LEAVES

King St Theatre, Théâtre Excentrique & EMU productions
Director: Markus Weber
Playwright: Steve McGrath

Synopsis: An exotic wilderness. Three men and a birthday cake. In this world premiere of Leaves, you are invited along on a dark and hilarious lost weekend in a new Australian play by Steve McGrath.

Chas has arranged his old school friends; Harvey, a lawyer, and Wilbur; a psychiatrist, to spend a camping weekend in a remote paradise. Chas may be a successful real estate agent, but has he chosen heaven or hell?

As they attempt to celebrate turning 50 years old together, their campfire tales take a muddy detour during a feast of booze, beef and barbiturates. Will they make it to Monday morning – or will their weekend become “Waiting for Godot” meets “Picnic at Hanging Rock”?

Review: ‘Leaves’ has been clearly written about a subject matter that is important to the men who star in it. McGrath’s writing is knowing, comical and saturated with reflective thought about life and love. The three characters Harvey played by Martin Ashley Jones, Chas (Gerry Sont) and Wilbur (Steve MGrath) are a trio of vastly different men, their unique quirks and qualities good and vulgar make an interesting combination.

Unfortunately direction by Markus Weber was somewhat hard to decipher. Weber clearly had a lot of ideas, his execution was somewhat awkward, the use of multimedia came across as trivial and did not add to the rhythm of the play more than it did cause distraction and at some points utter confusion as to what he was trying to portray by using them. What ever the why was lost. The lights often disappeared in spurts which again seemed like a mistake, sometimes projection was used in these dark snippets and sometimes it was just weird. Weber focused way to much on the literal aspects of this production in terms of props which made for clunky dialogue and scattered movement, especially for Gerry Sont who was found fighting his way through the play with dead objects which makes for awkward theatre for all involved.

Gerry Sont, whose character Chas drove the show gave a passionate performance, though I wish Weber had insisted Sont dig a little deeper as his performance came across shallow at times.

Steve McGrath, was the standout amongst his peers. His portrayal of the odd psychiatrist Wilbur was like watching an older version of the character of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. An odd ball character with a dry humour that was infectiously giggle worthy and suiting to the odd structure of the play itself. A natural performer in every aspect of his performance.

Martin Ashley Jones performance was laid back and nonchalant and very Aussie to the core. A womanising barrister and in my opinion vile. The type of women who would fall into his trap would be equally as vile, with little self-respect. Besides my dislike of his prize sexist view on woman his performance met the mark. Though he could improve on his projection and articulation as it was hard to hear him at points or understand what he was saying.

The first act was a bit of a bumpy ride and the second felt much more in rhythm which is to be expected on opening night. Meyerhold himself said that “It takes 50 performances before a show finds its curve and shape.” Unfortunately in independent theatre there is no such luxury, one or two previews is as good as it gets.
In ‘Leaves’ case less would certainly be more. The lights, distracting sound scape and projections were white noise that took away from the text dramatically. The play Dramaturgically was weak and need more attention, especially due to a very apocryphal ending.

‘Leaves’ is a play aimed at an audience of ageing males and felt very boys club in its entirety, emotionally nostalgic for those facing old age and for those involved in making this show. Relevant to some and not for the rest. It had its moments of enjoyment but overall was oddly directed and I couldn’t reference its similarity to Godot or Picnic at Hanging Rock, not in a positive perspective anyhow.

Playing until 29th of November at King Street Theatre

Photos: Supplied

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THE WORST KEPT SECRETS

Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre
Director and writer: Thomas De Angelis

Synopsis: Ex-Premier Frank Steeper and his brilliant wife Annie are the power couple with it all: a twenty-nine year old marriage, two handsome sons, and résumés glistening with achievements. What the public don’t know is that their relationship is as malignant as a tumour, that Frank is sleeping with his son’s girlfriend, and that Annie’s favourite pastime is to hurl virulent abuse at her husband. Of course, they’ve only endured each other so long because it has made Frank electable and Annie popular. So, when he’s offered the role of chairman for the government’s new economic advisory panel, Frank realises that his days of courting votes are over and that he can finally come clean with the secrets he’s been keeping so poorly.

