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Author Archives: trevar

About trevar

Trevar Alan Chilver is a playwright based in Canberra, Australia. His work includes film scripts and his plays have been produced as mainstage productions and for festivals such as Short Sweet. He is an avid supporter of the theatre community in Canberra, and also writes for Australian Stage and the Canberra Times and blogs regularly. Trevar has directed productions for a number of local companies, and occasionally treads the boards himself.

About a Goth

Life is all about transitions. Moving from one stage of life to the next, sometimes gracefully, sometimes stumbling, and sometimes holding on for your life.

About a Goth explores such a transition as a young man grapples with understanding himself.

Delivered as a monologue, the plot is revealed as a series of events that would frustrate the heck out of any gay goth teen: an unhealthy obsession with a straight mate and Starbucks’ lack of Gothic options are compounded by his family’s obstinate refusal to reject him when he comes out. Selfish buggers.

Clement Charles gives a stellar performance, full of energy and life throughout. It is beautifully written by Tom Wells, and explores this young person’s journey through a transition with empathy and humour and spirit.

So far, the best performance I’ve seen at the Fringe.

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 17 August 2017 in British Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre

 

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How Eva Von Schnippisch Won WWII

From the moment she has an audience, it’s clear that Eva Von Schnippisch is not going to let anyone leave the room without getting a right belly laugh out.

She engages the audience in the action from the start, telling the story she has kept silent for 72 years, about how she worked with the Allies to infiltrate the relationship between Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. I was enthralled for the entire hour, which is an achievement in itself.

Stephanie Ware is a consummate performer, dealing with the viariables of live performance professionally, and with excellent humour. Her comic timing is impeccable, and her awareness of the audience remarkable.

Simply one of the best shows I’ve seen this Fringe.

 

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 17 August 2017 in Cabaret, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

 

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Cannonballl

Cannonball starts well.

I’m impressed by the dialogue. I’m impressed by the actors. I’m impressed that it’s genuinely naturalistic and the media being projected is atmospheric and well coordinated.

Slowly, though, it unravels. Maybe I missed a thread somewhere, a vital piece of information that I needed to follow the plot. It started with two mates talking about girls, then one of them ends up with a girlfriend who becomes a wife and has a baby… and he slowly descends into a kind of depression, until the play peters out with us wondering whether he’ll take his own life or not.

By the end it’s feels terribly melodramatic without enough plot to carry the emotion. Which is a shame, given the promise the beginning held.

The quality of the performances don’t really decline, nor does the quality of dialogue, which is why I think it might be me who missed something. If you’re reading this, and you’ve seen it (as opposed to if you’re in it, or maybe even then!), let me know what you thought.

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 17 August 2017 in British Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre

 

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Wordplay

From the moment you walk in, Jess and Nick insist that you feel at home. Straddling the line between theatre and cabaret, this clever and well-written little piece explores the way we use words and how they can shape us and our interactions, so that welcome is highly strategic.

They insist it’s a play, but with a static set, audience engagement beginning before they kick off, and interjections on the way through, cabaret seems a more appropriate descriptor. The truth is it defies labels, but draws the audience into a conversation between two co-workers, chews up their sense of semantic signification, and spits it back at them unceremoniously.

Whether the use of audience involvement (yes they dragged me up the front) really works or not, I am unsure. On one hand, it stilts the third character: but at the same time, the irony of using someone unfamiliar with the material to deliver the most articulate assessment of the theme in a manner that is highly verbose and completely impenetrable, is a delicious irony. And I’m a big fan of irony.

If you happen to be fringeside, check them out.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 16 August 2017 in Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre, Uncategorized

 

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Play Something

I love the concept behind Play Something. There’s a DJ on stage, and when the characters need musical accompaniment, they tell her to play something, sometimes something specific, sometimes something general.

There are also only two characters, but they’re played by four actors, younger and older manifestations of the same person. And when they’re not on, they stand at a microphone, like a chorus.

these simple concepts are a refreshing way to tell a story.

And that story is relatively simple, but beautiful in its simplicity. Two guys meet in a club, one looking for Mr Right, the other for Mr Right Now. The one seeking Mr Right gives the other a blow job, then bugs him until more develops. What could possibly go wrong?

And there are some deeply moving performances, too. Jacko Pook, whose aggressive, monosyllabic character was only looking for Mr Right Now, develops lovely moments of humility, and as the older character who had been seeking Mr Right, Shane Whitworth is likewise compelling in grief.

But ultimately, despite some clever storytelling and truly golden moments, the story falls flat. There are moments when the stage feels crowded from all the non-characters on it, and others where the dialogue really doesn’t carry the emotion. I wanted the DJ to be up in the bio box, or for the chorus to be at the side.

Thankfully, there was enough in the performance for me to develop an empathy for the characters, and I was moved by the ending. I just wanted the piece to feel a little less jaunty and a little more wavy, if you know what I mean. Then I could have gone along for the ride.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 16 August 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Not About Heroes

My first show at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe was this rather intense exploration of the relationship between Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. And after flying from San Francisco to Edinburgh and coming directly to the theatre, it’s an achievement not to be understated, that the play held my attention throughout.

