I’m no longer writing

10 Dec

I enjoy the theatre Sydney has to offer. I would like to thank all our theatre makers.

However due to personal circumstances, I will no longer be writing.

Veronica Kaye

 

Hamlet

4 Dec

Famous plays have baggage. They have a past. Which is, of course, what makes them interesting to a lot of people.

Having been produced so many times, each new production can end up feeling like a commentary on previous productions. (It’s one of the reasons I like new work. I don’t like to see that much theatre about theatre.)

When you produce Hamlet, a reasonable percentage of audience members will ask ‘Is this about Hamlet or Hamlet?’

Montague Basement’s adaption of Hamlet is a snappy, engaging 90-minute, five-character version. We lose (to name a few) Gertrude, Laertes, Fortinbras, Rosencrantz , Guildenstern and the players. Ophelia and Gertrude are melded and the result is curious. Horatio, Laertes, Rosencrantz and Guilderstern are combined and the result is intriguing. And the structure is altered; there aren’t just cuts, there are also rearrangements. And the end………..

If you’re familiar with the text the changes are massive, and ultimately stimulating. Do they simply make the play easier to perform? Or is there a method……… I won’t say to the madness (because friends who weren’t familiar with the play very much enjoyed it. And I’ll add that a woman in the foyer said it was the funniest Hamlet she’d seen.)

Hamlet MB Program-7314

Performances are high quality. Patrick Morrow as Polonius is very funny. Christian Byers as Hamlet is antic, energetic and highly watchable. Lulu Howes as Ophelia is terrific (especially considering the challenging decision to have her witness her father’s death, and then alone on stage descend into madness and commit suicide in a handful of minutes.)

Director Saro Lusty-Cavallari’s set, with its TV screens and strewn paper, suggests both a teenager’s bedroom and the weight of the thousands of previous productions.

I did miss Laertes and Fortinbras, who are such foils to Hamlet. (The latter especially lifts the play into the political realm; “madness in great ones must not unwatched go”). I did miss Gertrude (especially her response to the lost Ophelia; “I will not speak with her.”) And, most of all, I missed……… but, of course, talking this way only highlights the power of text, and the beguiling allure of the past.

Veronica Kaye

Hamlet by William Shakespeare (sort of)

PACT til Sat 5 Dec

tix and info here

 

 

Dinkum Assorted

1 Dec

Another play dominated entirely by female actors. It’s disgusting. All those millennia of oppression – for nothing!

Set in a country biscuit factory during WW2, the fifteen strong all-female cast provides a fun and thought-provoking night out.

Dinkum Assorted is part of that genre that treats war as though it were a natural disaster. And if you’re far enough down the pecking order, I guess it is. These women have to make the best of a difficult situation. And they do, with both fight and laughter.

There are some terrific performances: Colleen Cook as the down-to-earth forewoman; Debra Bryan as the maligned and misunderstood outsider; Bodelle de Ronde as the struggling young mother; Sonya Kerr as the sophisticate facing tough choices; and Amanda Laing and Hannah Raven as the effervescent youngsters dreaming of another world.

Dinkum-10

Photo by Bob Seary

It’s sort of a musical with all the songs at one end. The closing numbers have huge energy and Laing and Raven’s tap dance is brilliant. The costuming of these numbers, by Kiara Mullooly, is delightfully and gloriously over the top.

Some people might find the book a little dissatisfying; there’s so much in it that some parts can feel a little sparse, but Aronson and director Sahn Millington get the tone right. This is a story of Big History catching up with little people. Sure it’s a tribute to determination, but the play’s also a paean to innocence.

Kerr’s Joan says ‘Don’t make me something I’m not’. De Ronde’s Millie replies ‘It’s what people always do.’

Perhaps in the past we were innocent. It’s a myth we tell. It’s what we always do. I wonder why.

Veronica Kaye

Dinkum Assorted  Book, lyrics & music by Linda Aronson

at New Theatre til 19 Dec

tix and info here

Through a Beaded Lash

1 Dec

Four funerals and a wedding.

Well, not exactly. There are no funerals (on stage). There is a wedding (slightly off stage).