Review:
Independent theatre is a broad spectrum, from novice to professional practitioners, the very young and the old, varied intentions and bottomless ideas. One must take this into account with a measure of grace when attending. The chiaroscuro of the theatrical picture must be reviewed by the experience behind the work and the capacity to which those hands are capable from experience.

‘The Worst Kept Secrets’ is a play written and directed by young Arts/law student Thomas De Angelis. As a writer De Angelis shows tremendous promise and intelligence beyond his 23 years. He has written a play that is full of family and political banters that the audience responded to abundantly. Blessed with a full house and a generous audience, one starting out in this tough industry can only wish for, and that he got.

Full of capable actors, the shining stars of the show Sonia Todd as the dry humoured wife Annie and Matthew Morrow as the troubled but very funny son Henry carried themselves in style that had the audience eating up every word. Both these performers ran with their characters notions and flaws with full intent.

Rhett Walton as the premier gave a solid show as did Lauren Pegus and Sam Boneham as Rosie and Jo. Jo the premiers son and boyfriend to the career obsessed journalist sleeping her way to the top Rosie (Pegus). Paij Lacey played Henry’s scattered girlfriend whom unfortunately over acted her part and needed direction more than most to bring her character a depth that lacked in her execution. A passionate performer none the less.

This aside, it is quite difficult to review this work as there are so many elements that fell short that it could have been described as a reading with movement rather than a play itself. De Angelis’s novice experience was very evident in his directing. Dramaturgically it was all over the place, movement, set and overall direction was for very rough watching and was border line non existent. If De Angelis had mentor ship and dramaturge alongside him during this process they have done him a severe injustice. Both to him and to his actors. If he did not have either of these fundamental people needed like children need parents it is my strong advice he sources them out promptly for further productions. Bontom productions should make this staple if they wish to live up to their mandate of producing theatre of high quality and amazement. As neither of these mandate statements were fulfilled in this show.

This play was not ready for production, the novice elements like hearing lines being given to actors from the wings who have forgotten, to the lack of purpose in set, little to no purpose in movement and actors really left to their own devices did have me passionately infuriated that De Angelis was not given advice that would have made his writing shine.

Independent theatre must be a place to grow, you must start somewhere, the beginning is always going to be a rough start and room to grow and improve is imminent if you continue to pursue a place in the arts with the attitude and want to put on great work. It’s not a form that you can develop successfully just by reading lots of books or just watching other people’s work (though both those things are important keys in broadening your understanding) it’s the practical, the practice of theatre that shapes your style and helps you find your voice. It is a brave person who decides to put on a play, it is bloody hard work and takes a lot of sweat and tears to which I hope De Angelis continues to shed as he continues to seek out his voice and style in this beautiful industry we call theatre.

‘The Worst Kept Secrets’ was indeed one of those baby giraffes in independent theatre, but it was a show, and as my colleague reminded me the celebration of all levels must be given and all start out with a few wobbles. Thank god for actors who take on the challenge and thank
god for people who keep theatre alive no matter where they are on the timeline of their theatrical life.

The Worst Kept Secrets is playing until the 22nd of November

LITTLE EGYPT’S SPEAKEASY – Django Bar

Starring: Brian Campeau, Lucian McGuiness (host & director), Matthew Ottington, Damien Slingsby, Katie-Elle Reeves, Dominic Santangelo, Luke Escombe and Elana Stone with burlesque dancers Kelly-Ann Doll and Danica Lee

When I was invited to review this Rhythm & Blues burlesque concert drama I went quite unsure of what to expect. When I arrived at the inconspicuous Django Bar in Marrickville this tucked away gem! I was immediately excited about what I was about to experience. Django Bar set up Little Egypt’s Speakeasy platform with all its vintage furniture, jazz memorabilia and old school Jazz & Blues video projections. The buzz growing by the minute as the blast from the past venue began filling up with patrons of all ages, fashion flares, with local burlesque and musician starlets in every corner. The place was swinging! This night was by far the most entertaining event of the year for me thus far. The musician and performance-ship that was presented were top-dollar, top-notch on every level.

