A DOLL’S HOUSE

Synopsis: The Helmers are all set to enjoy a new life in a new home. Torvald has been promoted to a senior position at the bank and Nora is delighted. At last, they can put their financial troubles behind them. But their fragile happiness is shattered by the arrival of an unexpected visitor. As the lies that Nora has told, and the risks that she has taken to protect her husband are exposed, they are forced to question just how perfect their marriage really is. Now, it seems, only a miracle will set them free.

Review: SPORT FOR JOVE presents Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, a part of the Seymour Centre’s Reginald season. Attending the Reginald launch month’s before I was immediately excited about the diverse productions on show. Director Adam Cook has adapted this classic in the most astute and delicate manner. Extracting the dramatic pulp in each character that generated bursts of emotions especially in the protagonist Nora Helmer, played by the vivacious Matilda Ridgway. Cook’s adaptation (which could go any-which-way-or-another due to the fact the original play is in Norwegian ) was respectful of the texts natural tones creating quite varied moods in the language from Act one to Act two. Act one feeling much more of the period in the way the characters expressed themselves through language. Bar some of their body language, which felt rather contemporary, much more forward than I would imagine would occur on the late 19th century stage or household even.

Ibsen himself not fearful to write gritty material about the realities of man and wife, children and scandal within a household, the bleak, grey matter that collects between the walls of a building relationship. Cook only enhanced these topics in a manner and language that was gripping to a modern audience, relevance with out fault. Act two’s expression heightened by the presence of alcoholic frolic brought the two, man and wife Torvald and Nora Helmer head to head in dispute and rugged truth about one another and their far from idyllic marriage and surrounding situations, influences and pressures. Cook could not have done this production in a more persuasive manner, the adaption, witty, heart breaking and endearing. His Nora Helmer, the naive child like woman, obsessed with money, chocolate and the well being of her husband was like watching a train crash, you just couldn’t look away at her frivolous approach to life and problems. Even in the end, women’s rights, liberation and freedom aside the question of right and wrong in abandoning one’s children as a woman is still as questionable and morally stretching then as it is now. Nora’s realisation of what she feels she must do had me casting my thoughts to similar stories such as film Kramer vs Kramer, very similar in circumstance and social position.
As Cook mentions in his note in the program has human nature evolved that much from 1898? This adaptation will carry you on a journey from 1898 to 2014 merely by Cooks choice of language and conversation dynamics. Really quite brilliantly produced and shouldn’t be taken for granted, not an easy task to pull off.

Cook has cast a stellar bunch of actors to boot. Douglas Hansell who played Torvald Helmer delivered an all round 19th century husband whose success and status would have been all nods to the ever eye balling society that surrounded him. Hansell held the reins at the beginning of the play, guiding his character’s wife and home like a mare and bit, a controlled and nurturing performance. The second act found Hansell very loosely in control of a previously tighter grip of his characters responses losing himself in the emotion of the moment. A heart on the sleeve performance that was lovely to witness.

Matilda Ridgway played Nora Helmer with magic humour, an almost disguised madness wrapped in childish banter and play. A carefree spirited performance, with a real sense of light in shade in her characters struggles. Ridgway was a sight to behold in the moments her character began to unravel, demonstrating tremendous control emotionally saving the peaks for the right moments hitting the spot like a dart to a bull’s eye.

Anthony Gooley played the intolerable Nils Krogstad with an unwavering commitment to the passive aggressive that had you biting a few nails as to what to expect from a yet erupted volcano. Gooley presented a slithering style in delivery and body language that created some serious questions about the mental stability of his character. Played coolly by Gooley.

Francesca Savige played Kristine Linde, with an elegance that hid some sneaky attributes of her seemingly supportive character to Nora Helmer. Savige performed with smarts and boldness. A beautiful contrast to the bleeding heart character of Nora Helmer. Savige played Ms. Linde with a calculation that kept her character full of subtle surprises revealed through out. A charming performer.

Annie Bryon, playing nurse/maid, Helen and Barry French as Dr. Rank both gave equally pleasing performances, bringing richness and joy throughout, never a dull moment both presenting some comical attributes as well as some dearness to two well worn characters. The youngest of the cast Bill Blake, playing Ivar Helmer and Thom Blake as Jon Helmer both did wonderfully in delivering wit and humour for their first major production, captivating the audience with their sweetness and fearlessness.

