Review: The Weir (The Vanguard)

Venue: The Vanguard (Newtown NSW), Sep 24 – 29, 2019
Playwright: Conor McPherson
Director: Vanessa Papastavros
Cast: Nick Barker-Pendree, Damien Carr, Martin Estridge, Daniela Haddad, Alex Neal
Images by Natalie Cartney

Theatre review
Valerie is moving from Dublin to the northwest of Ireland, and in between looking at properties, parks herself at a small rural pub where she is acquainted with several locals. In Conor McPherson’s The Weir, a sleepy town provides the perfect setting for the time-honoured tradition of telling ghost stories. Residents have little to distract themselves but each other, and a landscape that bears histories most fondly remembered through word of mouth, morphing and fantastical. While various supernatural tales form the entertaining crux of The Weir, they are surpassed by a nostalgic depiction of community, one that leaves a strong and perhaps surprising impression.

With the theatrical action set in a real bar, we are immediately engaged through the unmissable familiarity and intimacy of the physical context. Directed by Vanessa Papastavros, the production is pared down but effective. Dynamics between characters are rendered with a remarkable authenticity, with a cast of five that is endearing and compelling, manufacturing an easy chemistry that provides foundation for their performance, able to transport us effortlessly through time and space.

Actor Damien Carr brings a richness to the role of Jack, animated but also considered, adept at communicating a sense of depth that gives the show its gravity. Realtor Finbar is played by Nick Barker-Pendree, memorable for the confident zeal he introduces to proceedings. Valerie, the blow-in, is portrayed by Daniela Haddad with an understated and elegant naturalism, appropriate for these tight confines. Martin Estridge and Alex Neal are charming and very believable pub dwellers, both offering valuable colour to this memorable representation of small-town life.

No matter how outlandish our stories, for as long as they resonate, we can be sure that truth can be located therein. If ghosts are real, it is only because we believe in a certain essence of life, that exists beyond the flimsy nature of matter. It reflects an understanding of the eternal, that in one form or another, each entity leaves behind an imprint, whether significant or minuscule, and that our actions when alive must have an impact. This could be construed as wishful thinking or indeed, delusions of grandeur, but the fact remains that ghosts have always been, and we have always known ourselves to be consequential.

Suzy Goes See’s Best Of 2014


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



Photography by Roderick Ng, Dec 2014


Best of 2018 | Best of 2017 | Best of 2016Best of 2015Best Of 2013

5 Questions with Hannah Raven

hannahravenWhat is your favourite swear word?
“Christ on a cracker!”… heard the lead singer of the Scissor Sisters say it on stage back in 2009 and it’s been my favorite ever since.

What are you wearing?
Black Doc Martens, a green cardigan and black fingerless gloves… Newtown represent!

What is love?
Ga!… I haven’t figured that one out yet, and I’m not to sure I ever will.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Why Torture Is Wrong and The People Who Love Them… 4 out of 5! Seriously hilarious!

Is your new show going to be any good?
Let’s hope so! It premiered last year and sold out. Now we have revamped it and added a few new cast members. Edgar Allan Poe is very close to my heart. His stories and poems speak to me in a away I can’t articulate. This show celebrates his life, and bridges the gap between burlesque performers and actors… so yeah… I think it’s going to do just fine.

Hannah Raven is appearing in Edgar’s Girls, by Poe Burlesque Theatre.
Show dates: 9, 10 and 17 July, 2014
Show venue: The Vanguard

Review: Shakespeare’s Reservoir Dogs (The Vanguard)

reservoirdogsVenue: The Vanguard (Newtown NSW), Apr 29 – May 2, 2014
Playright: Steven Hopley (based on the screenplay by Roger Avary and Quentin Tarantino)
Director: Steven Hopley
Actors: Chris Miller, Richard Hilliar, Diego AR Melo, Lukasz Embart, Jerry Retford, Patrick Magee, Leof Kingsford-Smith, Anthony Campanella, Dominic Santangelo

Theatre review
Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 film debut, Reservoir Dogs established him early on as a popular new auteur. Combining violence, humour, popular culture references and non-linear narratives, Tarantino’s distinctive and refreshing style captured the attention of many, and the film has now garnered cult classic status. Steven Hopley’s new adaptation is a faithful yet radical retelling, keeping characters and events intact, but transposing all the “colourful” language of the original into the style of William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare’s Reservoir Dogs script is a thorough rejuvenation that shows an unusual flair and love for the Bard. Hopley’s direction of his own writing is mindful of audiences that might find the new text challenging, taking great care to utilise all his actors’ capacities to stage a show that is surprisingly accessible. This staging understandably features less of the film’s memorable ultra-violence, but its elements of humour are played up considerably to great effect. Hopley does not shy away from opportunities to make light of this “self-parody”. Management of the unconventional timeline is slightly flawed, but the constant referencing of Tarantino’s film is handled with remarkable sophistication, and for fans of the original in particular, this new staging is tremendous fun.

The cast amassed by Hopley and producer Russall S. Beattie is an impressive one. Full of passion and commitment, the men are individually strong performers who have managed to find excellent chemistry within their group. Chris Miller’s playfully flamboyant performance as Sir White provides a firm anchor for the production. He shows a genuine affinity for the material at hand, and is wonderfully entertaining in his enthusiasm. Richard Hilliar, in the role of Sir Orange, has a presence that is consistently dynamic. The actor has an engaging charm and an understated approach to comedy that is delightfully amusing. Anthony Campanella has a memorable soliloquy that he executes with outlandish gusto. His ability to communicate meaning with his Shakespearean lines is second to none. A crowd favourite is the show’s troubadour, played by Dominic Santangelo. He has a license to play the fool, and is clearly not afraid to use it.

