ANTIGONE

Théâtre Excentrique at PACT theatre, Erskineville

Directed by: Anna Jahhah

Playwright: Jean Anouilh

Translation by: Kris Shavey and Anna Jahjah

Starring: Rosyln Blake, Kate Fisher, Kirsty Jordan, Aurora Kinsella, Karl Kinsella, Philippe Klaus, Neil Modra, Gerry Sont, Ellen Williams and Blacktown Girls High as the French-speaking Greek chorus.

Synopsis: Antigone says “No” to everything and everyone. To king Ceron, who has banned the burial of her brother. To her sister Ismene, who thinks she is a mere little girl not up to the task. And to life itself, if it involves compromise. Anouilh’s Antigone is a powerful reinterpretation of Sophocles’ tragedy questioning our ethics and notions of power, politics and individual liberties.

Review: I don’t know what it is about Greek tragedies that are so infinitely powerful. Perhaps it is the era in which they are written, the mastery of the perfectly blending the human condition within Greek mythology. The mystery, the drama, the elaborate exposé of the human condition.If written today perhaps would come across far-fetched and sensationalized. For some reason it rings true in the hearts of men centuries on because our condition doesn’t evolve as much as we think. Anouilh’s adaptation is beautifully portrayed in Shavey and Jahjah’s translation.

Director Anna Jahjah has brought together an ensemble of variable levels of novice and experienced actors making this community theatre packed full of diversity and intrigue. What I loved most about Jajah’s direction is her use of the vast PACT space and her ability to maintain the quality of the work by tapping into the tempo of the play by insuring there was constant motion if not in her cast in her choice of set design. These choices kept an emotionally hostile work balanced, with an equally engaged audience throughout.

Jahjah’s cast where deeply immersed in their characters making for a delightful and engaging production. Ellen Williams as Antigone performed with heart and vitality making for a recognisable modern activist that refuses to compromise her beliefs for the sake of a failing system. Williams put forth a brave character that had you question your own standing on what we allow to occur in the world around us, and what is worth dying for. Do we even think like this anymore? Like Jahjah stated in her director notes what is Antigone really saying ‘No’ to? This of course is suggestion left un resolved in the writing. Perhaps a question we are left with to answer on our own, within our own understanding of the world and that tiny yet powerful word in our English language ‘no’. I can see why Jahjah chose to have her audience sitting in tranverse seating. Forced to look at each other as we witnessed this incredible story.

The French have a natural ability to wrap quirkiness into their theatrical unfolding of narrative. Jahjah is no exception living up to her French roots within a wonderfully multi-cultural Australian cast that added sang-froid to the dramatic.

This coming together of community and heart made for an enjoyable night at the theatre where diversity and the love of story, truth and art became one unit.

Antigone is playing until the 2nd of May

HAIRCUTS

The Greek Theatre

Directed by: Lex Marinos

Playwright: Con Nats

Starring: John Derum, Adam Hatzimanolis, Richard Hilliar, Barbara Gouskos, Valentino Arico, Tim Ressos & Demita Alexandria

Synopsis: “When you a cut man’s hair, he leaves a little part of himself on your floor.” Haircuts is a bittersweet comedy about men and their barbers, men and their children and how they cope in an ever-changing world.

Review: ‘Haircuts’ is a play full of insight into the Greek and Italian cultures that we Sydney-siders are apart of in so many ways. We have such a strong Greek streak in us which has generated some of our best comedy and drama within our entertainment industry. Con Nats has written some cracking comedy characters in this comedy-drama. Nats has a nack for clever one liners with a style that has a sense of rhythm and at times a romanticism which is very palatable to the ear. He has written some fun archetypes that kept the audience laughing and engaged.

Nats’ has filled this narrative to the brim with bleak given circumstances that intertwined with the comedy of the piece. Though his intentions were well I am sure, I felt there was too much trying to be said, too much was expected of the audience to take on board. The comedy in the work came effortlessly but the drama more times than not came across melodramatic. The comedy often barrel rolled dramatic scenes that caused them to be awkward and hard to watch. The actors showed signs of physical unbalance, some direction on placement was needed here. Some dramaturgical fix ups in the script are required. Due to so much being packed into this show I was rather unclear what Nats’ overall voice was trying to convey. I was unclear on what it was he was trying to relay to his audience as a whole as there was so many directions to follow in story line. The show also felt too long, scrapping in just under 2hrs not including the 15 minute interval.

