Archive | June, 2013

Electra

16 Jun

To see ancient Greek drama is a blessing.

To see it done well is a gift from the gods.

I saw director Richard Hilliar’s production of Sophocles’ Electra on the last night of its run. I wished I had seen it earlier, because I would’ve gone to see it again.

Firstly, because it was a superb production. Hilliar’s use of the stage is brilliant. The entire cast is wonderful, and Amy Scott-Smith as Electra is just extraordinary.*

Secondly, because well produced classical theatre is a window into another world.

I know many people will disagree with this attitude. They will argue eternal relevance. They will argue that the passions explored in ancient Greek drama are universal.

I doubt the existence of such universals. I’m not sure who would ever be in the position to judge that such feelings were so ubiquitous.

Sophocles wrote in a particular time and place for a particular audience. If he is appreciated now it is because of excellent productions such as this, and because he continues to speak to particular people.

For me, the ancient Greeks are too fierce. And they care too much about family.

Sure, I’m being facetious, but also I’m not.

I suspect some things have been added to the philosophical ‘tool box’ since they lived. And I do mean in terms of ‘ways of seeing’, rather than the obvious material benefits that make our lives longer, safer, and dare I say, more middle class than theirs.

Let me give a single example. It’s a ridiculous historical generalization and I don’t mean to defend it, but here it is anyway:  I suspect something happened on the fields of Assisi that altered human sensibility, or at least added another way of looking at the world to the many already available. When Francis sang to Brother Sun and Sister Moon, and lived a life of what can only be described as extreme gentleness, something else was added to the ‘tool box’.

And this ‘adding’, or at least rediscovering, has happened over and over again. (Though, again as a single undefended example, the early 20th century suffragettes might seriously question whether any ‘rediscovering’ was going on as they fought for representation.)

My point, long winded though I have been, is that Sophocles’ vision of life is particular, and limited. As must everyone’s be.

That’s my universal.

Productions like this are magnificent because they make us realise, or remember, that there can be this ‘way of seeing’ too.

I suspect this is the greatest gift theatre can give.

Veronica Kaye

Electra by Sophocles

at TAP Gallery til 15 June

 

* For those new to my blog, it’s probably worth pointing out that I write what I call responses, rather than reviews.

 

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Enron

13 Jun

Enron was an energy company. Fittingly, Louise Fischer’s production of Lucy Prebble’s play is high energy, fun and deeply thought provoking.

I don’t usually warm to satires that attack the giants – big business, big government, mass society. Audiences members are never the target. This sort of satire is usually safe, and some how self serving. ‘I’m privileged enough to spend Saturday night in the theatre, but the real injustices in the world are bigger than me, far bigger, so what can I do?”

What can you do? What have you tried.

Photograph © Bob Seary.

Photograph © Bob Seary.

Enron asks us to question our complicity in injustice. Some of the most thought provoking speeches are delivered wonderfully by Matt Young as Enron’s Jeffrey Skilling. They ask us to question whether our  society is reliant on the sort of foolish and greedy choices presented in the play to create and sustain our extraordinary wealth. And, if this is the case, isn’t it a bit rich if we only complain when the pain becomes our own.

Nick Curnow gives an engaging performance as the socially awkward originator of some of Enron’s most dubious accounting practices. Hire the kids that were bullied, says Matt Young’s character, they’re hungry to prove themselves.  We all want ‘in’, and only complain when we personally are excluded.

Yes, there are giants that stalk the earth, but they stand on our shoulders.

Veronica Kaye

Enron by Lucy Prebble

New Theatre til 29 June

http://newtheatre.org.au/

How to avoid that role

3 Jun

A lot of working actors make the same mistake: they want to act.

As a result, they miss the subtle joys of self sabotage.

Here’s some advice to help you miss out on that role again, and so justify that satisfying feeling that the world really is against you:

Be the expert. Everyone loves a know it all. Directors, and especially writers, love to be corrected. Choose the seemingly most unimportant aspect of the play and air your knowledge of that particular field. Choose a minuscule detail of the text and declare it to be wildly inaccurate. Discuss the play’s literary failings. This will guarantee that the writer remembers you. If the writer is not present, don’t bother being a literary expert. Focus your considerable energies on telling the director how the play should be directed.

Be critical. Of anything. Of everything. Creative people just adore working with no sayers. Criticise directors you’ve worked with previously. Criticise other actors. Criticise the type of curtains in the audition room if you have to. Just make sure you leave the director with the sense that you’re a person of true discernment.

Don’t listen Directors are very busy people. If you don’t listen in the audition this sends a clear message that the director won’t have to waste time speaking to you in the rehearsal room.

Do your homework (and then some) If, say, the audition consists of a reading from the play make sure you’re familiar with it. Learn it. Mechanically. Once again the director will be relieved to know she won’t have to waste valuable time with you later.

Channel those nerves It’s natural to be nervous. It’s not natural to be friendly to people you’ve never met, so channel those nerves into an awkward coldness.

Talk, a lot After all, they are looking for a performer. Why waste time working the scene? They’ll be plenty of time for that during the run of the show.

Ask questions  Of course, you’ll have a lot of legitimate questions, ones you have the right to know the answers to. Ask them, but don’t lose the opportunity to turn the tables on the director. If the audition process has made you feel uncomfortable,  take the opportunity to make the director feel uncomfortable. Remember, this is your chance to reverse the power relations. Sure, the director might appear to respond with annoyance, but deep down she’ll really appreciate being treated as an equal.

Respect the text Show how much you value the text by putting it into your own words. The writer will thank you. Your spontaneous improvements will no doubt solve problems she slaved over for months.

And most crucially, Take it personally. A lot of nonsense is talked about how directors want to best serve the play. Don’t be fooled. Casting decisions are not about art. They’re all about you.

Remember, it’s ALL about you.

And, later, when you successfully don’t get the role, make sure you treat yourself. Go to the production and decide the performances were awful. There are few ways of getting more out of an artistic experience than finding fault with other artists.

Veronica Kaye