Review: Osama The Hero (Tooth And Sinew Theatre)

toothandsinewVenue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Jan 21 – Feb 4, 2017
Playwright: Dennis Kelly
Director: Richard Hilliar
Cast: Tel Benjamin, Lynden Jones, Poppy Lynch, Joshua McElroy, Nicole Wineberg
Image by Ross Waldron

Theatre review
Just slightly beneath the skin of every human existence lies the barely contained need for violence, but like every propensity that we try to suppress, it finds expression in unexpected ways. Dennis Kelly’s Osama The Hero discusses our thirst for blood, looking at where that appetite comes from, and how it manifests. We find ourselves in an English housing estate, observing a group of neighbours inflicting cruel harm on one of their own.

It is a tale about scapegoating, and the habitual transference of our evil desires onto easy targets. In the case of Kelly’s play, young Gary, and his innocence, become the object of the group’s brutality, and in the process of his persecution, revelations are made about our oft-unexplained and neglected violent selves.

Director Richard Hilliar goes to great pains for every one of the play’s savage moments to occur with great power. The transgressions are hideous, and they are presented as such. A cultural gap exists between us and the working classes of England located at the centre of the drama, and it is arguable if the production’s interest in that specificity of experience has been made to translate effectively. As we are kept dazzled by the uniqueness of a cultural other, we often lose sight of the universality that can allow the work to resonate more intimately.

The ensemble of five is unquestionably energetic and committed, but the challenge posed by Kelly’s language and its accompanying encumbrance of dialects, can be a cause for distraction. Our attention alternates between hearing meanings, and observing the unsatisfying labour put into achieving what is ultimately a cosmetic accuracy. At their best however, the actors provide masochistic delight in an atmosphere of terrifying menace, the kind of which one would hope to encounter only at the theatre. Nicole Wineberg is particularly memorable in a scene involving her character Louise’s obsession over a video showing a man being killed. She brings the show to an intense peak, with the palpable depiction of a woman lost in evil and dread.

Bad people are almost always other people. If Osama The Hero succeeds, we should see ourselves in its characters, and gain a better understanding of the way we operate, as individuals and collectives, in these post-9/11 times of terror and fear. There is perhaps no solution to our unyielding need to make enemies out of fellow human beings, but knowing how that process works is essential if our evolution is to be progressive. When Osama bin Laden was executed, we never really expected the world to suddenly become a better place, but it certainly quenched the thirst of our carnivorous vengeance, if only for a moment.

www.toothandsinew.com

5 Questions with Poppy Lynch and Joshua McElroy

Poppy Lynch

Poppy Lynch

Joshua McElroy: Do you think taking up an acting career will make you happy?
Poppy Lynch: When I was about 15 I gave up ballet dancing. Something that I had done for so long and at such a level. Up until that moment it was what I had in mind as the career for me. When I quit I had no artistic outlet and somehow found acting through school performances and drama class. And the rush I felt was unlike what I’d felt before. Cause I could now be all these characters and escape whatever teen angst I was suffering in the real world. The most important thing for me is that acting gives me happiness even when I fail. It is the one thing I’m passionate about. I don’t think those who is less than passionate should take up an acting career cause it’s such a hard and damaging business at times. So short answer is YES! And as soon as that’s not the answer I won’t bother doing it.

Why do you think the play is relevant for an Australian audience?
Right now the world is suffering a scare tactic war. People in power including our own government and media; are using fear to cement their lead. The terror groups of this time (which are a part of or surround ISIS) have become the tool for this fear tactic war. And people such as Donald Trump and our own Pauline Hanson use images and words of violence to encourage fear which is an emotion that often initiates hate. Those who are influenced fear ALL that come under the bracket of a terror threat. But this means that innocent people are also under fire. Because their beliefs or appearance somehow come under the bracket that the people in power have created. Osama The Hero is about people fearing something and going out to kill that fear with hate and violence. The clincher is that these people don’t have evidence. “You don’t need evidence for terrorists.”