In regards to casting director Lex Marinos did some spot on choices with John Derum as Stanley’s father and Adam Hatztimanolis as barber Costa both playing fathers to two strong-willed grown-up children Stanley and Tina. Both men performed with distinction and a grazing quality in delivery. Both gentlemen fine actors who carried their characters to the highs and lows effortlessly with believability.

Richard Hilliar, played leading man Stanley without a hitch, his performance was solid and at times tender. The writing at times let him down making aspects of his performance strained to no fault of his own. A bright spark on stage.

Barbara Gouskos, played mother of both Stanley and Tina with beautiful contrast, again some of her scenes were melodramtically written making it difficult to believe, especially when playing Stanley’s mother. The scene between mother and son to me in act two I could have done without. Pure suggestion would have been suffice without the need of explanation to her where abouts that is question marked in act one. This would have made the story more interesting with some intrigue that the audience could have decided for themselves. Gouskos played Tina’s mother with great fire and wit, a much preferred character, well-rounded and purposeful to the story.

Valentino Arico, played two joyous supporting characters, supporting the humour of the story beautifully. A fun actor with a bounce in his performance that made you smile.

Tim Ressos, played several characters with hilarity and passion. Ressos is a natural comedian who brought his characters to life with tremendous amusement. Ressos was the stand out performer among his peers, making his sleazy characters loveable. An enjoyable performer who goes the extra mile for his audience.

Demitra Alexandria, played Tina the advocating daughter with a passion to help her strong-willed father Costa. Unfortunately her character was not particularly interesting and felt like a link to an end for Stanley. Though she was the push for change in the characters around her I didn’t feel she added much to the storyline and like Stanley’s mother I could have lived without the character. Regardless, Alexandria gave a fine performance with the little meat she had to chew with her characters thin objectives.

All in all ‘Haircuts’ had some sharp writing and some strong performances, but is cluttered with circumstances with an ambitious storyline that ran way too long. Another draft and some cuts would make for a much sharper clearer show.

DEATHTRAP

Darlinghurst Theatre Company

Director: Jo Turner

Playwright: Ira Levin

Starring: Andrew McFarlane, Sophie Gregg, Timothy Dashwood, Georgina Symes, Drew Fairley

Synopsis: Celebrated playwright Sidney Bruhl is in the grip of chronic writer’s block. With another flop on his hands he’s running out of inspiration – and cash. When a young writer sends Sidney the script for his brilliant new whodunit, Sidney devises a plan to claim it as his own.

Review: I’ve got to say it right off the bat, what a show! When director Jo Turner referred ‘Deathtrap’ in his programme director note as a thriller that possess both horror and comedy in perfect measures, he was spot on. This is a brilliantly written, nail-biting, laugh out-loud theatrical triumph. Playwright Ira Levin, also writer of ‘The Stepford Wives’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ has a nak for weaving his twilight-zone style circumstances into seemingly average, everyday characters. ‘Deathtrap’ Broadways longest running thriller of all time is of no exception. Full of thrills, chills and giggles!

Jo Turner has done a stellar job at bringing this production to life to its full potential. The story ebbed and flowed in its curious manner without a hitch, the tone too was consistent throughout, custom made cookie cut awesome. Turner’s casting choices were excellent whom all fit into their characters shoes comfortably. His choice of creatives also a stroke of genius with celebrated set designer Michael Hankins’ crisp architectural style producing a set which was tremendously versatile and visualyl impacting. Likewise was his choice of award-winning lighting designer Verity Hampson whose lighting design in companion with Marty Jamieson’s composing and sound design was both eerie and electrifying telling a story all on its own which heightened the audiences thrill and suspense even more. Turner is a director who knows how to put a 5 star team together.

Andrew McFarlane, played playwright Sidney Bruhl wonderfully. His physical expression was aloof, nervous, child-like and extroverted. McFarlane carried his characters troubles and worries with spoonfuls of humour that made him an instant hit with the audience. McFarlane displayed lovely comic rhythm and timing. He interacted with his co-stars with a nonchalant banter that made scenes exciting and his character unpredictable. McFarlane is a seasoned actor whose performance was as sharp as a knife.

