RIDE & FOURPLAY

Darlinghurst Theatre Co/ Eternity Playhouse

4 Sep – 4 Oct

Plays by Jane Bodie

Directed By Anthony Skuse

Photo credit – Robert Catto

Performed by Tom O’Sullivan, Emma Palmer, Aaron Glenane, Gabrielle Scawthorn

Synopsis thoughts from the programmes Director’s Notes –

Both plays are concerned with how we negotiate relationships, how we use those relationships to garner a sense of identity. They are all striving to be the best versions of themselves as they dance around each other. Most of the time authenticity eludes them as they perform compromised versions of themselves.

Review –

You know the saying, ‘Save the best ’till last?’ it’s a common and well used phrase for a myriad of possible excitable notions towards the expectation of something delicious, fun, or just plain old school fantastic. When leaving the Eternity Playhouse, mentally and mind fully chewing on the rather unctuous amount of theatre I had witnessed in playwright Jane Bodie’s paired up play’s Ride & Fourplay. My first impulsive thoughts don’t often make the first paragraph in my final draft, but as I stepped out into the night air, my first thought stuck like super glue to skin and that is, ‘I can not leave the best till last.’ I have to talk about THAT straight way!’ I just can’t discuss these plays in chronological order of appearance, I have to start talking about Fourplay, Ride won’t get as high an acclaim for reasons I will explain later in my review. But for now, I just can’t wait to discuss the second part of this theatre experience. So here goes.

Renown English theatre director Peter Brook wrote in the opening lines of his book ‘The Empty Space’, regarding the definition of theatre. I quote, “I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.” This was the very first thing I thought when Fourplay began. The simplistic, raked stage now striped of all its set dressing and naturalism from Ride leaving essentially (with a stylistic twist) an empty space, with two women and two men walking from corner to corner, past one another with sparse physical contact whilst thoroughly engaging their audience, hello minimalism, hello performer focused art, hello my kind of theatre. When I review a show, I am hugely interested in audience actor dynamics, how the audience engage mentally and emotionally by closely observing their physical engagement to what occurs on stage. Hooked, is the word to best describe the audience during Fourplay, hooked I was also, thrilled in fact that director Anthony Skuse chose to run with Bodie’s stage suggestion that this play can be played non naturalistically. It makes her strict note that characters Alice and Jack are to be played naturalistically throughout the work all the more poignant and powerful. Bodie’s mindfulness in regards to structure, form and manipulation of time (as mentioned by Skuse in his director’s notes) makes Fourplay a structural intrigue to watch and I can only assume an intriguing directing opportunity. Fourplay is LIVING proof that great writing can carry an audience from A-Z and on the edge of their seats with out the need to set design show-off, which has exhausted me this year and unimpressed me greatly by some of our prominent theatre companies. This coupled with a director with sound judgement, clear objectives and actors whom have encapsulated their characters beautifully thanks to a specific structural method in style and writing by Bodie, makes for a refreshing, gorgeous approach to theatre making that is foundationally built on equal respect for the written word and trust in director, actors and the creative body as a whole. This play speaks beyond the naturalistic situations of relationships and provides a much more diverse ratio of meaning. Simply, the lack of physical contact, eye contact and typical architectural flesh responses that were forced to be individual made for a much deeper exploration of self as a viewer. This restriction too I feel assisted the actors to not knee jerk react physically in response to each other, but instead instilled focus and purpose in their movement which made for a richer experience as an audience member. The disconnection from naturalism made the intimate moments that were purposefully naturalistic physically poetic. What we would consider a generic intimate response felt brand new because we were deprived of it consistently throughout. As Bodie even mentions out of the mouth of her character Natasha, ‘ There is nothing interesting about a love story. It’s been done to death’ What is interesting about Bodie’s writing and Skuse’s direction is that it is approached from a quirky angle and cleverly so. There is absolutely nothing in Fourplay we haven’t all seen before. In fact it is a cliche super nova in content, but in style and execution it feels as if we are being exposed to something brand new. I dare say, but with conviction that Fourplay is reminiscent of Pop Art. It is the everyday basics on display, the object itself is so common it’s almost invisible but the technique and approach towards it makes it somehow, fascinating, like we are seeing it for the first time.

