29 November 2010

Review: The Creditors

The Creditors
Red Stitch Actors Theatre
19 November 2010
Red Stitch
to 18 December

Is love always a competition? Would we really rather that our exes thought we were happy than to actually be happy? August Strindberg had three wives and if his art is any reflection of his life, then there's no wonder that a long quiet monogamous life wasn't for him.

This new version of Strinberg's The Creditors by UK playwright David Grieg was commissioned by the Donmar Warehouse in 2008. The adaption maintains the formality a of Strindberg's language, but ensures that we can't dismiss the behaviour and emotional impact as a reflection of its time. Couples still hide behind decorum to rip shreds off each other and no one fights as dirty as someone trying to ruin love, apart from someone trying to make their lover love them better.

Whilst waiting for his beloved wife Telka (Kat Stewart) to return, crippled artist Adolph (Brett Cousins) takes counsel from the older and wiser Gustav (Dion Mills). Gustav insists that Adolph has been emasculated by his wife's independence and her writing career and can only regain his masculinity through sexual abstinence. It all makes complete sense to the sensitive artist, especially as the gorgeous Telka still flirts with no regard to his manhood. On her return Telka isn't keen on the idea and wonders why her husband wants to know too much about her ex.

In Strindberg's world, relationships are about personal gain and his characters show the side of love that is governed by ego, jealousy and control; where winning is far more important than how they play the game.  We all like to think that we're better than that – but I dare anyone to not recognise a moment or a motivation with regret.

The Creditors is an actors play. Each role is a gift for the cast who relish every syllable. This results in three different performances and as each character is so unaware of the feelings of other people this strengthens their isolation and leaves little room for authentic connection. If we felt too sorry for any of them or believed they could be happy, The Creditors might be too painful to laugh at 

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com.

19 November 2010

Fab TV Show Needs Fab People

 Wanna be on a brilliant telly show?

On Friday 26 November Princess Pictures and ABC TV need a crowd of people for the new series Outland.

Outland is written by Melbourne's John Richards, who (among other awesome things) has been a guest reviewer on here. He also blogs at The Outland Institute, which became a JOYFM radio show last year.

Princess Pictures have produced amazing shows like Summer Heights High, We Can Be Heroes and John Safran's Race Relations.

The show will be broadcast on the ABC in 2011 and is already being described as “The best gay and lesbian science fiction fan club themed comedy series ever." Yes, there are Dr Who jokes.

And you can be part of it! 

Volunteers will be the crowd for a re-creation of the Pride march.

To get all the info you need, email outlandpride@gmail.com

or go to this Facebook page and RSVP.

It's a great chance to spend a day seeing how a show is made and you might get your gorgeous face or elbow on the show

Outland is based on the only short film to play the Melbourne Queer Film Festival and the World Science Fiction Convention. It stars Christine Anu, Ben Gerrard , Paul Ireland, Adam Richard, Toby Truslove, is written by John Richards (Boxcutters) and Adam Richard, directed by Kevin Carlin (Newstopia, BoyTown, The Extra) and produced by Princess Pictures (Summer Heights High, We Can Be Heroes, John Safran's Race Relations, I Love You Too).

17 November 2010

Review: Mag and Bag

Mag and Bag
La Mama
7 November 2010
La Mama Courthouse

Mag and Bag live in a suburb that's still so working class that the tins are home brand, the Herald Scum St Mary poster has pride of place on the bar fridge and being called a Liberal is far worse than be called a cunt.

Barry Dickens wrote Mag and Bag in the late 70s and, even with some hip Latham and Abbot jokes, it's comforting to to see that little changes. There still nothing as good as cup of tea, curlers still create the best hair dos and bloody nature strips always have to be mowed. And I for one am looking forward to being a nutty old lady whose language will make the neighbours blush.

In a gorgeously designed house of chicken wire and op shop paintings, are two old women who have no one left to fight with. Like grotesque panto dames, they bicker, fight and abuse each other with a verbal dexterity only outweighed by their love. If it's true that we can really only be total cows to the people who love us, then Mag and Bag are BFFs... or they they believe that fighting is better than being old and forgotten. It's easy to laugh at swearing old ladies, but Camelina Di Gulglielmo and Maria Portsi let us see the regret behind the laughs.

Director Laurence Strangio (who directed Jackie Smith's The Flood last year) again captures the playwright's voice with an authenticity that lets us see the characters with the love Dickens had creating these two old horrors. So even if we might not want them as neighbours, watching them is a laugh-out-loud joy.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com.

Guest Review: Foxholes of the Mind

Foxholes of the Mind
Larrikin Ensemble
La Mama Courthouse Theatre
10 November 2010 

Review by Karla Dondio

Foxholes in the Mind is a heart-wrenching account of the loss suffered by men and women who return home from war and the families they return home to. 