What is your biggest fear?
I hate cockroaches! But that’s not the biggest fear I guess. I think being alone. I don’t mean at one specific moment I quite like doing things alone! I just mean at a later stage in life I fear losing all the people around me. Which is radical and might be far fetched but it’s often something I think about.

What do you and your character have in common?
She has been through a lot of horrible stuff. It’s hard for me to find something in common with the abuse she has copped and the life she has been given. But I think she has a high level of intrigue. She wants to be involved and I think she is observant. Those are some things I notice in me.

What is an artist’s biggest responsibility?
Oh this is a hard one. I think I like the idea that one of an artists biggest responsibilities is to confront. Because confrontation relates to exposing a certain level of truth that resonates with the audience. And I hope that that resonation would result in some sort of change being made. Osama The Hero relates to this I think. We want to confront to get the message across. That whole message about humans and how we hate what we fear and what that hate results in.

Joshua McElroy

Joshua McElroy

Poppy Lynch: When did acting become a career goal? Was there a moment or person that encouraged you to pursue it?
Joshus McElroy: I was always a very theatrical, attention seeking individual from a young age. Funnily enough Suzanne Millar who now runs bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company was the one who showed me I could turn that into performance. The moment I decided to 100% commit to the arts as a career choice was the moment I quit my Degree Of Commerce at Macquarie University.

Being a somewhat new and young artist in the business what are the main challenges (personal or career driven) that you’ve faced?
Cash. Cash is a hard to come by. Everything else is great fun.

What is the leading theme or concept in Osama The Hero? And how does that expect to appeal or interest a modern audience?
The most prevalent theme for me in the play is fear. Everyone is terrified of anyone who challenges the status quo. New ideas are deemed dangerous, the people who present them – bad. We silence, censor and label people rather than discuss ideas. Politics and the media are increasingly vicious and violent. I don’t think the audience will find it hard at all to relate.

You are stuck on a desert island. Who is the one character you’d choose to be there with?
I would probably choose Louise. Mandy is too young to be resourceful. I feel like me and Francis would kill each other before starvation or dehydration got to us. Mark is too old. Louise would have the strongest will to live out of the bunch I think.

What is something that the audience will come out of Osama The Hero with in mind? (Without ruining it too much)
Everyone will have different thoughts as they walk out of the theatre. But every time I finish reading this play two things come up for me. 1. Is there such thing as ‘good and evil or are there just mistakes and not mistakes?’. 2. Is there any situation where silencing someone is beneficial?

Poppy Lynch and Joshua McElroy can be seen in Osama The Hero by Dennis Kelly.
Dates: 21 Jan – 4 Feb, 2017
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre

Review: Year Of The Family (Tooth And Sinew Theatre)

toothsinewVenue: Kings Cross Theatre Kings Cross NSW), Feb 10 – 20, 2016
Playwright: Anthony Neilson
Director: Richard Hilliar
Cast: Peter-William Jamieson, Brendan Miles, Brooke Ryan, Nicole Wineberg, David Woodland

Theatre review
Human sexuality is a fascinating subject. Each individual’s bedroom inclinations vary as widely as the way we eat our food. No two appetites are exactly the same, yet we think of sex as a universal experience, and its taboo nature means that we rarely discuss its nitty-gritty at depth, choosing instead to imagine simple paradigms that would apply to every person. In Anthony Neilson’s Year Of The Family, sex is anything but normative. Its characters indulge in secret intimacies, and as we observe the functioning of each libido, connections are made with the unfolding dysfunctions of their family lives. Neilson appropriates the theatrical quality of that relationship between family and sex for a text that is tragic, comedic, and many shades in between, to reveal the repercussions that can occur as a result of familial breakdowns. His writing is playful and dynamic, but also surprisingly delicate. It broaches difficult subjects, but refuses to be exploitative or sensationalist.