Little Egypt’s Speakeasy are one of those rare group of entertainers. This dynamic act of musicians and performers have brought their talents and love for the 1950’s area and all it’s glory with a bang! Making you feel like you have travelled back in time, a pure experience of times long gone. This show is theatre, burlesque, jamming tunes and audience interactive. It is charming, earth-shatteringly sexy, exquisite, and very funny. I have never seen a show quite like it. It made you feel apart of a secret society of those who honour and keep alive the sophisticated times and types of entertainment that must never disappear! Entertainment has never been so classy!

If I had looked over my shoulder and seen James Dean smoking a cigarette in the corner or Ella Fitzgerald singing along near the bar or Sammy Davis Junior snapping his fingers it would have felt like the most natural thing in the world! For 3 hours I didn’t feel like I was in Marrickville Sydney 2014, I was somewhere on the West Coast of America in 1950. This is what it would have felt like, sounded like and looked like. I didn’t want it to end!

Little Egypt’s Speakeasy, know how to put on a classy show. Get to a show when they are in your town it’s not just entertainment it’s an experience you’ll never forget!

http://www.littleegyptshow.com

DOUBLE BILL – NOVEMBER SPAWNED A MONSTER & V.D

The Old Fitroy, SITCO, Copanirvana & Fly-On-The-Wall
NSAM Director: Robert Chuter
V.D Director: Lisa Eismen
Production photography: Jacqueline Barkla

Synopsis:
NSAM – Shocked out of his post-adolescent self-obsession by the death of a dear friend, William, a twenty something inner-city Melburnian, tries to make his way in an unfamiliar world. Lost and lonely he decides the path to salvation is a pilgrimage to the “Holy Land” – otherwise known as Manchester, the birthplace of his idol Morrissey and the band that has shaped his life, The Smiths. But first he needs funds to finance his trip and after a chaotic family lunch his sister Stephanie suggests he might like to try being a support worker for Felice, a dynamic, artistic, passionate woman who uses a wheel chair due to cerebral palsy. To his surprise William finds Felice is a fellow Morrissey-Smiths tragic and a delicate bond begins to grow. William is confronted by some very hard choices as he discovers that real love is much deeper than physical attraction and the true meaning of friendship.

V.D. – is a 60 min one-woman comedy show exploring the life of Sophie, a 35-year-old romantic who likes a bit too much gin. We join her as she falls in and out of love, struggles with power plays in her new job, and travels to India on a journey of spiritual (un)enlightenment.

Review:

This double bill started out in style, set and lighting design by NIDA graduate Benjamin Brockman showcases that NIDA sure knows how to bring the creative in their students to the surface with a very shiny professional polish. Benjamin’s set and lighting design effectively made both these performers pop on stage. An eye catching, dynamic design of which was installation in nature, framing these two performers with pizazz with fluid cohesion.

‘November Spawned a Monster’ starring the very talented James Wright, expertly showcases this young mans range of skills. Wright begins the one man show with a song by Morrissey painting a quick picture of expectation for the rest of the show. Wright interacts with his audience in such a laid back comfortable manner that his delivery of some socially sensitive topics such as drug use, cancer and cerebral palsy to name a few seemed second nature conversation to him. Wright seminglessly took his audience on a journey of a character who is riddled with humanity. His vocals were smooth, his comedy brilliant and his movement bee-liningly manic in the most fluid natural way. If we had had a dance number in the mix it would be safe to say Wright is an all round performer. Certainly one to watch!

Writer Alex Broun, has really written something quite unique in November Spawned A Monster. His angle is soul dissecting and honest, touching on topics I would say many would be to afraid to dwell upon. Our social disability is much easier to write about, but the physical disability of another is a whole other can of worms not many dare take on. This is a brave and commendable effort from Broun who has taken note of a real life circumstance and interwoven it into a brilliant story with music that is moving and honest. Director Robert Chuter masterfully insures the tastefulness of content is delivered in the best possible manner, music and digital content beautifully intertwined. The collaboration of all involved has made this show a must see.

V.D. The second part of this double bill starring Eliza St John as Sophie Webb was met with a very intimate crowd. Performing to a small house must be both difficult and disheartening when you are pouring out your soul as did St John. Despite this, she delivered to every corner of the quaint Old Fitz space with vigour and tremendous passion. There is no denying St John has the capacity to take her audience on a journey with a natural sense of comedy and timing. With this said, I couldn’t have cared less for her character, this kind of woman I find personally offensive to the mandate of womanhood. I found Pete Malickis’ approach grossly stereotypical and out dated. Cat lady, self-destructive, alcoholic, desperate for love, insecure, flaunting mid 30’s story. I couldn’t wait for this character to shut-up quite frankly. I’m sure there are plenty of woman out there like Sophie Webb, and though she showed signs of redemption through her stereotypical trip to India to “find herself” I didn’t care to hear about her pathetic plight. A tired, grated old chestnut, no award or Palme d’ Or will convince me otherwise.

