POPE HEAD – The Secret Life of Francis Bacon

Old Ftiz Theatre in association with Théâtre Excentrique

Written and performed by Garry Roost

Directed by Paul Garnault

Image by: Graeme Dalton

Synopsis: The show looks at the life, art, psyche, sexuality, and philosophies of the great artist. Beaten by his father’s henchmen and banished from the family home after he was caught wearing his mother’s stockings. We follow the struggle of the young artist who eventually finds that success and tragedy go hand in hand when you are determined to live life to the full.

Review: Francis Bacon is no doubt one of the most fascinating, mysterious characters of his generation. The mystery and the intrigue will continue to linger, inspire, surprise and perhaps terrify his audience for as long as he is remembered, and for as long as his art is present and to be seen. Garry Roosts’ uncanny resemblance to the man in the spotlight in ‘Pope Head’ certainly added to the presence of his performance. Roost haphazardly entered the clinically white, predominantly bare stage wasting no time introducing the excentrique artist. Three upright canvas banners were pushing to make a statement on stage, which I don’t feel Roost needed. The stark white stage and the man is a striking image in itself, the banners for me interfered with the metaphor of simplicity and vulnerability that the space provided. Removing these banners would create a much stronger canvas for the viewer, and a greater restriction for Roost to challenge himself in performance. The exposure of nothing to hide behind would raise the stakes for all involved, both performer and viewer. Consideration to lighting design could have assisted a stronger support to the rhythm and musicality of the narrative that static banners did not provide.

Regardless, Roost cleverly and wonderfully began to weave a textural historical encounter of the artists suppressed childhood, strict upbringing, his sexual appetites and the feelings and inkling behind the art he created. Roost smoothly transformed himself into a plethora of bold characters with humour and credible expression. A gripping story-teller, with passion that bounced off the walls, tickling the fancy of his audience. Roost is a generous performer, who has quite clearly committed a tremendous amount of time to resurrect a very striking personality. His distortions in his physicality and in his banter were interesting and impolite which felt true to the enigma of an unforgettable man who has left his mark in history with a slash.

Roost, has a way with words and a natural ability to embody the kookiest of characters. Which has me ask, Mr. Roost have you considered taking on Truman Capote? This is a Mardi Gras show worth seeing, I’m so glad I took the invitation to see it. So, off you hop to a late night session at the Old Fitz!

MOTHER CLAP’S MOLLY HOUSE

New Theatre in association with Mardi Gras Festival
11th Feb-7th March
Director: Louise Fisher

Starring:
Debra Bryan, Bradley Bulger, Stephanie Begg, Steve Corner, Andrew Grogan, Michael Harrs, Patrick Howard, Deborah Jones, Chantel Leseberg, Tess Marshall, Brendan Miles, Thomas Pidd, Garth Saville, Dave Todd

Synopsis: It’s London, 1726 and Mrs Tull is struggling to save her frock-hire business. She hits on a plan to open a molly house – a brothel where the ‘girls’ are boys in frocks and the beer flows – and soon business is booming!

Meanwhile, in a trendy 21st century Bloomsbury loft, a gay relationship is disintegrating amidst the drugs and toys of a sex party.

Review: When it comes to reviewing during Mardi Gras season I tend to be hesitant to attend shows that have the word ‘Cock’ in the title or are driven by a massive urge to promote dildo sexual activity. Because, quite frankly, I’m sick of hearing about it, and I believe the gay community is so much more than that. Mardi Gras festival is increasingly out-dated and substantially out of touch. The parade seems to me reflections of yesterday’s achievements, and full of straight people playing gay dress up. As a member of the community myself, I’m bored. Dead bored.

I attended New Theatres production after being pleasantly surprised by Darlinghurst Theatre companies touchingly relevant production of ‘Gaybies’ with the hope perhaps there was something fresh to be said also at the New. But with great disappointment I was offered no such breath of fresh air. What was given was a very dated, crass-comedy full of grossly stereotypical done-to-death characters and circumstances.

Director Louise Fisher was hugely ambitious producing this show in a lengthy 2 hour 20 minutes (2 hours 40 if you include interval) copyright restrictions perhaps or not this show needs serious textual slicing. This production could have been done in half the time and would have been better for it. The set though clean and simplistic was very rarely used to its full potential and when in use was dated along with the storyline, which was a confusing blurred parallel between the past and apparently the 21st century?? I felt very unclear on what net of vision Fisher was trying to cast. It was odd.

Giving credit where it’s due there was no lack of vocal talent amongst the large cast, who sung well together and they certainly had guts and drive through out the show. That being said there was sadly very little else going on but skin deep characterisations with several actors showing extreme self-consciousness that was painful to witness. Their emotional choices were thin and unexplored. Characters were dipping in and out of weird internal challenges that were sudden at times with little explanation. The messages that I could faintly make out within the chaos of the story that tried to promote anything remotely forward thinking, was again barely tangible or receptive through all the yester-year tripe.

To be fair, it is a matter of taste. If tasteless pantomime banter is your flavour, then you’ll probably love it.

All in all I couldn’t have been more let down, or more disinterested. The play is an archive from history and that’s where it should stay.

Photo credits: Bob Seary

GAYBIES

Director/writer: Dean Bryant

Stage Manager: Angharad Lindley

Composer: Mikey Bee

Lighting Design: Ross Graham

Production design: Owen Phillips

Starring: Sheridan Harbridge, Rhys Keir, Steve Le Marquand, Zindzi Okenyo, Olivia Rose, Cooper George Amai & Georgia Scott

Darlinghurst Theatre Company 6th Feb – 8th March

Photo credit: Helen White

Synopsis: A biographical combination of stories reflecting the lives of the modern-day family unit.

