Suzy Goes See’s Best Of 2014

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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

Click here to see Best Of 2013

Review: Kill The PM (Unhappen)

unhappenVenue: Old 505 Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Oct 8 – 26, 2014
Playwright: Fregmonto Stokes
Director: James Dalton
Cast: Nicholas Hiatt, Zoe Jensen, Michael McStay, Lily Newbury-Freeman
Image by Lucy Parakhina

Theatre review
We must not take our democracy for granted. It is a key element to meaningful lives, as it insists that every person and their liberties are included. The ideal is a world in which everyone has an equal say, even if we end up with a messy and inconvenient state of affairs, but today’s reality sees a grave inequality of power and influence. As Australia becomes increasingly capitalistic, previous notions of a classless society are quickly eroded, acquiescing to the dominance of the 1%. Our leaders are still democratically elected, but there is no camouflaging the fact that prevailing ideologies of government are disproportionately geared towards the benefit of the wealthiest. One person may still receive one vote, but our voices do not carry the same weight, and the loudest have proven themselves to be the most selfish.

Fregmonto Stokes’ Kill The PM is inspired by the fantasy of the masses, and begins with the most simplistic of ideas. The assassination of a leader is a proposition symptomatic of the disquiet that citizens experience, but the play does not indulge extensively in that premise. Instead, it explores the absurdity of the suggestion that the murder of one person is all the revolution that is required to cause an effective change in the way our nation carries on its business. Stokes’ writing has a sense of wildness that is dramatic and exciting, with surrealist aspects that keep us intrigued. There are unexpected ambiguities which make the script rich and thoughtful, but its narrative structure falters at certain junctures when a more poetic approach takes over. Stokes’ work is thought-provoking, but it has an uncomfortable gentleness that contradicts its powerful subject matter.

Direction of the piece by James Dalton suffers the same shortage of aggression. The characters are blinded by passion but what happens on stage is oddly subdued. The cast does not portray sufficient conviction for the story to take hold, and their relaxed disconnection from the plot (and each other) is frustrating. This is a story that should speak to anyone who is even remotely interested in politics, but none of the players manage to find points of resonances for the contentious issues being discussed.

Fortunately, the production shifts gears in the middle, giving up its unsuccessful naturalism for a spectacular theatricality in a series of dreamlike sequences. Dalton’s strengths with visual aesthetics and his talent at manipulating atmosphere rescue the show to some extent, although its core messages would benefit from greater elucidation. It is the formidable design team that shines in this production, with Dylan Tonkin’s set leaving the greatest impression, having given the venue an extreme transformation with daring innovation, excellent taste and a sophisticated flair. Benjamin Brockman’s lights are another highlight, cleverly adapting to the theatre’s unconventional facilities, and using gadgets that function charmingly as set pieces in addition to providing interesting illumination.

Kill The PM suggests that the elimination of any single person or group would not be advantageous, regardless of how blood thirsty our primitive selves can be. We see the importance of community in the process of affecting policy changes, but also the difficulties in locating ways that people can unite to find strength and commitment. Having a voice in any political climate is challenging, and it is only as collectives that we will be heard. The theatrical arts are fundamentally collaborative, and we must value the egalitarianism that allows individuals to come together to create and to speak. Regimes come and go, but art endures, and at the theatre, the subversive can find expression, and sometimes, have an impact.

www.unhappen.org

Review: Awkward Conversations With Animals I’ve Fucked (Unhappen)

unhappen

Venue: Bondi Pavilion Theatre (Bondi NSW), Jul 16 – 19
Playwright: Rob Hayes
Director: James Dalton
Cast: Heath Ivey-Law

Theatre review
This actually is a play about bestiality, and Bobby actually has awkward one-way (of course) conversations with a variety of animals. Rob Hayes’ script is unapologetic and obviously offensive, and completely bizarre. Of course, the scenarios painted are almost never realistic but they are confronting nonetheless. The thought of a man having a series of sexual encounters with animals is unsavoury enough, but to listen to his post-coital confessions and confidences is thoroughly unnerving. However, to take this play at face value would be absurd (there is nothing realistic about a monkey prostitute or sex with a grizzly bear, no matter how perverse one’s sexual tastes may be). Bobby and his stories are allegories for our sexual lives, and its reverberations. What makes us tick, if and why it matters, and quite naturally, the moral implications of our appetites.

Heath Ivey-Law performs the 70 minute monologue, along with two nonspeaking actors in masks who provide the presence of animals involved. Bobby is a very demanding role. The script is wordy, and its concepts are obscure, but Ivey-Law displays impressive resilience and focus that pulls us into his weird and disturbing world. Early scenes are lighter in tone, and the show feels almost like a charming stand up routine. The notion of Bobby having sex with a dog and then a cat, is initially ridiculous but as we come to accept that what we see is more literal than we are ready to accept, the comedy becomes very unsettling. Ivey-Law is more effective at making us feel uncomfortable than he is at creating laughter, but the edginess sets in too early in the piece, and as the work descends into even darker territory, the work becomes too alienating to connect with. It must be noted though, that Ivey-Law’s performance in the later scenes is very powerful even when the abstraction overwhelms. The precision in his execution is beautiful to watch.