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DAYLIGHT SAVING

Darlinghurst Theatre Company
Play by: Nick Enright
Director: Adam Cook
Production shots: Helen White

Synopsis:
Felicity has it all; a successful Sydney restaurant, a home with water views and a handsome jet setting husband. But with the sudden visit by an old flame, infidelity could be on the cards. Felicity’s plans for a candle-lit reunion go awry when a string of unexpected visitors drop by.

Review: Have you ever been in the audience of a sitcom? Or imagined being one of those privileged people who witnessed one of those landmark shows such as Friends, Family Ties, or Seinfeld? Most of us here in Australia would be in the ‘no’ category. Though the moment I walked into the theatre and glanced at the productions design by Hugh O’Conner and my ear caught the nostalgic tones of 80’s music in every corner of the room, I knew I was in for a treat immediately getting that sitcom studio sensation.

Wether Adam Cook took the direction of creating a sitcom style play I couldn’t say, though it would be difficult for it not to take on this style due to the era in which it was set (1989) the natural comedy style of Enright’s writing and the throw away cheesy lines that occasionally popped out of characters mouths. Some would perhaps see these elements in a negative light and hold it against the work. If they did than they should stop being so bloody serious. This play is fun! Hysterically funny, cheesy throw away lines (even perhaps cliche notions) all part of a style of theatre that when done well evokes in the viewer a style of laughter and reaction that is infectious and soul lifting. The characters in this play are over-the-top and loveable to the nth degree. Cook’s casting choices were terrific!

Rachel Gordon and Christopher Stollery open the show, a husband and wife hugely successful in their fields of expertise. Felicity a restaurant owner and food expert and Tom a jet setting tennis coach and agent to top tennis player Jason Strutt. Both seemingly going in very different directions whilst holding on to their marriage by the skin of their teeth.

Christopher Stollery delivered a confident, driven and obliviously egotistical character. Stollery fetched within his character redeeming qualities with an almost boyish manner. Expressing notions of a man who appeared outwardly confident but whom internally was as sure of his life direction as a lost lamb on a hillside. You felt sorry for him that he was letting his marriage slip through his fingers. As lost and as stupid as a lamb who is miraculously shepherded to salvation and redemption by an encounter with a clairvoyant in his current trip to LA, returning home a changed man. I felt Strolley carried his character with a light hearted, laid back approach. A charismatic and natural performer.

Rachel Gordon, held her own giving an elegance to a cast full of vibrant caricatures portrayed a more grounded character. Gordans’ moral struggles were emotionally subtle despite the circumstantial being rather dramatically extravagant. Gordon folded her character emotionally like the gentle workings of an origami artist. In saying this I would have liked to have seen a more sculpted finish in the shaping of her characters state of mind. The amount of alcohol consumed by the majority didn’t seem to alter the stakes as much as expected despite the quickly unraveling circumstances. When one is in vulnerable situations as Gordon finds her character situated, level headed restraint is not something alcohol provides. Though she has moments where she ‘let’s her hair down’ so to speak I would have liked to have seen Gordon push herself more in this regard.

Belinda Giblin, as Bunty came bursting onto scene with a comic rhythm
and timing that was impeccable and beautifully executed. Giblin had the audience applaud her on her first scene exit and the anticipation of her return lingered until she did return to her audiences delight. Giblin was a standout among her peers, her expressions and movement on stage was a sight to behold, she was like a tub of Messina, you just wanted more!

Ian Stenlake, as Felicity’s old American high school flame Joshua Makepeace brought the real cheese to this cookie-cut-out American stereotype. Loud, over-the-top with an ego on him the size of his country. Stenlake pulled out all the tricks that had his audience laughing or cringing at his characters flamboyant gestures. Stenlake didn’t hold back, making his performance as in your face as a rodeo. Bold and ambitiously performed.

