RSS

Monthly Archives: September 2012

Lost in Yonkers

Theatre 3 has seen some fine productions over the years, but few of the calibre of of Rep’s current production of Neil Simon‘s Lost in Yonkers, the preview for which I saw tonight.

Lost in Yonkers is apparently a well-known play, which simply reveals my ignorance, because I’d never heard of it until I heard about Rep’s production. It’s the story of two brothers left with their cantankerous grandmother when their recently-widowered father has to go on the road to repay the debts incurred in the course of losing his wife to cancer. The Second World War being underway, and the Great Depression just barely relegated to memory, opportunities are few, but the loyalty of this barely functional family forms a great basis for Simon’s exploration of human relationships.

And the cast delivers Simon’s characters with aplomb. Lachlan Ruffy has received more than a few compliments for his theatrical activities, and this production demonstrates how well-deserved they are. His performance of Jay strikes a careful balance between the impetuousness of childhood and the control of a maturing adolescent. He is complemented wonderfully by Pippin Carroll, who plays the younger brother Arty with a comparable balance of naivety and wisdom beyond his years.

Bridgette Black’s Bella brought a lot of energy to the stage throughout the show, and with just the right amount of pathos to be able to carry off her more intense monologues as the plot reached its crescendo, without losing anything from the character’s comic qualities.

It is the illusion of ease with which the play is delivered that really stamps this as a production of the highest calibre. There is no point at which the actors appear to be labouring, which of course indicates that they’re working harder than most do. This production has that wonderful quality that marks all the best productions; a simple, forthright telling of a story, with nothing to draw our attention to the artifice of the theatrical process. It puts the audience at ease and creates exactly the right environment for the suspension of disbelief.

One of the noteworthy elements that goes into producing this effect with this production is the use of the New York accent. One of the most difficult American accents for Australians to emulate, this cast have pulled it off admirably. Even Paul Jackson, who may be thought to have had a head start on the accent, must have worked hard to get his gangster right. Despite a few slips of pronunciation from one or two members of the cast, the greatest achievement here is the uniformity of the accent across the cast, which is, when using foreign accents on stage, more important that accurate emulation from any individual actor. And when it comes to the use of foreign accents on the Canberra stage, I’ve rarely been convinced; this may be only the second or third Canberra cast who have caused me to forget that they’re a bunch of Australians bunging on an accent.

Lost in Yonkers is a solid production; one of the very best I’ve seen on the Canberra stage in my (almost) fifteen years in this town. Brilliant performances, superb direction, a great set, clever lighting and Neil Simon’s excellent script make for a laudable production. The rule here is, see this show, or forfeit the right to speak with any authority on the quality of theatre production in Canberra. That is all.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on Thursday, 13 September 2012 in Canberra Repertory Society, Canberra Theatre, Theatre, Theatre 3

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Lunch Hour

A spritely script and punchy performances made for an engaging opening night for Chris Aronsten’s The Lunch Hour.

This funny play centres on the strained relationship between a group of co-workers in a ticketing agency’s call centre and their boss Martin, a hapless victim of middle management. In the first act we see the staff doing everything they can to frustrate Martin by avoiding actually answering calls while procrastinating about their covert collective effort at writing a play lampooning their longsuffering boss for…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Short+Sweet Canberra 2012 (Week 2)

Week 2 of the Short+Sweet Top 20 began in a very different fashion from the usual festival, with Joe Woodward sitting in a bath wearing a pair of angel’s wings and philosophising about the great question. It was a great start to a great evening of theatre, and I’ll admit I did get a little sentimental.

Short+Sweet really lends itself to great moments. The performance quality varies and the scripts are incredibly diverse, but even when the plays don’t live up to what you might hope for, there is often something that emerges statue-like from the stack. It puts me in mind of Patrick White’s metaphor of a squirming mass of eels from The Ham Funeral (if you haven’t read it, do yourself a favour).

Some moments are hilarious, and others are poignant, but in my mind they end up in a montage that makes me feel like I’ve witnessed a single, epic masterpiece. It’s those transcendent moments that make the trivial meaningful.

Ruth Pieloor’s caricature of the prime minister in For the Love of Their Country might have been the performance of the festival. Often I use the word caricature to denigrate sub-par performances, but Pieloor’s observance, emulation and emphasis of Julia Gillard’s mannerisms and very unique vocal qualities was identifiable, amusing and wonderfully distinct. It was caricature of the highest order, which is very difficult to achieve in live theatre.
I was similarly impressed by one of my former classmates from the ANU, Sam Hannan-Morrow, in The Brett I Haven’t Met. Simon Tolhurst could have directed his script in a very different way, with more direct action (as I understand it had been done in The Logues), but it would have lost the raw engagement with the audience that Hannon-Morrow was able to deliver.

There were a few moments, though, when I just wanted to get up and fix things. I loved Remy Coll and Sam Floyd’s concept for Insecurity Guard, and despite a couple of points where the dialogue didn’t quite carry the action, it has a pretty good script, but it really needed a director who wasn’t on stage. These two vey talented performers managed very well, but they needed that extra punch of clarity that an observing director provides.

There is no question that the final moment of the festival, the performance of Genevieve Kenneally’s Ah! was an inspired choice for that particular slot. The energy of Kiki Skountzos, Riley Bell and Elizabeth McRae was precisely what was needed at the end of such a varied night, but the highlight in my book was Smart Jimmy Slow Bob. Greg Gould’s great script was brilliantly delivered by a spectacular cast (Bradley Freeman as the unconscious boy was particularly impressive, I didn’t detect a breath!).

Everyone involved in this festival deserves a pat on the back, not just those I’ve tapped out some words about. Short+Sweet is a unique event in the annual calendar, and I hope it’s a permanent one. What impresses me is where the different people involved in the festival come from. Theatre folk whose paths don’t cross find themselves in the same dressing room for four nights in a row, and that can only be good for our theatre community. And of course with opportunities for those who prefer pure theatre to musical theatre dwindling, it is a particularly important event.

I have two scripts finished (at least to first draft stage) for the 2013 festival, and I hope the wonderful people who made this festival such a great success are around next year.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,