But, despite the humour, the atmosphere is thick with loss.

Robert Allan’s deeply moving play is about the struggle between the acknowledgement of grief and the quest for growth.

With two concurrent time periods, the play is a cleverly structured dialogue between the past and the present.

In the past, we follow the developing relationship between Brent and Adam. Brent (Ryan Henry) performs as a drag queen. With the help of effervescent Zoe (Emily McGowan) and crotchety but lovable Phil (Roger Smith), Brent raises money for those battling the newly recognized Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. A charming bumbler, Adam (Oliver Rynn), arrives. The attraction is obvious, but he’s out of his depth. There’s a war going on, and Adam – like so many of the population – has not caught up with the reality.

photo Clare Hawley

Photo by Clare Hawley

In the present, we follow Adam and Zoe twenty odd years on. Played engagingly by Cherilyn Price and Leo Domigan, their friendship has survived, but beyond the fun banter, there’s real tension.

Clever direction by Julie Baz highlights both the continuities and discontinuities between the two time periods and so brings to the fore the fundamental question of the piece: What is, What should be, What can be, our relationship with the past?

Both funny and touching, Through a Beaded Lash is a powerful call both to remember the dead and to remember to live.

And it’s a new play and I congratulate The Depot on that.

I began with a glib reference. Four funerals……..

In the 80’s, 90’s and today, here and worldwide, if only the toll was so low.

It’s more like forty million.

 

Veronica Kaye

Through a Beaded Lash By Robert Allan

The Depot Theatre til 12 Dec

Tix and info here

Grey Gardens

23 Nov

American royalty. That phrase says it all: the paradox of the great democracy obsessing over the privileged minority.

With book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Michael Korie, Grey Gardens tells the story of a troubled mother and daughter relationship. This particular pair just happen to be Jackie Kennedy’s relations. But, as Noel Coward would say, even duchesses have problems.

The story is presented in two acts. In the first of these, set in 1941, mother and daughter battle out the younger woman’s right to a suitor. Beth Daly and Caitlin Berry do excellent work. And so does Simon McLachlan, who plays the suitor – Joe Kennedy.

Grey Gardens

Photo by Michael Francis, Francis Photography 

The next act is set thirty years on. We’re still in Grey Gardens, the family home, but things have changed. I’m not really sure how. It’s still the same mother and daughter and they’re still fighting, but they’ve become cat ladies, living in squalor. Standard music theatre fare this is not. The two roles are now played respectively (and powerfully) by Maggie Blinco and Beth Daly.

Directed by Jay James-Moody, the show is technically and musically tight. Squabbalogic have a reputation for quality and it’s well deserved. The show’s all class (though considering my earlier comments this might sound like a cheap pun.)

It was pointed out to the audience that the true cost of the production might be much more than will be recouped by ticket sales. Theatre’s a tough business and money must be saved where ever possible. For example, it appears Squabbalogic has purchased the rights for only two of the acts of this three act musical.

Of course, it’s not a three act musical – but the greatest challenge of Grey Gardens, or perhaps its most intriguing element, is that missing thirty years.

Veronica Kaye

Grey Gardens (Book Doug Wright, Music Scott Frankel, Lyrics Michael Korie)

Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre, til Dec 12

tix and info  here

Dot Dot Dot

19 Nov

New work! Thank God. And a big thank you to Gareth Boylan and the Old 505 for presenting it.

Dot Dot Dot by Drew Fairley is a murder mystery set in fin de siècle Australia. It’s a rollicking yarn with terrific performances and some beautiful set pieces. (In particular, one of these pieces is a very amusing, suspense building scene between two policemen, played wonderfully by Gerard Carroll and Matt Abell-King.)

The Crime genre often derives its appeal from its exploration of three concepts: Truth, Causation and Fear.

Truth: Whodunnit? In Fairley’s play we seek a murderer, the infamous ‘Noah’, a psychopath who kills people in pairs; two school girls, two policeman, two theatre critics (OK, maybe not the last pair – which only proves Noah is disturbed – but you get the idea.) But who can lead us to the Truth of the murderer’s identity? There’s the media, with a media baron portrayed with fitting smugness by Carroll. There’s a medium; a sideshow clairvoyant and raconteur played with a fascinating mix of fear and guile by Natalie Venettacci. And there’s the delusional dope addict, played as an intriguing battle between strength and vulnerability by Lucy Miller. But, Truth is a slippery fish; a product of the ocean it swims in…….but more on that later.