Richard Hilliar’s powerful direction brings intensity to a staging that seeks to simultaneously entertain and provoke. There is an adventurous streak reflected in the clever use of space, especially in scene transitions (with the help of Liam O’Keefe’s very effective lighting design), along with a relentless and captivating energy to his creation that makes for compelling viewing. Hilliar’s sensitivity to dramatic tension is the production’s greatest strength, and the results are very satisfying indeed.

The cast is uniformly lively and focussed, but some roles are interpreted with more resonance than others. Brendan Miles provides intrigue and an appropriate restraint to the mysterious Henry. It is an understated, and literally quiet, performance that offers a counterpoint to the other larger than life parts, but Miles leaves a strong impression with the presence and precision he brings to the stage. As the manic Felicity, Nicole Wineberg is responsible for the more euphoric portions of the show. The actor presents a wildness that alternates between comical and terrifying, and provides the production with its delightful yet volatile spirit, but the role could benefit from greater emotional complexity.

The people in the play are troubled. They are trapped in heartache, unable to be released from the past. They form their own re-enactments of broken histories in cathartic attempts to move forward, but are as yet unsuccessful. Nevertheless they continue to strive, even if wallowing is part of the process. It is fact that we do not choose our families, but debatable whether we can be free of them. There is little happiness in Year Of The Family, but it is us who must decide where and how the matter of choice figures in their respective narratives, and then in our own lives, reflect on the ways we are entrapped, voluntarily or otherwise.

www.toothandsinew.com

5 Questions with Brooke Ryan and Peter William Jamieson

Brooke Ryan

Brooke Ryan

Peter William Jamieson: What are three words that define your character ‘Claire’?
Brooke Ryan: Naive, conflicted and raw.

You’ve got an interesting scene with Tabasco Sauce, how have you been preparing for it?
That scene is about so much more than just the sauce! But to answer your question… it’s taken teamwork, research & imagination to bring it to life. No method acting here!

What are you thoughts on the director and other actors in the process?
They really tickle my funny bone. All of them. And I’m waiting for someone to turn into a raging diva, but I’m probably the closest we’ve got to it!

Half the job’s done when you’re made to feel safe to explore this content – so I’m feeling particularly blessed in that department.

I love (the director) Rich’s brain. He’s a very clever man. Daring, edgy and funny too.

I get excited about playing with these people, they make me lift my game.

What’s one thing you want the audience to reflect upon when they leave the theatre?
So long as they’re reflecting on something, my job’s done. I’m not aiming towards selling a particular message, that’s too heady. I think the play will speak for itself and resonate with everyone differently. Early on I was concerned that some of the content may potentially trigger negative things in people but that’s no longer my concern. I trust that if you’re there and you’re watching it whatever comes up for you is supposed to, pleasant or otherwise.

What’s been the funniest moment in rehearsals thus far?
Answering this openly jeopardises the project… But keep your eye on David Woodland, he is one funny fellow.

Peter William Jamieson

Peter William Jamieson

Brooke Ryan: In your own words- what is this play about?
Peter William Jamieson: The sheer thrill of everything that’s bad, wicked and foul.

What attracted you to the role of Sid?
The fact he is the absolute opposite of me.

If Sid were an animal, what animal would he be?
Red belly black snake.

What are you thoughts on the director and other actors in the process?
Everyone involved is really pushing each other to do the best possible work. Richard’s vision for the piece is so vivid and inspiring.

You write as well as act. Which outlet do you prefer and why? And are you working on any projects at the moment?
Currently working on adapting a screenplay from a play I wrote called Retrograde.

