Archive | September, 2013

Fully Committed

27 Sep

The customer is always right.

Are there five words that better encapsulate our absurdly mercantile and materialistic society?

Sam, played by Nick Curnow, is the one of the team who takes the reservations for a super trendy Upper Eastside restaurant. It’s the sort of place that’s booked out months in advance, or ‘fully committed’, as the celebrity chef insists. Sam struggles to deal with the demands of both employers and customers.

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Fully Committed is a one man show designed to show off an actor’s virtuosity. And it does. Nick Curnow is superb, creating thirty eight characters in fifty minutes.

Sam is Curnow’s primary character, but he launches into the others with breathtaking energy. Curnow’s ability to delineate such an enormous cast of characters is awe inspiring. The laughs come thick and fast. His vocal work is nothing short of extraordinary.

The script, by American Becky Mode, is witty and wonderfully structured. Director Alexander Butt has facilitated a lively night of fun, and thought.

The customer is always right. The slogan is well known because employers ask their employees to abide by it simply because it encourages return business. But customers parrot it, as though it was a moral truth. ‘I am paying, so I must be right.’ But aren’t both parties entering into the transaction in good faith? You give me this, I’ll give you that. Why should one party be privileged?

There are few more injurious attitudes to a democratic society than this false sense of entitlement.

And one of the funniest and sharpest moments is when Sam’s agent (he is, of course, a struggling actor) tells him how he could do better at castings. He must develop an aura of self-entitlement. This is silver service satire.

Veronica Kaye

 

Fully Committed

New Theatre

Two shows remaining Fri 27 Sept and Sat 28th Sept

http://2013.sydneyfringe.com/event/theatre/fully-committed-becky-mode

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Titus Andronicus

26 Sep

And so I went to a blood bath in a lounge room.

Titus Andronicus is a classic revenge story. It was a huge hit in Elizabethan times. And it works now, especially with smart choices.

It’s also intriguing because of what it suggests about Shakespeare’s practice.

Is the scheming Aaron the Moor a test run for Iago? (And, if so, note the reversal of the ethnicity of the characters in Othello. Did Shakespeare go on to develop a conscience regarding his presentation of particular races? Is it simply that he realised there was more dramatic potential in making a member of a minority group the central character in a tragedy?)

Is Titus a trial run for Hamlet? (In both plays there’s a much put upon hero who feigns madness until the time is right. Or wrong, as is the case in tragedy.)

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This production’s all female cast is a fascinating decision. Playing against expectation, it energizes and challenges. Director Caitlin Scarr has elicited terrific performances from the entire team. Jacki Mison as Titus is brilliant. Lauren Orrell as Tamora is captivating, and appropriately threatening.

Leah Winterton’s performance as Lavina is particularly moving. The violence done to her is horrific. Shakespeare’s decision to show us the consequences is one of the most confronting moments in his whole body of work.

And here it is in a lounge room.

Well, not really. But the Glebe Café Church Space is warm and comfortable, replete with couches and soft lighting.

And so, for me, this production poses a vital question, and puts it out there bravely:

How tolerant are we of violence?

Veronica Kaye

Titus Andronicus

Glebe Café Church Space

Two performances remaining: Fri 27 Sept and Sat 28 Sept

http://2013.sydneyfringe.com/event/theatre/william-shakespeares-titus-andronicus

Skazka, Told by Night

24 Sep

And they were happy.

Appearing at the end of a tale this line seems simplistic.

Anywhere else it is ominous.

Happiness will be disrupted. The power of the folk tale, despite its exotic and anti-naturalistic setting, is its assertion that we want peace, but it shall be denied us.

This is their insight: not the denial, but the desire.

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Told By Night is a series of adapted Eastern European folk tales. They are deeply moving tales of family and death.

Beautifully written by Jonathan Dunk, Finn Davis and Jem Rowe, their strength comes from their simplicity.

They are presented somewhere closer to a telling than a dramatization. Directed by Dunk, the performances are absolutely captivating, with both voice and movement seemingly balanced between improvisation and choreography.

This creates a spellbinding immediacy which enhances one of the most fascinating aspects of this piece. These tales were told to the audience, but also to (and with) those present on stage. We hear and see the tales. We hear and see the responses to them.

Stories don’t represent reality. (Especially not folk tales.) They are not truthful. They play us.

The wind chime doesn’t ask if the wind is true.

Veronica Kaye

 

Skazka, Told by Night

New Theatre

2 shows left Wed 25 Sept and Sat 28 Sept

http://2013.sydneyfringe.com/event/theatre/told-night

Jane Austen is Dead

22 Sep

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a critic reviewing a play alluding to Jane Austen will assert their authority by appropriating an obvious famous quotation.

But I’m not a reviewer. I’m what I call a responder.

Any authority I have regarding Austen comes from a course I did at uni. For six months I surrendered myself to six great novels about love. Disappointing – the class consisted of ninety nine women and one gay male couple. It wasn’t only Austen’s prose that awakened my sense of irony.