Helen Dallimore, as Felicity’s big-mouthed, intrusive, obliviously over-bearing neighbour Stephanie, was the absolute show stealer. The moment Dallimore set her foot onto that stage she lifted the bar, adding a performance standard that took the whole show up a few gears. Dallimores’ natural comic capacity as a performer as well as her all-round confidence in her delivery was faultless. A professional in every sense of the word, she could have taken her audience anywhere and they would have followed. Dallimore is sensational, an Australian talent that surpasses most. An absolute perfect casting choice by Cook!

Jacob Warner, as the bimbo tennis star Jason Strutt also proved to be an absolute comic talent. His delivery was infectiously side splittingly candid. His banter with his fellow cast members was joyous and brilliant. A winning performance, he smashed it.

Adam Cook and his cast have brought to the Darlinghurst Theatre Company stage a roaringly funny show that promotes hyper-reality. This production celebrates those packaged style characters that when opened are both fun and infectious. If this was a TV sitcom I’d be back to see what happens next!

Take your serious cap off and get a ticket! You’ll laugh ’till your sides ache!

Playing at the Eternity Playhouse until 30th of November

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TWELVE ANGRY MEN

Playwright: Reginald Rose

Synopsis: In the play, Twelve Angry Men/Jurors, a jury must decide whether or not to reach a guilty verdict and sentence the 19 year old defendant to death. At the beginning of the play, eleven jurors vote “guilty.” Only one man, Juror #8, believes that the young man might be innocent. He must convince the others that “reasonable doubt” exists.

Review: Writer Reginald Rose has written a play full of characters with such tremendous individual mind sets and personalities making ‘Twelve Angry Men’ not only an enjoyable exploration of character but an immersive, intimate showcase of human personalities whom are under huge amounts of expectations and pressure. I have not yet to be on a jury, but the thought of it has a heavy weight of responsibility which Rose has successfully executed and brought to the spotlight in this powerful piece of writing.

Director Tanya Grelis brought both experience and respect to this work. Grelis has clear influences that shine through in a cinematic matter that married the play back to its original cinematic roots. The score by sound designer George Cartledge beautifully rounding that style in full
Circle. Grelis wisely staged this production crossing all its T’s and dotting all its I’s. No un-necessary frills or contemporary tricks to somehow put a twist on an established work such as this. Instead she clearly spent her time exploring the text and insuring each actor was in touch with his characters realities and states of being. This is a very mature approach which was ultimately successful with casting choices that were on point. There was an emotional geology Grelis and her cast managed to tap into and discover in rehearsals which resulted in a rainbow of heart-bursting performances on stage.

Stand-outs for me were Enrico Babic who plays juror 3, his approach and delivery was passionate and gripping, his connection to his character felt personal. Babic embraced his character and held nothing back, he had the audience in the palm of his hands.

Luke Reeves, plays juror 7, a smart-alec with a selfish egotistical complex that makes you just want to slap him. Reeves gave his character such interesting movement and rhythm, delivering his lines with impeccable ease with a top-notch New York accent to go with it. Reeves natural style and stage presence was undeniable. A natural performer you wished to see again. One to watch.

Richard Drysdale plays juror 8, the sympathetic ,only initial ‘not guilty’ vote. Drysdale was perfectly cast for this role, his wholesome appearance and mannerisms were a flagship of hope that there are people out there who stand up for injustice, who question and don’t just go with the crowd. Drysdale gave a solid, grounded and at times gentle performance that gave a silkiness to the momentum of the play.

The rest of the cast Jon Goodsell, Phil Lye, Brett Joachim, Scott Clare, Ben Scales, Tim Hunter, Tony Bates, Darrell Hoffman, Alex Cubis and James Graham brought dynamics to the table that were commendable, strong and overall wonderful and enjoyable performances. Bar a few moments of topsey-turvey accents from a few. The notion and naturalistic state and circumstance was believable from each and every performer whom had very successfully found the key to their characters souls. This resulted in an audience who in return, were at attention like a silent member of the jury soaking up every word.

In conclusion Epicentre Theatre Company have delivered a true to text production that is worth seeing with performances from a very gifted cast.

On at the Zenith Theatre in Chatswood until the 8th of November.

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