The simple set being used for this fringe run works brilliantly, and provides excellent scope for the two performers to establish varied locations and times. Daniel Llewellyn-Williams, playing Sassoon, builds a strong presence in the early stages of the play, and transitions well to the rather more fragile Sassoon who reminisces at the end of the war. Iestyn Arwel, playing Owen, marks an inverse transition. It would be easy to dismiss the strength of his performance in the early stages, but the character is brilliantly established.

This is a strong piece exploring the relationship between two historical figures who were passionate about showing the horror, and not the glory of war. It is especially pertinent in the world’s current state, though it could perhaps draw a slightly longer bow into the present to ensure it doesn’t merely register as a history play.

 
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Posted by on Tuesday, 15 August 2017 in Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre

 

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13 Reasons Why

I’ve held off writing about 13 Reasons Why for some time. Why? Well, you might be pleased to know there aren’t 13 reasons.

I was impressed with it immediately. My partner and I watched several episodes each time we turned it on, and we got so caught up in the characters and their story that we knocked over the whole series in a matter of a few bleary-eyed days.

At the end, when I was ready to sing the series’ praises from the rooftops, a friend posted an article criticising it for the way it portrayed its prime protagonist. That protagonist (there are two) is dead as the series begins, having committed suicide and left thirteen cassettes for her schoolmates, who she collectively blames for her decision to take her own life. My friend’s post was quickly joined by a cacophony of condemnation for this series that had seemed to me remarkable in terms of its quality of dialogue, characterisation and cinematography. These criticisms, all of which were centred on its sociological context rather than its dramatic qualities, seemed well formed to me at the time, and left me feeling disappointed—maybe even guilty—that I enjoyed the series so much. Some felt that Hannah (the deceased character) should have demonstrated an average of journeys to suicide, rather than presenting just one experience. Others felt that her portrayal of the act of slitting her wrists, and the very explicit nature of her suicide, was a bridge too far, and that the act of killing herself should have been omitted. And some were deeply concerned with the fact that Clay (the other protagonist) accepts her laying the blame on her schoolmates.

Having thought about it for quite a few weeks, I now believe these criticisms almost entirely unfounded. I regret being swayed by them. This is truly a masterpiece of modern television, one that deserves every accolade. Indeed, I think the criticisms themselves a testament to the quality of writing, directing and performance on display (there would be no criticism if the show didn’t make an impact).

I think one of the reasons I may disagree with the show’s detractors is that I am principally concerned with the dramatic art form, whereas they seem more concerned with the sociological effects of the work. While that is a noble concern, and one I share, a critique of an artwork must remain couched in the terms of the art form. We don’t assess psychologists’ performance based on the dramatic tension in the room as they work, or their ability to convince us that they care, so why would we assess a dramatists’ work based on the psychological health of the audience? The fact is, dramaticised stories don’t deal in generalities. Hannah could never portray the full gamut of life experiences that may lead a person to take their own life. Likewise, Clay could never portray the full gamut of responses to suicide. These are two specific characters, living in a specific context, and they tell a specific story. Generalities are tolerable in literature or the visual arts, but they have no place in the dramatic arts.

In the course of telling their story, they should prompt more general discussion, but it is not the role of a dramatic work to lock down our response to suicide (or any other social concern); rather, it is our role to open it up. And on this front, 13 Reasons Why performs brilliantly. The characters present a broad range of positions and opinions. Their reactions and responses are diverse. Some of them are positive and helpful, others are less so, and some are downright dangerous. And in presenting this range in an engaging and forthright manner, 13 Reasons Why has opened conversations, allowed us to make judgements and form opinions that we might not otherwise address.

Clay, the protagonist we follow throughout the series, is a brilliant composition. He responds from the gut, sometimes with emotional intelligence, other times without, but he is genuine and relatable throughout. This is a remarkable achievement. We can be frustrated by the foolishness of his response, or by the slowness of his response, but we can’t criticise him for being an automaton or a mouthpiece for a psychologist. He’s an adolescent character that rings true with our emotions and reflects our values.

Perhaps it is because Clay is the narrative voice throughout the series that some of the series’ detractors feel that he must be an omniscient presence. As if he not only knows everything that happened, but also knows how to resolve it in the best way possible. Clay, though, is an adolescent dealing with a deeply troubling event. His narration must be read as his thoughts, and nothing more.

And because Hannah also bears the hallmarks of narrator, through her tapes, she, too, can be mistaken for an omniscient presence. This is an equally errant reading: Hannah is even more compromised in her ability to assess the actions of others. her narration, too, is just her reading of the situation.

Perhaps what annoys me most about the criticisms of this series is that too many people seem to be caught up on the notion that what the protagonists say is the whole truth. A protagonist can only ever speak their own truth. And most of the time, the truth is actually in between the lines; in the subtext. And the truth in this case is deeply complex, opening up challenges and dilemmas, and expecting the viewer to resolve them. Just like all good dramatic works do.

Ultimately, that is why I am so impressed by 13 Reasons Why. There is no apology. There is no hiding from the complexity. They don’t even hide from the blood. And as the player in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead says when he sums up the essential truth of all dramatic works:

“We’re more of the blood, love and rhetoric school. Well, we can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, or we can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and we can do you all three, concurrent or consecutive. But we can’t give you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory — they’re all blood, you see.”

 
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Posted by on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 in Netflix, Television, Uncategorized

 

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