The setting is present day where Frank (Peter Finlay), a Vietnam War veteran, is struggling to keep his marriage to the long-suffering Trish (Joanne Davis) together. What’s clear from the outset is that Frank’s drinking and outbursts have marred family life leading to everyone being estranged from him. Frank starts a therapy group for veterans and nurses suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and, as the characters unravel, we see to the tragic extent to which war scars those that serve.

While watching this play, it struck me that what men and women lose at war is an innocence and morality that propels most of us forward everyday and makes us feel okay about ourselves. Imagine waking up every morning knowing you had killed another human being and witnessed your mates dying. As this candid piece demonstrates, it’s an unbearable weight that manifests in mental disorders, abusive relationships and, for some, suicide.

Bernard Clancy has written a bold and confident narrative featuring strong characters and a moving story of loss and redemption. The script is eloquent and Clancy is courageous enough to avoid political correctness without losing his key message: why do we send men and women off to war when we know the aftermath destroys not just the lives of those that served but families and communities? The script is probably 5–10 minutes too long with some of the conversations with Frank and Trish at the end sounding repetitive; nonetheless, for the most part, this piece has you on the edge of your seat.

Peter Finlay is fearless in this role as Frank. He plays Frank with both a toughness and fragility that exudes a sense that Frank is a bomb about to detonate. His performance is pitch perfect. He is supported by an able cast featuring Joanne Davis, Adrian Mulraney and Mauren Hartley who all give rounded performances and brings heart to this beautiful and tragic piece.

Rememberance Day on 11 November usually passes me by without stopping for a minute’s silence, but after seeing this play it was hard not stop this week to remember that innocent lives are lost in war, on both sides, both those that do not return and those that do. Lest we forget. Unfortunately, we have and governments still send men and women off to war.

09 November 2010

Review: My Name is Rachel Corrie

My Name is Rachel Corrie
Daniel Clarke
4 November 2010
to 14 November

My Name is Rachel Corrie opens with a recording of a young woman screaming for her life. Even through static, it's a sound no one wants to hear and no one should ever have to make. This is the story of a young woman, told in her own words that overpower any political opinions brought to the theatre.

I remember Rachel Corrie's death in 2003. Well, I remember reading that an American student was killed by a bulldozer while protesting in Gaza. I felt for her family and suspected that youth and ignorance may have played a part. My Name is Rachel Corrie has ensured that I will never forget her name and I know her for much more than a headline about a conflict that – no matter how much I read about – I struggle to understand.

Rachel was 23 when she went to Palestine. Like so many well-educated, well-loved students from affluent cities and neo-liberal (her phrase) parents, she was involved in student activism and wanted to see the people at the other end of their tax dollars that support Israel. Rachel joined the International Solidarity Movement, a non-violent direction action group, in Rafah on the Gaza strip where she lived with locals and actively protested the destruction of civilian homes by the Israeli military.

For all its harrowing revelations about the struggle for existence in Rafah, it isn't an anti-Israel piece of polemic theatre. It's simply the story of one young woman's experience of the Gaza strip.

Created by Alan Rickman and Katharine Vine in 2005, the script is created from Rachel's diary entries and emails. These personal thoughts and opinions were meant for no one beyond herself or her family and reveal a subjective view so honest that she reveals her soul. Without the pressure and self-censorship imposed by a judgemental audience, Rachel wrote about dealing with international white person privilege, the difficulty of criticising Israel without sounding anti-semitic and ultimately questioned her belief in human nature. If great writing is all about honesty, great writers should learn from Rachel Corrie.

Director Daniel Clarke (The Event at this year's Melbourne Fringe) and designer Cassandra Backler find the theatrical in a text not written to be performed. The pain of watching Rachel packing boxes knowing her parents will unpack them underlies the joy of meeting her, children's shoes mix with the rubble of destroyed homes and toy-sized military bulldozers show how small a human can be.

Hannah Norris (who was wonderful in Justin Hamilton's Goodbye Ruby Tuesday) is Rachel. No more needs to be said. In a remarkably honest performance, Hannah ensures that Rachel is not noble or heroic and never lets Rachel forsee the death that awaits her. Rachel never set out to change the world, she just wanted to understand one small part of it and found herself in a situation that defies understanding.

My Name is Rachel Corrie is the kind of theatre that can change the way we see the world.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com

07 November 2010

What the...MKA closed?!

Days after opening an incredible season of play readings, new group MKA Theatre have been forced out of their venue by the City of Yarra.

John Bailey has the media release and all the info here.