Aaron Glenane who played Jack in Fourplay seemed right at home in this production, his performance was a stand out for me. Glenane has a naturalistic ability to physically express his character with no sense of striving or strain. Glenane produced a character that was likeable, humorous and most of all genuine. Glenane formed a quick and potent connection with his audience, a very talented performer, a craftsman in his field, I loved his performance. Gabrielle Scawthorn, as Alice gave a performance with her characters heart plucked, in hand and bleeding for all to see, she ebbed and flowed between heart ache, sarcasm and humour with breeze, beautifully and believable. Tom O’Sullivan, as Tom, wove for us a tapestry of a character full of bewilderment, lust, selfishness, little boy straits and elements of boy trying to be man. O’Sullivan is clearly a committed actor, and his performance reflected the at times tongue in cheek aspects of an actors process discussed in the writing and ran with it well. His times of stillness with in this piece though I felt could have been more complimentary by providing his audience with less of the ‘I-am-man-contemplating-my-fate-in-silence’ stance that took so much of his focus it felt forced most of the time, it felt like acting. More of nothing would have been preferred, not trying to be stillness. Just being stillness. Considering his character responses to questions thrown at him by Scawthorns’s character Alice felt reminiscent of Tony Abbott interviews, careless, flippant and inconsiderate to circumstance. I doubt much fluid thought went through his characters mind in silence either. It was as if O’Sullivan was trying to bring some nobility or pride to his character which felt against his characters nature and maturity level.  O’Sullivan though performed with tremendous gusto in Fourplay. Emma Palmer, played the ‘sassy’ flirtatious, confident, controlling character Natasha. Palmer exudes her natural confidence on stage as a performer. She brought a lot of fun and charisma making for a desired shift of feeling from heartbreak to, I don’t give a fuck I’ll do what I want. We all find ourselves there at some point, and it was fun to see this character played in this manner. Even when she was observing her fellow actors in her moments of solitude or stillness she retained this manner that was consistent of her character. Her expressions were a dialogue all on their own. Palmer’s character on paper comes across as rather unbearable at times, but Palmer avoided any eye-roll by playing Natasha with a self-confidence and assurance as an audience member you couldn’t argue with. Her choices were nonchalant, and care-free which made me as an audience member not to feel malice toward the archetype being played but instead accepting her for her archetype and letting it be, which assisted in enjoying her character instead of despising or brushing her off as a pretentious tart. Fourplay was just wonderful, worth sitting through Ride to get to it.

Ride, I’m not going to dive into this Bodie play nearly as much as I have with Fourplay, as it did very little for me. Two straight people drunk, with memory loss and emotional baggage, naked in a bed, wake up with hang overs galore, attempt to decode the night before and perhaps each others secrets. The given circumstances didn’t thrill me, and characters Elizabeth and Joe and all the talk of Marrickville/Tempe, known clubs, pubs of Kings Cross and Sydney didn’t engage me either. Though both Palmer as Elizabeth, and O’Sullivan as Joe both performed fine, it felt like the context didn’t particularly motivate them to any kind of performance beyond comfort, it felt safe. All I wanted to see happen was Elizabeth to leave Joe’s room. I didn’t feel like it was played out or written in a way strong enough to keep her in that room for the possible 14-18 hours that took place from the start of the play to the end.

Fourplay, plays out with potential and with room to grow to explore the text and feels like it retains more possibilities as a play. Ride on the other hand is restricted, measured and limited. Bodie is an excellent playwright whom has a comfortable relationship with dialogue that transfers beautifully into characters who are down to earth, relatable and plausible. Ride & Fourplay are two very different plays to which some adjustment is required to enjoy them accordingly and in their respective genres.

DETROIT

Darlinghurst Theatre Co/ Eternity Playhouse

22 July – 16 August

Playwright – Lisa D’Amour

Director – Ross McGregor

Cast – Lisa Chappell, Ronald Falk, Claire Lovering, James O’Connell, Ed Wightman

Synopsis – Ben and Mary live in a decaying suburb hard hit by economic downturn. He’s lost his job and she’s discovered alcohol. They fire up the barbecue to welcome the arrival of new neighbours; a couple broke and fresh out of rehab. As the night wears on confessions are shared, inhibitions are shed and Bacchanalia ensues.