Timothy Dashwood, played Clifford Anderson the younger playwright with bright, youthful energy making his performance and character equally as unpredictable and loveable. Dashwood was a charm to watch with a performance that rang true to both the writing and the circumstances his character was faced with. Dashwood had his audience with him like an energetic tour-guide, his energy made the experience as an audience member that much more gripping and enjoyable.

Sophie Gregg, played wife Myra Bruhl with delightful measures, her quirky mannerisms and responses to her characters concerns were hilariously wrought together. Gregg developed an unusual character in Myra Bruhl with her physical movement choices and tempo which morphed from minimal to extreme in her dramatic impulses which made for an exciting performance. A fun, witty performer.

Georgia Symes, played psychic Helga Ten Dorp so brilliantly she absolutely stole the show. Symes’ performance was a laugh a minute. Her comic timing, dramatic responses and accent all made for a wonderful theatre performance. Her whirlwind entries were gleefully welcomed which had me hoping her exits would be short waiting with anticipation for her return to the stage. Symes had a comfortable grip on her character and rode the comedy of this play all the way home without missing a beat. A spot on performance!

Drew Fairley, played lawyer Porter Milgrim swimmingly well, his performance was funny, light-hearted and solid. His character though a smaller part was the cherry on an already delicious cake that added that little bit of needed pizzazz.

Deathtrap is a brilliant thriller, with a cast and crew who have echoed the playwrights unique voice with the style, pizzazz and suspense it deserves. If theatre shows could be called blockbusters this certainly is it!

Photo credit: Helen White

THE BUGALUGS BUM THIEF

Monkey Baa Theatre Company

Starring: Gideon Cordover, Mark Dessaix and Stephen Anderson

Synopsis: Based on the wildly popular book by Tim Winton, ‘The Bugalugs Bum Thief’ tells the story of the town of Bugalugs where inhabitants wake up one morning to find their buttocks missing, all 496 citizens of the town of Bugalugs are BUMLESS!!

Review: Children’s theatre is always a delightful experience. Children unlike us adults are more than willing to get involved and interact with what they are presented with in the art world. I wouldn’t consider myself the conservative but after sitting in the children’s theatre of Monkey Baa, I sure felt the odd one out as I sat surrounded by wee voices and hands whole heartedly getting involved in the story unfolding in front of them. If only adult audiences at our independent theatres were as generous in involvement as these tiny tyke audience members theatre would in Sydney would be a much brighter place to be.

Gideon Cordover, Mark Dessaix and Stephen Anderson all took us on the journey of a town full of citizens who lost their bums, with tremendous humour and infectious energy. These three gentlemen performed to their young audience with a passion and a connectivity that was undeniably honest and so fun. ‘The Bugalugs Bum Thief’ is a super silly story with super silly characters that had children young and old in fits of giggles. The set was versatile and age appropriate, not too over powering in style and very relatable to its target market. I felt like I was on the set of High Five, Play School or The Wiggles. The beauty of children is their ability to use their imaginations with little need for huge amounts of visual howdy-doody, just a great story, and three willing actors ready to be transformed into vehicles of silly delight.

The interactive aspect of this show was welcomed with open arms by the children who all wanted to have a say on what they got up to their Easter weekend when asked by the cast. Two polar opposites but equally gorgeous young ladies were picked to tell of their Easter experiences making an already relatable theatre production even more down to earth and a visceral experience for the audience. At a perfect attention span running time of 55 minutes ‘The Bugalugs Bum Thief’ doesn’t leave room for children to become disinterested or become tiresome. This show is a promotion of silliness, energy and totally engaging from start to finish.

Monkey Baa is a refreshing place to be, one of very few theatres who invite children to respond and be their loud selves without the fear of being told to be quiet and sit still. Monkey Baa theatres approach to theatre practice indeed is a positive one. A positive experience here could lead to a child growing into a theatre attending adult. Indeed Australian theatre needs a growing theatre audience. So for that, I thank Monkey Baa and this cast for cultivating possible culture choices in children and their parents.

With arts and crafts to make your own paper plate bum prior the show in the foyer! What else would you need to have a good giggle and a good time this Easter school holidays. It is so refreshing to see kids be entertained by using their imaginations in a hands on way with out a screen or smart phone inches from their faces.

playing until the 24th of April, 10:30am,11:00am, 12:50pm and 1:00pm

http://www.monkeybaa.co.au 8624 9340