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But Mel Dodge’s Jane Austen is Dead isn’t just for Austen aficionados and it certainly isn’t gender specific. An exploration of the modern dating and mating game, it’s terrific fun. Dodge’s performance is absolutely brilliant. She plays multiple characters, treating the audience to a heap of hilarious insights and a good sprinkling of poignant moments.

Dodge’s main character is Sophie, who is battling the influence of fiction in her life. Where can Mr Darcy be found?

We need stories. And we need to escape them.

They help us look to the stars. But they don’t get us there.

Or to offer another analogy: when the heart goes a hunting, we shouldn’t treat stories as maps. They don’t actually tell us what’s out there.

Perhaps stories are more like gun sights, helping us zero in on what we want. Violent imagery, I know, but they’re powerful, dangerous things.

Love stories, but never ever trust them.

Veronica Kaye

 

Jane Austen is Dead

New Theatre

One more show in Sydney – Mon 23 Sept

http://2013.sydneyfringe.com/event/theatre/jane-austen-dead

Penelope

19 Sep

United we stand. Divided we stand – in an empty swimming pool, waiting to be butchered by a legend.

That’s the scenario of Enda Walsh’s play Penelope. Four men have unsuccessfully vied for the affections of Penelope and soon her long absent husband, Odysseus, will return. There will be consequences.

Walsh’s play is rich and playful. It sets competition against co-operation. Are we really capable of the latter?

Director Kate Gaul’s production is superb. The cast is top class, and they bring to life Walsh’s snappy word play.

Thomas Campbell as Burns. Photo by Kathy Luu

Thomas Campbell as Burns. Photo by Kathy Luu

There are some extraordinarily powerful speeches, which provide an effective foil to  the lighter raillery. The monologues by Nicholas Hope and Thomas Campbell alone will get me back a second time.

Gaul and designer Tom Bannerman have magically transformed the space. We are in the pool. Or is it the gladiator’s amphitheatre?

But they’re a sorry lot of gladiators. Perhaps collaboration is their only hope.

Dramatists have a vested interest in seeing hostility at the heart of human nature. It’s their ideology. With out this belief it’s hard to spin stories.

But is it true? News reports provide easy confirming evidence. But journalists are the close cousins of dramatists, and share their needs.

This play puts it out there; competition or co-operation?

It’s a fascinating question. With no answer.  Except, of course, the one we make with our own lives.

Veronica Kaye

 

Penelope

TAP Gallery til Oct 6th

http://www.sirentheatreco.com/

Decadence

11 Sep

This is all class. Class war, that is. And a great night of theatre.

It’s fun, physical and bitingly satirical.

The performances by Katherine Shearer and Rowan McDonald are tremendous. They play two couples, one upper class and one lower. And these twin characterisations are superbly playful.

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Steven Berkoff’s script, written in punchy verse, is naughty and rude, sharp and clever. It’s a glorious collection of both repartee and comic monologues, ranging over topics like sex, excess and casual violence.

Set in Thatcher’s England, it hasn’t lost its relevance. Only those whom it would serve to do so might think it had.

And that’s one of the joys of the piece, not just the mocking of the decadence of the privileged, but the skewering of what Marxist theorists call ideology.

Ideology refers to the views we hold that perpetuate our position in the economic hierarchy.

It’s a sobering concept. That our vision of the Truth is not honest, but either self serving or self sabotaging.

And it’s a concept that should drive us to ask ourselves a curly question:

What I call Truth, what does it Do?

Veronica Kaye

 

Decadence

TAP Gallery until Sun 15 Sept

http://2013.sydneyfringe.com/event/theatre/decadence

Any Womb Will Do

11 Sep

I understand the desire that makes children.

I don’t understand the desire to have them.

Of course, I simply mean I’ve experienced one desire and not the other. I don’t actually understand any of it.

I’ve watched friends tie themselves in knots with the desire to have the baby that never comes.

And I’ve watched friends shocked and dismayed to find themselves expecting.

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Any Womb Will Do is about a single gay man’s desire to have a child. Written and performed by Gavin Roach, it’s heartbreakingly honest.  Roach is a consummate performer, and he is both utterly in control and entirely open. Funny and moving, the piece is a wonderfully generous and genuine sharing.

This is what I want.  But what are we to do with our desires?

Attempt to fulfill them?

Or attempt to transcend them?

It’s a choice we must make with each of them.

At least a billion people on our planet believe desire should be transcended. All of it.

In the West, we find this a challenging notion, almost life denying. Unless we feel there’s something morally wrong with our desires, we try to satisfy them. Only when we find that a desire can’t be achieved do we ask for the strength to rise above it.

To pursue, or to let go?

In terms of desire, I don’t know what I want.

Veronica Kaye

 

Any Womb Will Do

King Street Theatre

Sun and Mon til Sept 23

http://2013.sydneyfringe.com/event/theatre/any-womb-will-do