Review – In director Ross McGregor’s note in the programme he brings up several points of interest for himself on why he loves this play and the questions it raises. He also goes on to mention the asking of textural questions during rehearsal and the finding of the right answers within the play. I left this production with a lot of questions myself and they weren’t the kind you wish your audience to leave with. My questions were, ‘What was that about?’ ‘Why is it on this stage?’ and ‘Why did director and theatre company see the relevance of this story to their audience?’ Detroit is so clearly a story for an AMERICAN audience whose understanding of the history and plight for this city and their recession hardships is an integral part of, their, personal national pain and struggles, with Detroit itself having a long history of personal disintegration. Playwright Lias D’Amour has written a comedy sitcom style play full of sentimentality that is a heart to heart story about a part of her “American family”. This play is not universal and is limited by its context and its content which keeps it relevant only within its borders. I can not see why Darlinghurst Theatre company chose this production. Out of the wealth of material that is available I just do not see its merit for an Australian audience or stage.

I have made it customary to do my best to find the plays I review and read them before seeing them, I feel this gives me a stronger understanding of how the play is written in its format, rhythm on the page and the playwrights intentions within the text both in dialogue and stage directions. It also allows me to best give, I feel,  a more solid and accurate review on a directors interpretation of the work. Reading what I was able to find online, I got a good sense of what kind of play this was and my stomach sunk slightly. Darlinghurst Theatre Company seem to heavily favour American work, which is fine if that is their true mandate, but the negatives of choosing vastly American literature is the risk of choosing work that falls completely flat on an Australian stage. With actors who more than often (especially when the work is sitcom comedy) develop character work that is way over the top, hammy, obnoxious and linear. We all know American’s are loud personalities but the depth of personhood must not be sacrificed by being grossly over the top in dramatisation, there must be room for light and shade, the subtle notions live in all people. In this case with the characters of Detroit, I just did not get any true sense of who these characters REALLY were…which made me question what the story was essentially about, and ending with me wondering why I should care. There seemed to be a lack of exploration of what is NOT being said, which was troublesome and probably was the cause of clunky, awkward line delivery.

Act one provided plenty of laughs with one liners and physical banter that was impossible not to giggle at. The tempo of the comedy I observed started a little nervously and thought perhaps it would become more comfortable as the play progressed. Though the audience had plenty of moments where they indulged in the moment, the tempo overall felt off, with pauses that went on for too long, and actors who weren’t really sure how to deliver certain parts of dialogue. The text feeling rather racket balled from character to character and actor having a swing at it as hard and as fast as they could. Whatever questions were raised in rehearsals I’m not sure if they were really answered with full conviction; they didn’t translate well on stage at all, it was all rather awkward and unclear. Not being a fan of the play itself as it is on paper, it was a struggle to embrace it in its performance.

Act two of the production was flatter than the first with a long sentimentally detailed monologue delivered by Ronald Falk, which bored the audience and too appeared to bore the other actors listening on stage. There was nothing in Act one that set us up as an audience to give a care about what this character had to say, especially considering it’s the first time we knew this character to even exist, his stage time being a whole 15 minutes. A difficult task to do for any actor, to win over an audience with a monologue that paired as an introduction to himself that was full of his characters personal sentiments, memories and relations to other characters and to the city in question, Detroit. In my opinion this is a huge fault in the script which highlights poor use of exposition by D’Amour. The actions of both set of couples came across murky, dramatic tension was weakly milked which gave no room for the audience to grow sympathy for any of the characters. Most of all this play lacked any suspense that sparked the right questions for an audience or generated any curiosity or mystery within the comedy or the dramatic climaxes of the play.

Though all actors involved gave rather passionate performances, and the set by designer Tobhiyah Stone Feller was versatile and fulfilled the scripts requirements. This play lacked solid conviction, and understanding for the audience. You just really really needed to KNOW the context as an audience member to grasp its purpose for being…And though McGregor attempted to do this with a radio style sound scape as an interlude (as you will) it wasn’t enough to get the audience to a starting point of sensing the stakes or state of this place called ‘Detroit’ and the people who inhabit it. McGregor would have done best to take the advantage the playwright gives by placing this story in a town that an Australian audience, and his actors would have been able to grab hold of with much more conviction and understanding. Even better, chosen a different play entirely.

Photo credit: Helen White

VENUS IN FUR

Darlinghurst Theatre Company, Eternity Playhouse

29 May – 5 July

Play by David Ives

Directed by Grace Barnes

With Anna Houston & Gareth Reeves

Synopsis – Thomas is a director struggling to cast the female lead in his new play based on the classic sadomasochistic novel Venus in Furs. Into Thomas’ audition room blows a street smart, straight talking actor who displays an uncanny command of the material. As the audition progresses, the line between play and reality blurs.