Director James Dalton is particularly strong with adding a visual dimension to the text. His rich imagination creates on stage, vivid and arresting imagery that is aesthetically satisfying, and also an evocative enhancement of the story we hear. The venue is restrictive but the use of lights and sound are unexpectedly innovative. Sex is the most personal of themes, so our own perspectives inform the way we read this work. Dalton allows us to approach the performance from any aspect. There is an ambivalence that communicates intelligently, but the viewer needs to be active and creative with interpretations. Awkward Conversations With Animals I’ve Fucked is never an easy ride, but a few bumps on the road will make for a most interesting night.

www.bondifeast.com.au/…

Review: Cough (Unhappen)

rsz_unhappenVenue: 107 Projects (Redfern NSW), Apr 10 – 20, 2014
Playwright: Emily Calder
Director: James Dalton
Actors: Melissa Brownlow, Vanessa Cole, Tim Reuben, Tom Christophersen
Image by Lucy Parakhina

Theatre review
Cough is a work about children and parenting. Through its story, we find a palpable and critical investigation into our middle classes. Emily Calder’s vibrant script examines our beliefs, values, and behaviour by placing us in a child care centre, where toddlers are the currency for adult social interaction. We are presented three characters, each a familiar type, with ordinary foibles, all trying hard to be the best parent they could imagine. Complications arise when they move focus away from their individual familial relationships, and become embroiled as a collective of anxious parents, every one “infecting” their counterparts with imagined and paranoiac fears, like a cough that seems to emerge from nowhere, only to overwhelm the masses.

James Dalton’s direction is thoughtful and inventive. The story and its moral are kept central to the production, but an extravagant theatricality is built upon the script’s theme of childhood imagination and fantasy. The stage (designed by Becky-Dee Trevenen) is raised high above the ground even though we are seated close, making us crane up our necks, to watch everything happen like small children caught in the middle of an adult argument. Dalton’s talent at creating atmosphere gives the play a sense of wonderment that evokes not just of innocence, but also the concurrent terror that underlies childhood experiences. Lighting designer Benjamin Brockman and sound designer Tom Hogan both show great sensitivity and ingenuity, achieving fabulous effects with minimal facilities.

Actor Vanessa Cole plays the highly unlikable Isabella but wins us over with a dynamic performance that is varied in style, and astutely measured. She develops her character fascinatingly, from a painful parochial stereotype to a heightened state of dramatic derangement. Assisted by a versatile and powerful voice, Cole provides the clearest guide for our navigation through the plot and its ideas. Tom Christophersen is a very tall man playing a three-year-old. His character Frank is created with a brand of outlandish mimicry that is highly entertaining, but also menacing in its surrealism. He is the boy we try hard to forget, but who leaves a lasting impression. Frank is untrustworthy yet seductive, and appropriately, Christophersen captivates us while keeping us quite nervous in his presence.

Growth happens quickly, especially when we are not paying attention. We scuffle with silliness, over details that are inconsequential and petty, to over protect our loved ones, and to feed our egos. In the meantime, life had already happened, and opportunities are missed. The here and now exists, but we sometimes come to it a little late.

www.unhappen.org

5 Questions with Vanessa Cole

vanessacoleWhat is your favourite swear word?
I say shit a lot. It’s simple, it’s old fashioned but it’s good.

What are you wearing?
My staples: a smile, an element of corny and my pyjamas.

What is love?
Holy shit. Love is everything. It sends you crazy and completely sane at the same time. It’s insatiably addictive. It’s courage-making. It’s here to stay.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Clybourne Park at Ensemble. It’s excellent. Poignant, moving and wonderfully executed.

Is your new show going to be any good?
No. Ok, that’s a lie :p It’s going to be brill! It’s adorable, it’s dark, it’s surreal. There are puppets, monsters and skinks, AND it explores characters and themes we generally don’t see on stage. This is my kind of show. Winning!

Vanessa Cole is appearing in Cough.
Show dates: 10 – 20 Apr, 2014
Show venue: 107 Projects

Suzy Goes See’s Best Of 2013

Images from a few 2013 stand-outs: A Sign Of The Times, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, All My Sons, Hamlet, Empire: Terror On The High Seas, Hay Fever, Bodytorque.Technique, Waiting For Godot.

Images from a few 2013 stand-outs: A Sign Of The Times, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, All My Sons, Hamlet, Empire: Terror On The High Seas, Hay Fever, Bodytorque.Technique, Waiting For Godot.

This is a wrap up of special moments since the commencement of Suzy Goes See in April 2013. A personal selection from over 100 productions seen in Sydney. Thank you to artists, companies, publicists and punters who have supported Suzy Goes See in 2013. I cannot wait for more shenanigans with you in the new year!

Update: Click here for the Best Of 2014 list.

Suzy x

♥ Avant Garde Angels
The bravest and most creative experimental works in 2013.

♥ Quirky Questers
The most unusual and colourful characters to appear on our stages in 2013.

♥ Design Doyennes
Outstanding visual design in 2013. Fabulous lights, sets and costumes.

♥ Darlings Of Dance
Breathtaking brilliance in the dance space of 2013.

♥ Musical Marvels
Outstanding performers in cabaret and musicals in 2013.

♥ Second Fiddle Superstars
Scene-stealers of 2013 in supporting roles.

♥ Champs Of Comedy
The cleverest, sharpest, and funniest performances of 2013.

♥ Daredevils Of Drama
Bold and excellent acting in dramatic roles in 2013.

♥ Wise With Words
The most interesting and intelligent scripts of 2013.

♥ Directorial Dominance
The most impressive work in direction for 2013.

♥ Shows Of The Year
Nice coincidence to have different genres represented: drama, musical, dance, comedy and cabaret.

♥ Suzy’s Special Soft Spot
For an exceptional work I saw in Melbourne.

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