Review: The Apologists (Unlikely Productions)

Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Jan 20 – 31, 2021
Playwrights: Lucinda Burnett (New Universe), Cordelia O’Neill (Seven, The Sweetest Hour), Iskandar Sharazuddin (Excuses)
Director: Jane Moriarty
Cast: Gabrielle Scawthorn
Images by Steve Gregson

Theatre review
Comprised of three monologues, each one utilising the concept of an apology as starting point, the appropriately titled The Apologists deals not only with personal turmoil that accompanies any event that necessitates an admission of guilt, but also the public aspects to which these difficult situations pertain.

In Iskandar Sharazuddin’s Excuses, it is the Chief Executive of the UK’s National Health Service, who takes a very public tumble. Cordelia O’Neill’s Seven, The Sweetest Hour involves a social media influencer whose self-obsession leads to an innocent victim paying the ultimate price. New Universe by Lucinda Burnett talks about the revelations of an NGO overlooking sexual abuse taking place where aid is meant to be implemented.

Although relatively short in length, each of the pieces are intricately conceived, and exhaustively explored. They involve high stakes and familiar situations, delving deep into characters beyond the pithy news headlines their stories would no doubt inspire, on millions of mobile scrolls.

The incomparable Gabrielle Scawthorn performs three separate roles, eschewing all things superficial, so that we can access the heart of each matter expeditiously. The unambiguity of her delivery style, ensures that our immersion into these narratives are gripping and powerful. Scawthorn’s ability to elicit empathy for the personalities we meet, is quite extraordinary, and a welcome antidote for these times of pervasive and succumbing apathy.

Jane Moriarty’s direction is crisp and concise, always able to locate a purpose, and drive home a point for each moment of the show. Lights by Saul Valiunas and sound by Rob Donnelly-Jackson, offer uncomplicated solutions to enhance dramatic effect at crucial junctures, of this otherwise barebones presentation.

It is easy to say sorry, and get away with it. We see organisations, big and small, express remorse over countless things on countless occasions, but rarely do we see any structural changes that will ensure improvements. Too often we chastise individuals, wanting them to be served their just desserts, but in the process, we neglect the machinations of systems that have facilitated these misdeeds. History is then allowed to keep repeating, which reduces apologies to being essentially meaningless.

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

Review: Stop Kiss (Unlikely Productions / ATYP)

rsz_gxmphotogrpahy2014-1-3Venue: ATYP (Walsh Bay NSW), Mar 5 – 22, 2014
Director: Anthony Skuse
Playwright: Diana Son
Actors: Olivia Stambouliah, Gabrielle Scawthorn, Aaron Tsindos, Ben McIvor, Robert Jago, Kate Fraser, Suzanne Pereira
Image by Gez Xavier Mansfield

Theatre review
One of the main things explored in theatre is emotion. We ask, what are these different things we feel, how do we create these feelings, how do we differentiate between cheap and authentic sentiment, and how do they affect our lives as individuals and collectives? Stop Kiss leaves its audience with such emotional intensity that these questions come to the fore. Diana Son’s script tells the simplest of stories, but its unique structure in terms of a non-linear timeline, and an unusual depiction of romantic love, keeps us enthralled, and speaks deeply to the most basic humanity in us all .

Under Anthony Skuse’s wonderful direction, Stop Kiss is both theatrical and sincere. There is masterful use of space, which gives the production a sophisticated aesthetic. In spite of budget constraints, the show is a handsome one. Set design is thoroughly considered, and elegantly executed by Gez Xavier Mansfield, and lighting by Sara Swersky is subtle yet varied and effective. The many scene transitions are established with elegant flair. We jump around in time and space with minimum fuss and maximum efficiency.

The love story and its romance are managed with restraint. Skuse deliberately downplays a lot of the drama, so that its powerful concepts work overtime in our heads. Like a striptease, we are only ever given just enough information so that our minds can conjure up all the salacious details on their own. The cast benefits from this sense of inhibition, as it allows for a somewhat ironic magnification of their inner worlds. We seem to obtain a better insight into what people are thinking and feeling when they are prevented from doing too much.

Gabrielle Scawthorn’s performance as Sara is marvelous, culminating in a final scene that can only be described as heartbreaking. The character she has created is not only believable, we find ourselves in constant need of seeing more, and knowing more. Her work is equally committed whether playing light or dark, and she tells her character’s story with careful compassion that is beautiful to watch. The connection Scawthorn makes with her audience is as intense as Sara’s falling in love in the story.

Olivia Stambouliah plays Callie with vivacity and complexity. Her energy keeps the show uplifted and dynamic, and her focus is magnetic. There is a steely determination in her performance that is at times impressive, but at others, slightly distracting. The actor sometimes works too hard but her final moments onstage are truly remarkable, and intelligently crafted. Ben McIvor has two memorable scenes as Peter. He finds a balance between tenderness, frustration and despondency, and portrays a character that is empathetic and immediately affable.

It is probably not a rare occurrence that tears are shed in the theatre, but the emotions in Stop Kiss are exceptional. We cry because we understand that true love is precious and rare, but we also cry in the knowledge that homophobic violence is widespread and alive. The play ends in a dark place, but it thankfully leaves us with a morsel of hope. Tears can be self-indulgent, but they are also the beginning of every important and necessary change in the places we live. This play may not be obviously political, but one hopes that its gentle approach would have an effect on those who have yet to be converted by our more strident preachers.

5 Questions with Olivia Stambouliah

oliviastambouliahWhat is your favourite swear word?

What are you wearing?
Skirt, tank, boots and rehearsal sweat.

What is love?
Trust. To surrender and to evolve. A tingle down below helps too ;)

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
I just saw Falsettos. I’d never seen it before and was super surprised, in a great way! A beautiful production.

Is your new show going to be any good?

Come along and see for yourselves. If you like to kiss, you won’t want to miss this…


Olivia Stambouliah is starring in Stop Kiss.
Show dates: 5 – 22 Mar, 2014
Show venue: ATYP Studio 1