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Category Archives: Pure Theatre

Frankenstein

frankensteinMary Shelley’s Frankenstein is not conventionally what we might refer to as a timeless work of literature. It is clearly a product of its time, fashioned from the particular obsessions of its age and demonstrating the changing view of science that characterised the early nineteenth century. It is true that the themes of Frankenstein have made it relevant through the generations, but Nick Dear’s script is a sublime theatrical blueprint that draws the focus to those themes that truly resonate in our age.

Lee Jones tackles the role of Frankenstein’s creation with an amazing energy. He approaches a long exposition with no dialogue beautifully and shows the growth and development of a man born as an adult reasonably well. There are perhaps some timing issues with this as the ebb and flow of his development seems somewhat curtailed…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 

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Short+Sweet Sydney 2013 (Week 4)

The fourth week of Short+Sweet’s Sydney festival opened tonight, and it was an opening I could hardly wait for. My play, The Commuter, is in this week’s line up, so it was always going to be an exciting night.

It surprises me how deep the emotion runs of seeing my vision for a play realised on stage. The cast Luke Berman pulled together for The Commuter gave me one of the greatest buzzes I’ve experienced in a long time, and I think Adam O’Brien captures beautifully the nervous white guilt phenomenon I was exploring in this play. It doesn’t wear off, that cathartic feeling of seeing something you imagined into existence come to life on stage, and I feel truly indebted to these performers for the work they’ve put into the play.

I knew Geoff Sirmai from his performances in Canberra of Joanna Weinberg’s Every Single Saturday, and was very pleased to see him deliver the American Tourist in The Commuter with such great energy. Charlotte Connor admirably balances the manic and focused nature of the mother, and Nik Nikitenko is amazing as the eight-year-old boy whose instincts spark the commuter’s catharsis.

I have something of a bias perhaps, but I think The Commuter is a great way to end this week’s Short+Sweet offering. It is preceded by some excellent plays, particularly Jilted, which starts the second act. Kerrie Spicer’s script is hilarious and it is delivered with great timing by its cast. Sarah Knowles in particular should be commended for the difficult task of delivering her character’s pathos honestly enough for Sam Smith’s humour to shine.

I was also particularly taken with Hide, a very dark comedy that blurs notions of shelter and protection, in which Laura Holmes and Chris Miller keep the audience on edge for just the right amount of time (which in a ten-minute play festival is probably about nine minutes). Josh Hartwell’s script for A Different Client is both raw and heart-warming, which is a rare and challenging combination, and Greg Wilken and Roberto Zenca have drawn Hartwell’s characters out wonderfully.

But nothing outshines the joy of seeing my script come to life again, and its position at the end of the evening just adds to the pleasure of seeing the thing realised.

This week’s offering from Short+Sweet runs til Sunday, and there are four more weeks of short plays before the Gala Finals in March. Bookings and more info from Short+Sweet.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 in Festivals, Pure Theatre, short plays, Short+Sweet, Sydney Theatre, Theatre

 

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Makan Nangka Kena Getah (The Blame Game)

This post is coming all the way from Singapore, where I’m holidaying! And it has been a feast for the senses. While food is high on my list of reasons for visiting this amazing little island, I have heard good things about theatrical activities here for some time. When I checked my dates, however, I found very little to whet my appetite. What I did eventually find was an interesting piece produced by a Peranakan community organisation to explore how a traditional theatrical style works in modern Singapore.

First, I might digress a little to put some cultural context around this. Singapore’s Peranakan community is a Chinese cultural group within Singapore’s amazing cosmopolitan microcosm. They constitute a sizeable
proportion of the population, and are otherwise known as the Straits Chinese, as they descend from Chinese migrants to the Straits Colonies of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia during the colonial era.

I would also like to make the point before expressing my opinion on this play that there is much that I will have missed or failed to understand because I am not familiar with the particular theatrical tradition this play
flows from. This is also the first time I have been to theatre anywhere in Asia, and I may be influenced by irrelevant Australian expectations. Much of the audience talked about the play as it was being performed, which I would have expected to draw the odd tsk tsk from an Australian audience, but it seemed natural here, and after a little time it didn’t even bother me. It may be a Singaporean tradition (my theatre history reminds me that in the period in which the English dominated Singaporean social life, talking in British theatres was likewise acceptable; perhaps this didn’t change in Singapore?). It is also worth noting that as I do not understand any
Mandarin, Malay, or Patois Peranakan, I was dependent on the subtitles through much of the play.

The play itself is probably not a masterpiece. Written by local Peranakan teacher, Victor Goh Liang Chuan, it is an attempt to modernise a long-standing Peranakan theatrical tradition that the student of British Theatre might recognise as having much in common with the Well Made Play. A core element of this tradition, however, is humour, and even this ignorant Aussie found much to laugh at in this production.