Review:

Gay marriage, Gay topics and LGBT rights have been a brobdingnagian topical focus for Australian society, like most of the world since the beginning of the modern world. It’s debatable still, politically, socially and predominantly religiously wether society as a whole are more accepting of modern-day family units. Like most human rights issues history the proof that humanity takes centuries to shed it’s evil to wake up to its good. Gay marriage and LGBT rights is certainly on the forefront. As it has been for it seems an eternity waiting for a full wake up. The day when we look back at our governments, our society and say ” Can you believe that was an issue, ever?” Sadly is still a long way off.

The arts have been a pioneering agent for the gay community with TV shows like ‘Modern Family’, ‘Queer as Folk, and  ‘The L Word’ to name a few. Countless films, and art work. The arts IS the gay community and it has been since always. But rarely have we heard from the younger members, the children of the community, what it has been like for them growing up in a household different from most. Last year, ‘Gayby Baby’ the documentary (filmed in Sydney) interviewed children in same-sex parental households shone the spotlight on these sensational children whose wisdom and untarnished insight on the topic of same-sex marriage and family, revealed well-rounded, well-loved normal children. Dean Bryant has done the same with his biographical personal encounters with children young and old, turning their would be un-heard private stories into a play that has enormous heart. ‘Gaybies’ is a no frills, text supporting play. Both actors and writer/director have chosen to be true channeling vessels of truth, truth from the mouth of babes and once were babes of a minority community. It is very rare that you watch a show such as ‘Gaybies’ as an audience member and feel invited to respond, allowed to react with out reprimand, this was a rare communal experience which resulted in a love note delivered from the cast and crew to a receiving audience who blew kisses and a few tears in return. The sense of community, understanding and unity from actor to audience was an emotionally tangible experience. Dean Bryant has done a stellar job at representing a community with humility and respect, making the topic seem everyday and normal (which it is) reflecting that the family unit continues to evolve and be and needs no ones consent to thrive and raise wonderful members of society. A true testament to his craft, not getting in the way. As directors often can become pre-occupied with the stylistic aspects and aesthetic of a production which sacrifices the heart and essence of a story, Bryant did not do this which is commendable. Bryant’s direction in adults playing children was also delightful (which I normally despise with intensity.) Each actor choosing ONE aspect of a childs mannerisms to express adolescence, making that scene of the production a total highlight.

The cast in this production is first class, each playing several different characters all giving clear, hilarious and enjoyable performances. This show is very dialogue heavy and in respect to scene change and set production, both very minimal, simplistic and linear. It would normally be easy to lose focus in the hour and a half interval free production. This cast has managed to avoid this occurence due to the non existent fourth wall; the “in conversation” from actor to audience with out that connection broken once kept the rhythm and musicality of the production flowing.

Cooper George Amai, told the stories of Adam, Lily, and Julius with heartwarming precision and truth. Amais’ ability to connect with his audience is commendable and naturalistic with a banter that at times showed some nerves was sincere and huggable.

Sheridan Harbridge’s natural comedic talent shine within her characters Caz, Alexis and Mahalia often having her audience in hysterical tears. Harbridge had the audience in the palm of her hands, she could have taken her audience anywhere and they would have not only believed her but demanded she take them with her.  Her interpretation of a 5-year-old girl was by far the funniest encounter I have witnessed in sometime, equally so was her archetypical, post high-school 20-year old-something character that had the room in hysterics. An actor who is always impeccable prepared and consistent. Harbridge is easily one of Sydney’s leading comedy talents and in my opinion quickly becoming a national treasure, no doubt with a career that will continue to soar.

Rhys Keir, played his three boys Joel, Robin and Henry with easy and style. Responding intuitively well to a cheering/clapping audience member half way through his line that added a real moment to the production. The moment was certainly a one-of-a-kind exchange that makes theatre so wonderful and unique. An actor who clearly listens and responds with generosity and wit. Keir was a delight to watch.

Steve Le Marquand brought a blokeness and masculinity to a somewhat dominantly feminine energy production. Le Marquands’ performance brought a balance and a directness that created theatrical chiaroscuro to the work and other characters. Both humourous and reflective in his delivery, making his characters relatable to the average Australian fella.

Zindzi Okenyo brought her characters Ciara, Rae and Artie to life with a real laid back approach and carefree delivery. Okenyo showed real passion and found a grounded conviction within all her characters making her not only enjoyable to watch but believable and full of heart with a beautiful singing voice to boot.

Olivia Rose gave her characters Kathy, Victoria and Lara plenty of gusto and charm with lightness and depth in all the right places. Rose carried her characters on her shoulders, clearly very proud of the work she was apart of. Her singing voice was a unique tool which brought an earthy sensation to her characters and to the work as a whole.

Georgia Scott did a wonderful job at delivering her vastly different characters Rose, Pippa and Sensa. Her archetypical high school character was a giggle fest and her interpretation of an awkward little girl was just a divine witnessing. Scott showed a beautiful range of ability throughout the production that had you loving or laughing at her characters manners. A lovely performer.

All-in-all, ‘Gaybies’ is a play to watch and a show all involved should be tremendously proud of. It is current, relevant, funny, heart-breaking at moments and one that will stick in your mind and be a conversation pointer for some time to come. A play with a healthy brimming heart, not to be missed!