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.


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

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.)


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

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.


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

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.

jane media image SQ 350px

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


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



TAP Gallery til Oct 6th


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.


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



TAP Gallery until Sun 15 Sept

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.


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


Who Do You See?

11 Sep

We call them audiences. Not spectators.  Listening matters in the theatre.

Who Do You See? further privileges sound by eliminating pretty much everything else. The whole play is performed in the dark.  There’s a subtle scentscape (coffee, lotion) but the focus becomes almost entirely on what you can hear.

Writer Gavin Roach has cleverly crafted five interlocking contemporary stories. Director Sarah Vickery elicits engaging vocal performances from her actors – David Griffiths, Emma Jones, Suz Mawer, Jack Michel, and Christian O’Connor.

Who Do You See

Who Do You See? is an intriguing title. The implication is that we’ll attempt to imagine the unseen individuals telling the tales.

But the experience actually opens up to something more fascinating and thought provoking.

The stories are simple and gentle, and span only a brief period in the character’s lives. Roach wonderfully captures the minutiae. Life under a microscope.

Ever put a piece of yourself under a microscope? What you see is no longer you. Self hood is an optical illusion, created by distance. Too close, or too far, and we disappear.

Roach’s intriguingly precise observation creates an effect that is somewhat existential rather than essential. It is as though we’re exploring Being; the space in which we experience being human, as against something particular and personal. This effect is further enhanced by Roach’s decision to have the actors tell the character’s stories in third person.

Self as illusion?

Our self – the individual who of our existence – is also like our shadow. It’s entirely forgotten at our best moments; becoming invisible when we look to the light. It also ceases to exist when we’re plunged into total darkness.

At other times, it shrinks and it grows. But it is never us.

Veronica Kaye

Who Do You See?

King Street Theatre Sun and Mon til 23 Sept

Empire: Terror on the High Seas

7 Sep

I love genre studies. I love asserting which features define a particular genre. I love explaining the popularity of a particular genre. Basically, I love making ridiculous generalizations.

Empire: Terror on the High Seas by Toby Schmitz is part whodunit part slasher.

It’s also flamboyant and fun. And intelligent; wonderfully rich in playful historical allusion.


Set on a liner crossing the Atlantic in 1925, director Leland Kean’s cast have a ball with the larger-than-life characters. (Ella Scott Lynch and Nathan Lovejoy have particular fun with an RP accent and the beautiful comic juxtapositions it allows.)

Someone is killing the passengers and crew, and we don’t know who. So we try to guess. A whodunnit.

Whodunnits are popular because they suggest, despite the initial chaos, that order will be restored. The investigator, using reason, will bring the criminal to justice.

The slasher genre has no such faith in reason. It luxuriates in the physical; the sexual and, of course, the violent.

The whodunnit builds. The slasher genre tears down.

All philosophy could be described as the struggle between these two approaches; between the systematizers and the wreckers. They probably need each other.

And, in this play, the two have an interesting impact. Schmitz draws attention to certain values and asks us to question them.

Whodunnits, for example, rely on the power of reason, but what’s deemed reasonable is determined by the values shared by the investigator and the audience. ( Yes, Sherlock Holmes reasoning is so logical, but the whole point of that character was that he was an extreme. And, anyway, the audience can’t do the scientific stuff. ) As the audience guesses at the killer, they’re ‘proven’ to be reasonable people when their prejudices match those of the investigator. Except when  the investigator struggles to identify the killer. Then these prejudices are challenged.

The slasher strand is rather more obvious. Kill ‘em all, it says. As far as an indictment of values goes, it doesn’t get much more damning.

And what are the values questioned? In Empire: Terror on the High Seas they are a smug superiority, a privileged complacency, a casual racism.

And though the play is set in 1925, I fear the sun is still rising on that empire.

Veronica Kaye


Empire: Terror on the High Seas

Bondi Pavilion 28 Sept


Spur of the Moment

3 Sep

Spur of the Moment by Anya Reiss has a sparkling opening scene. Twelve year old Delilah is in her bedroom with three friends.  They’re young girls doing their stuff. They’re singing to High School Musical. They’re filming themselves on their phones. They’re talking about how the young man who boards in Delilah’s house is HOT.

Spur of the Moment is a simple tale, beautifully told.

I want to avoid spoilers, but suffice to say this play captures being twelve; the tweeness of it. Delilah is so obviously still a child, but …….

You’re in such a hurry to get older, her mother tells her, but when you are, you won’t want it.

The young girls are played brilliantly. Holly Fraser as Delilah gives an astounding performance. She’s innocent and vulnerable, but hungry to grow, and with that comfortable confidence intelligent children often have before the trauma of teenage years.

And Delilah’s world is changing, and the emotions and situations she must face are new, and raw.

Her parents aren’t much help. They’re lost too. Zoe Carides and Felix Williamson give wonderful performances, balanced perfectly between humour and pathos.

This play is about loving, and mostly about that overwhelming need to be loved. Do we ever shed it? Should we?

Is maturity when you realize that to love, as against be loved, is the most important thing? That’s the grand insight of many religious traditions – but it’s only made possible by the attendant belief that no matter what the world throws at you, you’re loved anyway.

But what twelve year old has got that far?

Holly Fraser

What am I saying? Who ever gets that far? We try. We try to forget ourselves. Or we try to define ourselves in ever widening circles. We try to teach ourselves to love.

But in childhood, being loved is crucial. Usually our parents do the job. Usually. But as we grow, we begin to feel their love is insufficient, and we realize the love we now crave is far, far less assured. We enter exciting but disturbingly uncertain terrain.

Director Fraser Corfield has done a marvelous job with this deeply engaging, deeply affecting play.

It comes to a climax on the morning of Delilah’s thirteenth birthday. Happy birthday? Oh, Delilah. The final image is heartbreaking.

Veronica Kaye


Spur of the Moment

ATYP Under the Wharf til 14 Sept