The story is readily relatable. Madam Tay has raised two sons and a daughter since the death of her husband, and in adulthood feuds break out. The eldest son isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, the next son is clever but
disloyal, and the daughter, though a university graduate, is waiting for the right job to find her while she freeloads off her mum. With two daughters in law to contend with and the area’s busiest busybody for a best friend, it is only a matter of time before the stress of life puts Madam Tay into hospital.

I’m sure I’ve seen something like this on the SBS.

The plot is predictable, and the characters very thinly drawn, but the performers do a great job with what little they have to work with. There is something very genuine and heart warming in this production, and it may just
flow from the oddity of having the audience chatter through the whole play. I felt at the end that I’d just spent a couple of hours amongst a true community. And I’d tolerate the silliness of the whole thing to be a part of
it again.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 12 October 2012 in Pure Theatre, Singapore Theatre, Theatre

 

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The Imaginary Invalid

What a shame not to have made it to opening night for this fun little gem! The Wednesday night audience I joined was rather small and far too subdued for such a funny play so energetically brought to life by Centrepiece Theatre, but it was a lot of fun anyway.

I think this may be the third production of Moliere‘s work that I’ve seen from Centrepiece. The Miser, staged in 2005, remains one of my fondest memories of a night of comic theatre, and I think there was another in between. It has been some years, though, and too long to wait for another instalment.

This largely-forgotten and very old play rests on the even older plotline of marriages arranged by parents that don’t meet the expectations of the betrothed, but its genius plot twist is that the central character, Argan, is the imaginary invalid of the title, a wealthy hypochondriac trying to marry his daughter to a doctor in order to save money on medical bills. It was Moliere’s last play, and though he was playing the lead role in its premiere, he collapsed during the fourth performance and died shortly afterwards. Some say this is irony, but it seems Moliere’s malady was apparently not adequately imaginary!

The cast deserves a medal for their magnificent performances. Erin Pugh would upstage the entire cast, were her over-the-top mannerisms not generous to a fault. Her ability to be so very expressive (and excessive) while still drawing attention to other performers is remarkable, and I am not trying to dismiss the high calibre of performance delivered by all members of the cast, but this production definitely belongs to Pugh!

I am not intimately acquainted with the script or story of The Imaginary Invalid, but it struck me that, in comparison to the performances of the rest of the cast, Tony Turner’s Argon was rather subdued. Perhaps this is part of the text or a directorial choice, but it seemed to me a rather significant gulf. Not an entirely inappropriate one, though; just slightly unbalanced and maybe a little awkward.

The cast worked tirelessly to raise the energy levels, but it was a tough ask with such a small audience in such a large auditorium, and the performances fell short of their potential not through a lack of quality material in the script or technical difficulties or a lack of talent, but simply because the energy levels of the performers really need, in a production like this, to be matched by the energy levels of the audience. It really brings to the fore the difficulty of finding an appropriate venue in the capital. For this production, The Q was just too large. The Courtyard at Canberra Theatre Centre would probably have been better, but that’s awfully picky. It would be better yet if Canberrans would simply turn off The Voice (that steaming pile of… nevermind), get off their lazy arses, and go see some performers with both talent and an eye for a good material. But we all know that’s not going to happen, which is why I think we need more smaller venues. We have nothing really to match Sydney’s Belvoir or Stables theatres, and that’s a shame, as these theatres have just the right sort of atmosphere for our ‘crowds’.

But I digress. This production is all about a little bit of silliness, and it is admirably carried by a spectacular cast whose generosity in engaging the audience is faultless.

 
 

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Crushed

Life is made up of a few critical moments separated by a lot of thinking about how we should have responded in them. Melita Rowston‘s play, Crushed, now playing at New Theatre, explores the struggle of dealing with regrettable decisions when they coincide with a disaster.

Crushed is the story of three school friends reunited 22 years after the disappearance of their mutual friend, Susie. Susie’s body was never found, but her shirt—that characteristic late 80s ‘Poison’ shirt—has just been discovered and the case is reopened. Kelly returns from Prague and finds a bed at Jason’s house first, then ends up moving to a room in Dazza’s pub. Sexual tensions between the three are never resolved, but that pales into insignificance against the doubt…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 in Australian Stage, New Theatre, Pure Theatre, Theatre

 

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The Dark Side of Midnight

Political turmoil is an incubator of dramatic writing, and historical plays about moments of political change are relatively common. Less common are plays set in moments of political turmoil that are about the lives of people who lived through these moments, rather than about the political agitators who created them. This is a shame, as Tessa Bremner’s play The Dark Side of Midnight demonstrates with its very heartfelt story about British colonists living through the Partition of India…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 28 October 2011 in Australian Stage, Free Rain Theatre, Pure Theatre

 

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Love Song

The warmth of John Kolvenbach’s play Love Song is brought to the fore in Centrepiece‘s production, which opened at The Q in Queanbeyan tonight. This play brings a vibrancy to themes that can be cold and stark, drawing humour and humanity into some otherwise dark places.

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 

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