Review –  This is a really classy choice of production by Darlinghurst Theatre Company. What a piece of work! Playwright David Ives has written a sharp, intuitive and dynamic piece of American Theatre. Having read the script myself, the characters are so rich in value that you can’t stop reading and being engaging by the rhythm of the piece with dialogue that pops right off the page, so no surprise there that it too pops off the stage. Director Grace Barnes has done an equally dynamic job in producing the texts energy, tones and suggestions of the work, sticking true to Ives set and stage directions which very much provides just as much important information as the dialogue itself. Barnes navigated her way through this script seamlessly and casted two exceptional talents in Anna Houston and Gareth Reeves. I just love two-hander plays anyway and to have Ives script brought to life by Reeves and Houston was a real pleasure to witness.

 

Venus In Fur is a play written by an intellectual, that is quite clear. Getting into the script did take some concentration but with no reservation towards its quality in writer and director. The American voice when it comes to plays is so vastly different from the Australian voice, it feels rooted in a wealth of literary knowledge which is then filtered through American character archetypes. With Australian plays they tend to be rooted more so in the Australian way of life, the literacy of living. So watching an American play from a writer like Ives, whom has cleverly plucked from the literary world to develop a play married with familiar archetypes, does takes some adjusting of the senses as an Australian audience member, I think anyway. It’s an education, as I am sure Australian theatre would be on an American stage. Continuing this thought, it made me consider how this could have influenced the actors in some way? Though I think Houston and Reeves did a marvellous job with character and delivery, the familiar archetypes of the “New York director”, Thomas and the “New York dishevelled girl”, Vanda didn’t sit as naturally within them as their stage reading characters Kushemski and Vanda. I wondered if the “continental” aspect of those characters felt more obtainable, recognisable or easier to play for Houston and Reeves. That Queen and country history to which we came from as Australians and New Zealanders. I say this as I believed them more in the skins of those characters, than the twilight reflections of their American characters Thomas and Vanda. Then again, that could be said too for the audience, me, perhaps I connected more with that aspect…who knows, but an observation none the less.

There were some moments where the pauses; which were few and far apart could have been drawn out more. This show is rather pacey in tempo, especially Houstons’ character who is like a mini tornado moving around the room. When pauses and silences did arise out of conflict they weren’t savoured long enough and I wished to relish with contemplation of what transpired with in those pauses just a breath longer. Minor adjustment to let those pauses breath a fraction more would make for tighter units of text adding to the power of the intentions behind the characters words and a refresher as an audience member.

Houston and Reeves both produced characters of succulence and beauty, carrying themselves from moment to moment with legerity and style. Two performers who have tackled the excitement of the play as well as the intellectual crux of it with whipping abilities. Venus In Fur is the kind of play that could be seen more than once and you would pick up different references, meanings, symbolic pokes and parallel character reflected intentions, it is so dense with thought by Ives there is never a dull moment for your intellect to swim through. The intentions of the two American characters are never really fully spelt out, which again is good writing. Houston and Reeves kept this mystery alive leaving morsels for the audience to pick up and digest for themselves.

Venus In Fur, is a sexy piece of theatre, produced with pleasurable effects by Barnes, Houston and Reeves. It is a play for the lace, leather, or both…in everyone.

Photo credit: Helen White

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

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!

FALSETTOS

Synopsis: Marvin has left his wife and son for a male lover. Meanwhile, Trina has shacked up with Marvin’s shrink. Amongst this there’s also a Bar Mitzvah to organise. Is it too much to ask for everyone to get along?- Extract taken from Darlinghurst Theatre Company website

Directed by: Stephen Colyer

Starring: Anthony Garcia, Ben Hall, Tamlyn Henderson, Stephen Anderson, Margi De Ferranti, Elise McCann, Katrina Retallick & Isaac Shaw

Review: Theatres that set an atmosphere and a level of expectation before any performance has begun is certainly the standard set by Darlinghurst Theatre Companies new venue, the Eternity Playhouse. This theatre company certainly gives their artists a platform to be spectacular upon. Sitting in the front row I observed the setting of the stage a grand piano deeply set in the backdrop like a living 3D painting. Pianist and co-musical director Nigel Ubrihien made his appearance a few minutes before the curtain (so to speak as there is none) in his coat tails ready at the keys. Really setting a tone of sophistication in regards to the music arranged for this musical. The rest of the stage was reasonably bare with only several mysteriously tall grey boxes neatly in place around the stage. A simplistic clean slate that reminded me of a dance studio. This had me wondering if Stephen Colyer’s dancing background had something to do with the classic feel of an open floor with little to distract from it; a sophisticated palette for the eye.

