inevitably long, but the script is a tight concoction of high jinks and social commentary that although entirely predictable, is endlessly amusing with its host of vibrant, irresistible archetypes.

The production is a visually basic one that would benefit greatly from more ambitious efforts in set and costume design, but Lykos’ own direction of the work is effectively comedic and fast-paced. There is no attempt at a naturalistic mode of presentation, which can make for an excessively farcical show, but its slapstick is unquestionably charming and proves very appealing to its target audience. Janette La Kiss as Salwa and Michael Kazonis as George are both strikingly present, with flamboyant approaches to performance that captivate and entertain. Both are able to find nuance with their roles, thereby delivering more than stereotypical interpretations of minority elders.

Not being dominant cultures in Australia, the Greek and Lebanese characters have a greater freedom to portray the nature of prejudice in our communities. Some of what they say is objectionable, but their statements are tempered with good humour, and those who speak indiscreetly are exposed for their ignorance. Not one person can be excluded from the world’s politics, but how individuals participate in it, is infinitely variable. Alex & Eve does not talk about terrorism or immigration, but its feuding families are involved in a war that serves to remind us of how we must value peace, no matter how big or small a perspective we may have of the world.

Review: No Exit (Throwing Shade Theatre Company)

throwingshadeVenue: The Factory Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Jun 23 – 25, 2016
Playwright: Jean-Paul Sartre
Director: Andrew Langcake
Cast: Harley Connor, Courtney Powell, Darcie Irwin-Simpson

Theatre review
Sartre’s 1944 play No Exit is about three people coming to grips with their new existence post-mortality. The famous line “hell is other people” is heard late in the piece, and like the myriad ways in which it can be interpreted, the play is abstract, to be given meaning as one wishes. The concept of hell is a powerful one, considering its uncompromising permanence. Life may not be much more pleasant than hell for some, but hell’s eternal inescapability is truly terrifying.

The staging, directed by Andrew Langcake, is a simple rendering that attempts to bring realism to the absurdist piece, with an emphasis on finding character coherence over philosophical expression. Sound and lighting are strangely neglected, resulting in a supernatural realm that is unfortunately devoid of atmosphere. Performances are committed, and each personality is distinctly shaped by a cast of spirited actors, but chemistry is often lacking. Relationships are key in No Exit, and unable to portray them with enough clarity and dynamism, the production struggles to communicate beyond the superficial.

Individuals experience life from perspectives we know to be personal, but it is debatable if anything is ever unique in how we each see the world. We can only understand things from our singular positions, but in every transaction that we inevitably conduct with other beings, we become transformed, objectified and absorbed into another consciousness. The self is unable to remain separate, and meaning can only come from that act of concurrence, voluntary or involuntary. If other people will give you hell, they are also your only source of pleasure. How much the self can do to manipulate the other will always be limited, but happiness is always best managed within one’s own hermitage.

Review: There’s No One New Around You: A Tinder Musical (Sydney Comedy Festival)

tindermusicalVenue: The Factory Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Apr 27 – 29, 2016
Book: Keira Daley, Mark Simpson
Music and Lyrics: Keira Daley, Steven Kreamer, and Mark Simpson
Director: Beth Daly
Cast: Keira Daley, Mark Simpson
Image by Gina Jenkins

Theatre review
Online dating is a modern phenomenon, and Tinder is the current leader of a very saturated app market. With reports suggesting 50 million users, its increasing presence in our storytelling is not at all surprising. There’s No One New Around You by Keira Daley and Mark Simpson is probably the first musical to be staged that is entirely about Tinder, compiling anecdotes, impressions, inventions and humour, relevant to the uniquely contemporary experience. Its songs and jokes may not always be fresh or edgy, but there are many moments of cutting social commentary that keeps us excitable and engaged. In the show’s efforts to find verisimilitude, the audience is offered realistic reflections of our attitudes towards romance, sex and loneliness that can be powerful, perhaps embarrassingly so, in its accuracy. The characters we see are very silly, but they are unquestionably real, and whether or not one is familiar with the phone app in question, their thoughts and behaviour bear a closeness to modern life that cannot be denied.

The production is assembled with minimal fuss, and our attention is placed squarely on the two performers playing out stand-alone scenes that make light of all the absurdities associated with dating in the digital era. Daley and Simpson are perfectly exuberant, and very well-rehearsed, hitting every mark they have set in a playfully conceived but ultimately simple vehicle of entertainment. Adding an extra dimension of comedy is a film element crucial to the show’s effectiveness, cleverly edited by Simpson and seamlessly integrated with the live action. There’s No One New Around You is about clichés, and although there is nothing new in what it says, its observations are thoroughly amusing.

Humans cannot go without food, but our voracious appetite for love and affection reveals what it is that truly provides sustenance. Science tells us that eating and drinking keep us alive, but we know that life cannot be without intimacy and connection. We worry about technology keeping people apart, and lament the disintegration of community at the hands of accelerating capitalism, but the need to reach out and find affirmation refuses to be dampened by increasingly utilitarian ways of thinking about life. Even as electronics and money continue their never-ending encroachment into our persons, we will not abandon love and lust, but they will morph into new forms appropriate for the times. There is clearly no elegance in courtship Tinder style, but whether it can deliver any old fashioned romance, is anybody’s guess.


Review: Metamorphosis (Throwing Shade Theatre Company)

throwingshadeVenue: The Factory Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Mar 31 – Apr 2, 2016
Playwright: Steven Berkoff (based on Franz Kafka’s novella)
Director: Andrew Langcake
Cast: Harley Connor, Darcie Irwin-Simpson, William Jordan, Susan M Kennedy, David McLaughlin

Theatre review
Gregor wakes up one day and finds himself transformed into something gigantic and hideous. He has turned from a responsible and upstanding citizen into a monster, and can no longer carry out his obligations to family and society. His physicality and behaviour have changed, but his feelings remain human, and he suffers the ostracism that results from his sudden abandonment of normal life. Steven Berkoff’s adaptation of Franz Kafka’s popular classic is sarcastic yet charming, with a biting humour that tickles without interfering with the dark themes being explored. The narrative is clearly fantastical, but its concerns are kept strictly human.

Direction by Andrew Langcake is highly stylised, appropriately so, with shades of Surrealism and German Expressionism. He creates a heightened aura within the story’s sad circumstances, one that is both dreamlike and nightmarish. While the stage is designed with some flair, it lacks a certain intimacy that the work seems to require. Powerful moments would be more effective if they are able to confront us with greater immediacy, but we are kept safe by a disconnecting rift between audience and action.

It is a strong cast that gives us this Metamorphosis. The players have a unified energy and tone that portray a convincing netherworld, with an entertaining flamboyance that gives the work’s inherent eccentricity a strange allure. Susan M Kennedy is captivating as Mrs Samsa, dramatic, emotional and bold with her artistic choices. Gregor is played by Harley Connor, who impresses with strength and versatility both physically and vocally. Although tucked up in a corner far upstage, the actor’s vibrancy is unmistakeable, and the curious character he creates, is very fascinating indeed. An unlovable monster that is of no use to anyone, and a drain to society, is the stuff of our deepest fantasies. There are times when we see only the futility of all our duties, and wish to play the rebel, walking away with a big flick of the middle finger, but we keep ourselves in check. We know that the consequences can only be dire.