Review: U.B.U: A Cautionary Tale Of Catastrophe (Tooth And Sinew)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Sep 10 – 21, 2019
Playwright: Richard Hilliar
Director: Richard Hilliar
Cast: Tristan Black, Lib Campbell, Rachael Colquhoun-Fairweather, Emily Elise, Sam Glissan, Gideon Payten-Griffiths, Shane Russon, Idam Sondhi, Nicole Wineberg
Images by Ross Waldron

Theatre review
The prime minister has a secret plan to depose the king, and have him replaced by a civilian best described as a lazy idiot, in Richard Hilliar’s U.B.U: A Cautionary Tale Of Catastrophe. PM Fuller Bjullshitt owns mines, and wants to make sure that his personal interests are protected by laws of the land that continue to be neglectful of environmental concerns. Given the preposterous state of politics today, the play’s premise is entirely within the realm of possibility, but written in an absurdist style, we are confronted with the lines between fiction and truth, except there is no hiding the fact that many of the worst things being depicted are no different from the news that we are subjected to in real life.

Hilliar’s exuberant consolidation of current affairs and contemporary ideals, is a pertinent representation of Australian culture as it stands, turned satirical by its colourful wit, base but clever, in appropriate alignment with popular notions of our national identity. Having brought his own considerable skills as director to U.B.U, Hilliar’s show is rambunctious, fun-filled and campy, a highly entertaining work that facilitates discussions about doing the right thing, beyond left and right conceptions of politics. Costumes by Tanya Woodland, along with Ash Bell’s hair and makeup design, are a visual feast, powerfully enhanced by Ryan McDonald’s imaginative lights.

Extraordinary passion from all nine of its ensemble cast, makes it an occasion to remember. Sam Glissan and Emily Elise are as mad as each other, playing Pa and Ma Ubu with an incredible wildness that creates a grotesque quality, so reflective of what we feel to be happening right now all over the world. Lib Campbell and Idam Sondhi are another formidable couple, with exquisite timing and chemistry, making us laugh at all the ugliness that we know ourselves to be capable of. Tristan Black’s incisiveness and precision as Bjullshitt ensures that we are attentive to both the meanings and hilarity of U.B.U; his “Mr. Segue’s Song” is an unequivocal highlight.

The show ends with a heavy-handed, earnest call to action. An uncontainable need to appeal to the body politic disrupts the entertainment, as the urgency to make its point finally exceeds its commitment to theatrical magic. Resignation is perhaps too easy, and U.B.U wants to help us avoid it. As we sit and watch everything crumble, the urge to submit to that seemingly inevitable extinction of our kind, can indeed feel irresistible. Humans however will always be defined by our activity and conduct, and for as long as we are here doing something, there is always the inescapable decision between good and bad.

www.toothandsinew.com

5 Questions with Idam Sondhi and Nicole Wineberg

Idam Sondhi

Nicole Wineberg: You play 4 characters, 3 of which are puppets… what’s that like?
Idam Sondhi: It’s both a great challenge and rewarding playing several characters. 3 of which are puppets – it’s something I’ve never done. However, the nature of the play and the amount of time we got to improvise and try different things out was very liberating. The time allowed me to get comfortable in the skin and souls of our fabric friends.

Why is U.B.U relevant to today’s audiences?
U.B.U touches upon some extremely important issues which effect each individual on this planet. Our environment is sacred and a home we often take for granted. U.B.U deals with the repercussions of neglect which are caused by human tendencies such as greed, power and money. We need to have more self awareness and work at getting better and sharing vital knowledge to the future generation at restoring what’s broken about our environment. It takes each and everyone one of us to make a change and take care of the planet.

Is U.B.U just potty humour or is there something in there for the more discerning of tastes?
U.B.U is for everyone! It allows us to self-reflect and does it in a tasteful way (even though all the flavours might not taste good). It’s theatre you’ve never seen before!

What’s your favourite character and line in the play?
I love all the characters so much! Especially because we explored each one individually! But Bob and Bill (the royal twins) have a special place in my heart – played wonderfully by Shane and Rachel. My favourite line is “grotty, snotty, spottibots!” You will only know what that means if you come and watch the play!

Could you please sum up our version of U.B.U in 5 words?
Grotesque, truthful, hilarious, experiential, memorable!

Nicole Wineberg

Idam Sondhi: Tell us a bit about your character.
She’s a princess who has never faced anything resembling hardship who then is thrust into a horrible situation by Ubu and his followers. She also has a really good wig. The Sansa Stark of white privilege! 

What was it like being part on an ensemble cast like this?
Exciting, entertaining, terrifying and educational, all rolled into one spicy burrito. It was invigorating working with a group of people who were so willing to look foolish and grotesque for the sake of storytelling and humour.

What should people take away from the messages in U.B.U?
a) Take climate change seriously and do something about it! It doesn’t matter how little or insignificant it is, just make a start and commit to making a change!
b) There’s a fart joke to suit every taste!

What was your most memorable moment during the rehearsal process?
It was actually the audition process! We were stunned with the sheer amount of talent and weirdness Sydney actors have! The stuff we saw will haunt us till the day we die, that’s for sure!

If you could eat any dish every day for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
A medley of deep fried potato: your standard hand-cut chip, crinkle-cut and shoestring fries, gems and wedges. Delish. If you have to ask why, you’re an idiot.

Catch Idam Sondhi and Nicole Wineberg in U.B.U A Cautionary Tale Of Catastrophe, by Richard Hilliar.
Dates: 10 – 21 Sep, 2019
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre

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

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