Sport for Jove have a reputation, a good one. That is because they consictently produce wonderful theatre, another great production that both cast, crew and company should be mega proud of. Special mention to Hugh O’Connor for his set and costume design which was elegant, tasteful and unassuming in the most wonderful way.

See A Doll’s House as soon as you can it is an enriching experience indeed

Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre 17th July-2nd August

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LOVE & DEATH & AN AMERICAN GUITAR

Synopsis: Taking place against the backdrop of Steinman’s struggle with a lack of public and professional recognition, unpaid royalties, and lost friendships — and boasting a collection of some of the biggest rock songs of all time. Love and Death and an American Guitar sees Steinman return to the writing desk in an effort to complete his stage adaptation of Peter Pan – a rock opera entitled ‘Neverland’.

Review: Hayes Theatre Company’s cabaret season thus far has showcased some of Sydney’s brightest new emerging stars. I can vouch for this as I have had the pleasure of witnessing them first hand. Toby Francis in his performance and writing talent has raised the bar to an exceptional level for the next artist to follow Hayes season. I do not envy them Toby will be a hard act to follow! From the get go Mr.Francis had the audience under his spell for sure romancing the women in the audience (I could see them blushing in the dark) the moment he released those power house vocals he has been blessed with it was as if Tinkerbell herself had fairy dusted every audience member their attention all his. Francis’ story telling abilities were as captivating as his vocal abilities. Moments had me comparing his storytelling to that of an evangelical preacher on a passion trip! His audience like an eager congregation wanting more. I couldn’t help but feel I was going to be slain by the spirit of the rock gods as he continued to take us on this epic tale of Jim Steinman and his rock opera journey of ‘Neverland’. Francis’ performance was comical, uplifting, passionate and at times heart breaking. Throwing any nerves he may have had into his performance with tremendous focus.

Francis’ has developed a cabaret style that is his own with a distinction that can not be easily forgotten. He chose well-known 80’s Rock themes that had the audience wiggling and tapping anything they could. Songs that captured the heart and the imagination, all tying in sublimely with his Neverland theme that was cleverly adapted to a more modern less fantastical everyday Neverland, a land over the seas not past the clouds. Francis’ concept is intriguing and contains elements of huge potential to be developed into a full-fledged Rock Opera if he finds himself in the right place at the right time with the right people willing to invest into something fresh, young and new. The Hayes indeed a perfect place to start and a challenge Francis should be encouraged to pursue. Promoting Love & Death & An American Guitar where ever he can at home and internationally his key if he hopes to launch ‘Neverland’ the Rock Opera. Exposure, Exposure, Exposure.

Cabaret is an art form that requires 100% confidence from the performer on every level, knowing ones self and his abilities are paramount to the success and soaring success of a cabaret artist. His supporting vocalists and pianists were of equal merit in their passion and rock vocal performance levels and must be commended for contributing and adding sparkle to an already golden show. My first standing ovation this year and I do not give them out lightly, by the end of his last bow not a bum was left on their seats. A well deserved full audience standing ovation.

Toby Francis is one to watch. There is no doubt in my mind he has an extremely bright career ahead of him in musical theatre. Cabaret is a wonderful platform to showcase every aspect of ones capabilities, it is a brave platform to embark upon, but done well benefits all involved.

Love & Death & An American Guitar is only showing from the 4-6th of July see it!

Food Parramatta Riverside Theatre, Emma Jackson

FOOD

Synopsis: On a stretch of Australian highway, two sisters run their family takeaway joint. Chiko Rolls and reminiscing are on the menu. When a young, life-loving Turkish traveller arrives on the scene, their worlds are turned around.