Also noteworthy is Tristan Coumbe’s work as costume designer. Tribute is paid to the film’s unforgettable imagery, of characters in black suits and white shirts. Coumbe’s Tudor style interpretations using modern fabrics, including black leather, contribute not only to the players’ believability, they also convey an interesting sense of time and space in the absence of set pieces. The costumes’ contemporary, sexy edge is a good reflection of the show’s boisterous irreverence.

Familiarity with the film is not necessary, but it would certainly help with enjoyment of this “update”. Many in attendance on opening night responded buoyantly to recreations of classic scenes and celebrated lines. Nostalgia in the air was evident. For those less au fait with Tarantino’s work, the quality of performance by this exceptional ensemble is more than adequate to please any discerning theatregoer.

In Rehearsal: Shakespeare’s Reservoir Dogs

Rehearsal images above from Shakespeare’s Reservoir Dogs.
At The Vanguard, from Apr 29 – May 2, 2014.
More info at

5 Questions with Chris Miller

chrismillerWhat is your favourite swear word?
Cunny funt.

What are you wearing?
Ripped Wranglers, dirty Cons, black Bonds, Commando.

What is love?
Knowing you are there for me and I for you, always. “Butterflies and zebras, and moon beams and fairy tales.”

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Rom Com Con by Bakehouse Theatre, Adelaide Fringe. 3.5, a bit didactic for my liking. An entertaining and charming comedy duet.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Well, All the pieces are there. We have a minstrel. Reservoir Dogs is a sensational film and Steven Hopley is a whizz kid Shakespearean savant, his adaption of Tarantino is entertaining, accurate to pentameter and true to the flick.

Beaut bunch of seasoned actors squeezing juicy juice on the boards. Our dogs know how to bark, Hopley’s training us to fetch and maul.

Violence, tension and cool unhinged characters. Reservoir Dogs at The Vanguard, Shakespeare style. Gold!

Did I mention the minstrel?

Chris Miller is appearing in William Shakespeare’s Reservoir Dogs.
Show dates: 29 Apr – 2 May, 2014
Show venue: The Vanguard

Review: The Vaudevillians (Strut & Fret Production House)

vaudevillians1Venue: The Vanguard (Newtown NSW), Feb 18 – Mar 2, 2014
Musical Director: Richard Andriessen (Major Scales)
Performers: Jerick Hoffer (Jinkx Monsoon), Richard Andriessen (Major Scales)

Theatre review
The premise is simple. Spouses Kitty Witless and Dan Von Dandy were accidentally frozen under a torrent of snow and cocaine in the 1920s, but were discovered and revived in our very recent times of global warming. Both happen to be brilliant performers, and have found their way to Sydney, just in time to present their show for the Mardi Gras season.

Cabaret is about performance. Stories are rarely important, but storytelling is everything. The Vaudevillians are played by Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales, American artists who are truly of an “international standard”. Scales provides excellent support to his leading lady. He is superb on the piano, and the re-arrangements he has created are intelligent and delightful. The choice of familiar songs by the likes of Madonna, Daft Punk, Cyndi Lauper, M.I.A., and Britney Spears makes for a setlist that would appeal to most, but it is his extravagantly comical interpretations that make them all so thoroughly entertaining. Scales does falter a little in confidence when performing his solo number, but it is wonderfully refreshing to see a highly animated and energetic piano man.

Jinkx Monsoon is a comic cabaret artist of the highest calibre. Clearly, The Vaudevillians is a work tailored to her specific talents and abilities, but the 80 minute show impresses and overflows with scintillating wit, belly laughs and stunning singing. Monsoon’s vocals are powerful, and she seems to have an infinite well of techniques for turning every line in every song into something that earns the audience’s laughter. A segment referencing Henrik Ibsen, “A Doll’s House 2: Electric Boogaloo” sees the leading lady attack Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” with the greatest amount of flamboyant drama one could ever wish to see. She is like a young Gloria Swanson, only louder and a whole lot sillier.

Combining disciplined training (you can hear it in her singing, and see it with her splits and headstands) and a sense of looseness that is unafraid of heckles and other chanced occurrences, Monsoon’s style is deceptively casual, and incredibly brave. It is live performance at its most thrilling, where the audience feels that anything could happen because the performers and the show’s structure allow, or even ask for it. There is danger in the air, the kind that is completely delicious and irresistible. The Vaudevillians is fun, entertaining theatre. Monsoon and Scales are silly as they come, but without a hint of stupidity, and their show is filled with genuine talent and quite genius creativity.

5 Questions with Major Scales

majorscalesWhat is your favourite swear word?
I don’t use swear words, just the words around them (Son of a *** / Mother ***).

What are you wearing?
I’m relaxing at home in my smoking jacket and pince-nez.

What is love?
Love is never having to say “You’re wearing THAT?”

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
4 stars to the man on the street who swallowed a balloon whole. 5 stars for getting it back out.

Is your new show going to be any good?
That’s for history to decide.

Major Scales is appearing in The Vaudevillians, part of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2014 festival.
Show dates: 18 Feb – 2 Mar, 2013
Show venue: The Vanguard

5 Questions with Jinkx Monsoon

jinkxmonsoonWhat is your favourite swear word?
Not to be too on the nose, but I would have to say shit.

What are you wearing?
Three girdles, five pairs of tights and Opera gloves.

What is love?
I wish I knew.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Briefs. 5 out of 5. It has everything I love in a circus show, plus ten times more man butt.

Is your new show going to be any good?
That’s for history to decide.


Jinkx Monsoon is appearing in The Vaudevillians, part of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2014 festival.
Show dates: 18 Feb – 2 Mar, 2013
Show venue: The Vanguard
Image by Jose A. Guzman Colon