DotDotDot

Causation: the Crime genre needs connections. Actions must clearly lead to consequences which must lead clearly to other actions. The Crime genre does not do Random. The horrors of Life are not denied but rather made sense of – at least, on one level. This tidying up of the rough edges of Life probably accounts for much of the genre’s popularity. It also makes possible one of its most attractive features: the complicated plot. Fairley’s script delivers, with a plot which is both complex and intriguing, but ultimately crystal clear. Director Gareth Boylan weaves together beautifully the many moments, characters and locations.

Fear: this third in my trifecta of Crime might appear to contradict the second. But, of course, Fear is the disease for which apparent Causation is the cure. It is the exploration of Fear and the environment it creates (the sea the fish swims in) that lifts this play from its genre roots. Fear allows us to be manipulated. I suspect Fairley set the play at the eve of Federation to suggest that Fear is a congenital disease from which this country suffers. He could have further explored the idea that the historical Federation was indeed a direct result of Fear: the states decided to band together because of the illusory threat of the ‘Asian hordes’ that would supposedly overrun this tiny outpost of European civilization. He might have explored that idea……but his target is more contemporary than the fear mongers of the past.

Veronica Kaye

Dot Dot Dot by Drew Fairley

at Old 505 Theatre til 28 Nov

Tix and info here

Last Drinks & Two Mouths Four Hands

18 Nov

Whenever I see a local company produce a foreign play, or a play we’ve all seen before, I’m bemused. A part of me – a very large part of me – wants to scream ‘What’s that about?’

If someone in the team didn’t write the play, it just doesn’t seem like the real deal. It feels like an attempt to cash in on someone else’s reputation or authority.  Or like the whole event is just a showcase of the director or actors’ talents; a step in a career, as against a work of art.  Sometimes I’ve even wondered if it’s actually a type of mysterious ritual……. if we repeat these words, repeat these movements, then the world will be right. Like a rain dance. Or a Catholic mass.

In the past I’ve referred to non-original theatre as ‘cover theatre’; in the same way that The U2 Tribute Show is commonly called a ‘cover band’. I’m not really sure why what’s considered secondhand in other art forms is acceptable in theatre. (I’ve written a lot about conservatism in theatre –   here )

Brave New Word produces new work. Thank God. I wish there was more of it.

Their current double bill at Balmain’s Exchange Hotel has a lot of laughs.

Last Drinks

Photo by David Hooley

Last Drinks is a sitcom written by Jordy Shea and directed by Luke Holmes. Three blokes meet in a pub, which like them, has seen better days. The play’s an intriguing exploration of masculinity; its knockabout discourse (“Chin up, prick”) and it’s rather curious loyalties (children, alcohol, but not women.) The cast (Bob Deacon, Steve Maresca and Christopher Nehme) embrace these deliberately cartoon-like characters and it’s all very watchable.

Two Mouths Four Hands.jpg

Photo by David Hooley

Two Mouths Four Hands by Nicole Dimitriadis and directed by Bokkie Robertson also follows the sitcom form. However, this time, it’s not the world of masculine dumb; this two-hander is a girl’s night in with her gay male friend. They drink. They talk sex and love.  Once again, there’s some good laugh lines, and some provocative questions are thrown up: Does it really make a lot of sense to build our self worth from our sexual experiences? Is friendship really just a type of power play?  Actors Georgia Woodward and Alex Beauman give energetic performances of these youthful characterizations.

The space is used well. The first piece is set in a bar – and we’re in a bar! We’re ushered out at intermission and return to find the second piece quite effectively set in a lounge room.

Pub theatre is good fun. Original theatre is just good.

Veronica Kaye

Last Drinks by Jordy Shea

Two Mouths Four Hands by Nicole Dimitriadis

at the Exchange Hotel, Balmain, 17-19 Nov & 24-26 Nov

Tix and info   here