Review: ‘FOOD’ is presented by co-director Kate Champions’ company Force Majeure together with one of Sydney’s prominent independent theatre companies Belvoir. Force Majeures mandate is to break down boundaries between different art forms and to represent these different mediums through the outlet of theatrical performance/theatre.’
‘FOOD’ was presented in away that resembled live performance art. Instead of a meer matter of an arousal of the senses, through infinite possibilities and avenues (as a lot of live art or even installation provides) FOOD was wrapped within the confounds of a script, a story of two sisters who grew up with very different views and responsibilities of their up bringing and primarily their mother. ‘FOOD’ isn’t just a play, it is artistic expression melted over the top of the human form with several varied measures of contemporary art mediums and stimulus.
At the commencement of the work, I must admit I feared this direction could possibly over power the text. Abstract artistic direction is wonderful, myself being an advocate of its use. Sometimes though it can be overly focused on and create unnecessary tangents. This can take away from what the audience should be attaching themselves to and that is the human element and story, the text. Too many ideas mixed in one production can like baking a cake cause disaster, once in the oven or under the hot eyes of an audience can fall apart rather quickly if the ingredients are tampered with too much. Fortunately co-directors Steve Rodgers and Kate Champion were wise with their measures and ensured that this did not occur. Their choices were purposeful and not just tricks for tricks sake. Their use of projections were mesmerizing and interesting, assisting the text to emotionally tie the audience together with the characters narrative. Writer Steve Rodgers was wise to take on board another pair of eyes to bring his life to work. Force Majeure brought some sublime thoughts in a non verbal manner that brought the characters and their reasonably mundane surroundings into a fresh and almost stealth like manner, gentle and almost shy like reveals. I felt an almost kinetic energy style approach to expressing the internal journey of the characters, quite beautiful to witness. My only note to perhaps consider would be the moments of silence between the sisters in the kitchen and some stage direction came across like dead space, slightly labouring the story unnecessarily creating some discomfort to watch.

Melissa King who plays older sister Elma, presented a rough edged, burnt out head of the family figure who showed a great deal of character self-esteem struggles in her performance. King showed great wit between the lines and softened and revealed more colours to her character as the story unraveled. King showed tremendous control and did not sway from the direction she had chosen or/and been given to her. Her choices emotionally were subtle with moments of varied gradients leading to the climax of the story.
Emma Jackson who plays the younger, troubled sister Nancy whose past is often the focal topic throughout the story gave a solid performance. Considering her characters past she managed to present a likable reasonably put together character. Jackson had a compassion that was surprising, presenting a soft side to a character who could have been played as cold hard trash.
Fayssal Bazzi plays the Turkish kitchen hand and traveller, the comedy relief to a story full of heavy themes. Bazzi presented an almost child like character, his energy was warm and inviting. A very loveable portrayal, Bazzi showed great comic timing and had the audience eating out the palm of his hand. A reasonably interactive theatre experience, Bazzi had the most fun with breaking that fourth wall, a real delight to watch.

Anna Tregloans’ set design was clinical ( in a great way) and bold, her costume design real and street, no frills. A nice contrast to a somewhat modernist set. Sound design and composition by Ekrem Mulayim was brooding. At times I was confused by it unsure if some of the composition was meant to be there or if the sound desk had some speaker difficulties, the thought slightly distracting but nothing to fuss over. Well executed in its purpose.

Steve Rodgers and Kate Champions choice to have their characters and actors involve the audience by passing wine, bread, soup and water around was fun. Sydney’s theatre goers in my experience are a rather conservative bunch, interactive theatre is good for the theatre goers soul (and their pride at times) it makes that fourth wall breakage much more acceptable for some, taking the edge off any discomfort of being pointed out among the crowd. The interactive banter of the production kept the spirits of the audience alive and engaged them in a way that made you feel invited into the kitchen of these two sisters and their comical kitchen hand. A great round of applause solidified the acceptance of both interactive performance and food!

When FOOD concluded and the actors took their bows, I had this feeling of pride swell with in me. Actors of the theatre are subjected to all sorts of hybrid artistic expression I find this so wonderful and wanted to congratulate them here on undertaking such a work . Hybrid theatre makers are an extraordinary bunch of artists whom I admire greatly. Steve Rodgers and Kate Champion have directed three super stars whom I am sure they are extremely proud of. I was and I don’t know them from a bar of soap! Thought they were the best thing since sliced bread.

FOOD is on at Riverside Parramatta 1-5 July, go and experience something fun and something quirky. It’s soul food at its best!