Review: Six Characters In Search Of An Author (Sydney University Dramatic Society)

sixcharactersVenue: University of Sydney Studio B (Camperdown NSW), Mar 26 – 29, 2014
Director: Saro Lusty-Cavallari
Playwright: Luigi Pirandello, adapted by Saro Lusty-Cavallari
Actors: Laura Barandregt, Sam Brewer, Jacinta Gregory, Joshua Free, Zerrin Craig-Adams, Lucinda Vitek, Stella Ktenas, Tansy Gardam, Nick Welsh, Alexander Richmond, Melissa McShane, Geneva Gilmour, Alex Magowan, Meg McLellan

Theatre review
Luigi Pirandello’s original was first created almost a century ago. It explores philosophical concepts of identity, and the nature of the theatrical arts. Saro Lusty-Cavallari’s update of Six Characters In Search Of An Author for the Sydney University Dramatic Society demonstrates that the central mechanics of Pirandello’s work contains fundamental truisms that retain their resonance, in spite of time’s passage and the gimmicky structure of the play.

Lusty-Cavallari’s brave decision in staging this text pays off. It is obviously a challenging proposition, and there are several sections in the first act that lack clarity, but he has created something fascinating and strangely engaging. Big questions about self-identity are presented with complexity and intrigue. We think about the meaning of personalities, how they are formed, and their elasticity. It is always a pleasure examining existentialist open-ended questions, and Lusty-Cavallari clearly has a flair in dealing with them in a delicate manner.

The director’s elegant use of space shows a good aesthetic eye, and his management of actors is also accomplished. The cast is a strong one, with Sam Brewer’s performance as The Father giving the show an excellent sense of confidence and finesse. Brewer’s love for words shines through, and our attention is firmly held by it. He is not the most agile of artistes, but the physical vocabulary he does have is perfectly suited to the task on hand. Laura Barandregt plays the role of the Assistant Director, and gives the show a necessary lightness that the audience is unquestionably grateful for. Her conviction for the stage is obvious, but the casualness of her demeanour can be distracting at times. Zerrin Craig-Adams is an effervescent character, with energy that brings a lot of life to the stage. She is an ambitious actor, and will no doubt develop her techniques to greater refinement in time.

To tackle challenging art is noble. It is a hallmark of civilisation when people take on things that seem too difficult and uncertain. Six Characters In Search Of An Author is about asking questions, and trusting that providing answers is only secondary if at all relevant. This show might not always make sense but it is tautly composed. It is colourful and entertaining, even as its intellectualism seeps out of every pore.

Review: Quack (Sydney University Dramatic Society)

rsz_1img_5842Venue: University of Sydney Studio B (Camperdown NSW), Mar 19 – 22, 2014
Director: Zach Beavon-Collin
Playwright: Ian Wilding
Actors: Nick Welsh, Alexander Richmond, Melissa McShane, Geneva Gilmour, Alex Magowan, Meg McLellan

Theatre review
Ian Wilding’s fantastical script is action-packed, funny, and satirical. Its influences are genre film and popular television, which makes it a natural choice for the young theatre makers at University of Sydney. Using the western and zombie genres, and taking inspiration from the Australian adversarial political system, Wilding creates a strange bygone world in which everything seems to be an analogy for the state of our world today.

The Sydney University Dramatic Society’s production is as playful as the script allows. Zach Beavon-Collin’s direction makes lovely use of the atmospherics, greatly assisted by lighting and music design, and indulges heavily in the gory details of all the zombie action. His work will be remembered for blood and pus that overtakes the stage for a good half of the show, which is unfortunate for the actors whose performances are subsumed by the theme park quality of the experience.

The cast is a committed one, but the humour of Wilding’s writing proves to be challenging. Alex Magowan is an exception, leaving an impression with consistently effective comedy. His portrayal of Gunner as an overblown caricature is exaggeratedly brash but a very welcome presence to scenes in the first act that tend to be lacking in energy. Meg McLellan is another supporting actor who shines in each of her appearances. She plays Rodney with a sense of precision, and provides an authenticity that sets her apart as being the most polished of the group. Alexander Richmond is strongest of the leads. His Dr Littlewood takes some time to develop, but in zombie form, the actor is impressive (and repulsive).

As mentioned before, some of the technical elements and music are crucial to the more successful aspects of this production. Josie Gibson’s original score is an accomplished one and often steals the show. Lighting designer Chrysanti Chandra works with minimal facilities, but does well to manufacture a lushness in the show’s moodier sections. These artists might be young and hungry for experience, but they prove themselves to be anything but a bunch of quacks.

5 Questions with Saro Lusty-Cavallari

sarolustycavallariWhat is your favourite swear word?
I appreciate the classics. Fuck has to be one of the most fluid words, profane or otherwise, we have at our disposal. “The night was fucked”. Was it good? Was it bad? Such is the wonder of the word that is fuck.

What are you wearing?
T-shirt and jeans… yeah my creativity does not extend to my wardrobe.

What is love?
Giving up your own sense of privacy and self and sharing it with someone else. Either that or “baby don’t hurt me.”

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Bell Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and I think I’ll go ahead and give it 5. I love when some kind of weird, potentially gimmicky concept is done so well you think there is no other way of performing it.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Pirandello was getting pretty sick of proscenium arches, kitchen sinks and fourth walls in 1921. They’ve stuck around and if you’re still sick of them then come see our play because it’s no less out there in 2014.

Saro Lusty-Cavallari is directing Six Characters In Search Of An Author for Sydney University Dramatic Society.
Show dates: 26 – 29 Mar, 2014
Show venue: Studio B, University of Sydney

5 Questions with Zach Beavon-Collin

zachbeavoncollinWhat is your favourite swear word?
(Removed 9/9/2014 at Zach Beavon-Collin’s request)

What are you wearing?
Collared shirt and shorts. Suitably non-descript.

What is love?
Openness and vulnerability generated by complete understanding.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
SUDS’ Much Ado About Nothing and I thought it was fantastic. 4/5

Is your new show going to be any good?
Only if explosive death and dark Australian humour are your idea of a fun night at the theatre.


Zach Beavon-Collin is directing Quack for Sydney University Dramatic Society.
Show dates: 19 – 22 Mar, 2014
Show venue: Studio B, University of Sydney