Brooke Ryan and Peter William Jamieson can be seen in Year Of The Family by Anthony Neilson.
Dates: 10 – 20 Feb, 2016
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre

Suzy Goes See’s Best Of 2014

sgs-best2014

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

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Photography by Roderick Ng, Dec 2014

End

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

Review: Scenes From An Execution (Tooth And Sinew Theatre)

toothsinewVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), May 13 – 31, 2014
Playwright: Howard Barker
Director: Richard Hilliar
Actors: Lucy Miller, Jeremy Waters, Mark Lee, Katherine Shearer, Nicole Wineberg, Peter Maple, Brendan Miles, Lynden Jones
Image by Katy Green Loughrey

Theatre review
There are many pleasures to be found at the theatre but what we seek essentially, is to be fascinated by the unusual talents of live performers, and to satisfy the craving we have for stories that are engaging and meaningful. Howard Barker’s Scenes From An Execution is strangely hypnotic. His tale unfolds slowly, taking unconventional and sometimes uncomfortable diversions, but the promise of a substantial imminence is always palpable, and the conclusion is certainly gratifying. Barker’s writing is poetically beautiful, and his ideas are inspiringly radical. His varied themes include love, war, art, religion, politics and propaganda, covering with depth, many of the big questions that are as relevant today as they had been in Venice 1571, where the play is situated.

A remarkable feature of the work is its extraordinary protagonist Galactia, a painter of note, and a woman with a liberated and unorthodox lifestyle. Our own values are examined through her resolute belief in an artist’s responsibility to uphold truths, even in the face of great adversity and sacrifice. Barker’s heroine is powerful and awe-inspiring. She is a feminist ideal, and sadly, a manifestation that rarely figures in the narratives of our cultures. Galactia’s fearless determination and assertive wisdom is realised on the Sydney stage magnificently by actor Lucy Miller. Miller is convincing, compelling and electrifying. She approaches the character with raging imagination and delivers a performance completely arresting in its meticulousness and unpredictability. Even in scenes lit so dim we can barely see, Miller is riveting, and her creation is a woman on a pedestal that we all must aspire to.

Supporting Miller is an exceptional cast. It is a rare gathering (especially in independent theatre) with all actors displaying astounding talent and impressive experience. It is truly a joy to watch these artists work their magic, all performing with gusto as well as nuance, each carving out many memorable moments for themselves. Mark Lee as Urgentino is energetic and full of passion. Sharply ironic, and fabulously witty, Lee’s command of the script ensures that his scenes are consistently entertaining, and politically cutting. Jeremy Waters brings a complexity to his role of Carpeta that keeps us intrigued and enthralled. His love affair with Galactia is surprisingly dimensioned, and his depiction of an artist under the control of money and power is simultaneously funny and heartbreaking. Waters is an intense and intelligent actor, whose unmissable performance in the closing moments of Act 1 leaves us breathless.

Director Richard Hillier’s obvious talent is his thorough understanding of the craft of acting. He has created all the circumstances required for the cast to unleash their best upon us. Hillier’s sensitivity for spaces, whether mental, emotional or physical, allows him to facilitate all the action that happens between actors, and the connection between stage and audience. Hillier indulges in abstractions, but is careful to provide points of focus to always keep us reeled in. His affinity with the the play’s core message is a strong one, and the authentic clarity at which he voices it is full of flair, and indeed, admirable.

Death and taxes are said to be the only certainties in life. In Scenes From An Execution, a deconstruction of war and of our political leaders gives us an opportunity to gain insight into our part as mere mortals and pawns in a world of deceit and manipulation, rife with the glorification of needless deaths. Hogwash is ubiquitous but where great art exists, we find the eternal and the truth, and we rediscover the divine within.

www.facebook.com/toothandsinew

5 Questions with Mark Lee

rsz_mark_leeWhat is your favourite swear word?
‘Satansincontinentnephew!’ if you say it really fast, you sound rather mad actually.

What are you wearing?
Flannelette shirt over t-shirt and jeans and socks and slippers, I hate winter!

What is love?
If you have to ask I can’t help you.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
All’s Well That Ends Well – Sport for Jove. I give it an entire constellation.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Why do you ask? Come and see, we’re having a ball. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Yeah it’s good.

 

Mark Lee is appearing in Scenes From An Execution, with Tooth And Sinew Theatre.
Show dates: 13 – 31 May, 2014
Show venue: The Old Fitzroy Hotel