Falsettos began with the youngest member of the cast Anthony Garcia, who was extremely un- nerved by his eyeballing audience, no stranger to the stage (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Addams Family) this young man held his own remarkably considering this musical is a long way from home filled with adult humour and idiosyncrasies beyond his years. Mr Garcia didn’t flinch in the slightest, focused and confident in his role he is for sure one to keep an eye on. Being one who has been sceptical about the capacity of some of our youngest performers to carry the weight of bigger productions Mr Garcia quickly reminded me that there are children in Australia who have the potential to meet the talent of their peers overseas. With the musical Matilda coming to Australian shores next year I found myself hoping that this young man auditions as he would indeed shine. Most importantly I believed him every step he took his character as the confused maturing young Jewish boy from New York, slightly stereotypically but I think that is the point.

Like I said above, Falsettos is a long way from home, it’s about a Jewish family dealing with modern family issues and in retrospect of the era it’s based ahead of its time. The musical started strongly with musical number ‘5 Jews In a Room’, it was funny and informative and set the tone for the rest of the musical. The first act introducing the 5 main characters in order of appearance (from memory) Anthony Garcia as Jason, Katrina Retallick as Trina the mother of the family, Stephen Anderson as the family shrink, Tamlyn Henderson as Marvin the father and Ben Hall as Whizzer Marvin’s gay lover. All in their own standing right were strong in their performances with powerful soul lifting singing voices and moved with purposeful calculation in their physical delivery. Stephen Colyer’s contemporary choreographed movement mirrored the   pianists hands and fingers at play was inventive and flavoured nothing was without its place nor wasteful in its entirety giving the musical a modern fresh take on character expression. From the get go old school methods to express humour were introduced in the forms of masks such as the groucho and clown masks, as well as using the influences of mime were creatively used throughout . All interesting gorgeous ideas that married wonderfully with the text. Each performer had a professional ability carrying the musical successfully. The emphasise on their individual abilities and past successes though I felt did not necessarily transfer through as a unit, a terrific cast overall though the feeling at times was too many chiefs not enough Indians.

Some minor notes observed from sitting in the front row, as the rest of the audience may not have noticed with no harm done. Such as seeing the actors props music sheets with ‘Falsetto prop music sheet’ written on the front page, and the shrinks black rimmed glasses were 3D glasses from the cinema clearly written on the side. This did irk me, attention to detail even in a low budget shouldn’t be forgotten. In regards to costuming, aware that Colyer wished to veer away from the naffness of the dress sense in those eras to avoid distraction from all the other wonderful things occurring on-stage is a purposeful decision. I still would have liked to have seen the subtleness in a more polished manner. I am not sure if Colyer was as precisely purposeful about the characters lack of accent as none had even a resembling Jewish New York twang. If New York hadn’t been mentioned I never would have guessed these characters were from there at all. I would have at least expected this from one character, preferably in the expectant over bearing Jewish Bar Mitvah throwing mother. What we got instead was a very middle classed white woman most likely to be found in Chicago then Jewish New York City. This play is a heavily saturated Jewish story should this not have been emphasised in all aspects of the production? Whizzer in drag near his death confused me also. Perhaps I failed to grasp the relevance. I didn’t feel this added to the story in any way, and could have lived without it.

Falsettos ultimately is a comedy with a serious note on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s which is thrown a spotlight to in the second act. There were some really tender and sensitive moments between the characters which I wished had been given just a few more beats to digest upon but were whisked up and away too fast. New additions in act two, Margi De Ferranti and Elise McCann playing the lesbian next door neighbours doctor and housewife added colour to an already vibrant cast. Again individually wonderful to watch and listen to. The connection as a couple though lacked slightly for me, and fell short of believable.

In conclusion, Falsetto’s is an enjoyable, rich show that must be experienced. Worthy of it’s Tony Award and the cast involved. A few minor clarity tweaks on direction and eye to detail would make this show go from great, to fucking brilliant. A tremendous start to Darlinghurst Theatre Companies season.

Falsettos closes Sunday the 16th of March. Do go and see it, a great showcase of Australian talent across the board.Image

Anthony Garcia, Tamlyn Henderson, Stephen Anderson & Ben Hall