Archive | March, 2015

Experiments in Text Two (2): The Seagull

27 Mar

The idea of experimentation in theatre has created in my non-theatrical friends much hilarity.

‘What are you experimenting on?’ they laugh. ‘The audience?’

Which is, of course, true of every piece of theatre.

Putting on a production is like firing up a particle accelerator.  You get a small number of very excited particles and send them hurtling at a larger, more inert mass. Then, after the collision, you know more about the universe.

A director friend of mine points out that he doesn’t put on theatre to garner praise or to make money (once again I hear my friends’ laughter.) He puts on theatre to learn about the world.  What audiences find interesting, repulsive, charming or dull teaches him about people.

This production is an experiment in ensemble work. The cast have worked together (and without a director) for some time, exploring the character dynamics in Chekhov’s play.

The result is a production that’s a joy to watch. The reactions of the actors alone are worth the admission price. These are fascinating performances. (Personally, I was especially taken by Jade Alex as Nina, Daniel Csutkai as Konstantin, and Alison Bennett as Irina – but in an ensemble piece such as this everyone builds on everyone else’s work and the sum is far more than the individual performances.)


Another way in which this production could be viewed as an experiment is its pop up nature. Here’s a late C19 Russian classic performed in contemporary Australia –without the traditional theatre space which so often facilitates the suspension of disbelief. Performed in the round in a shop front in the Rocks, there’s a stimulating disparity between the Chekhovian characters (and their costuming) and all that surrounds them.

The script, a translation by Peter Carson, is English, but not Australian. Could it be? This is another fascinating experimental aspect. Combined with the space and the staging, the language asks ‘Am I relevant?’ while simultaneously and boldly dismissing as irrelevant that very question.

I haven’t really talked much about the play, which is what I usually do.

Pascal suggested all human problems are the result of our inability to sit still in a room. A ridiculous claim, and probably a correct one.

Chekhov’s also has a ridiculous-but-right claim. It could be stated like this: All our difficulties derive from our desire to be special. In The Seagull, several characters want to be famous. Several characters are. Other characters love characters they shouldn’t. Pining over unrequited love is the archetypal example of that deeply painful and entirely understandable error; the desire to be the centre of attention.

Which is the perfect time for my byline

Veronica Kaye

Experiments in Text Two (2) The Seagull

produced by The Hot Blooded Theatre Co and Hurrah Hurrah

Shop 2.03   140 George St, The Rocks

til 28 March

Short and Sweet Wild Cards Week 7

6 Mar

As I’ve said before, winning is for losers.

I’m not a fan of contests. I don’t think comparison is a helpful way to approach art.*

When I was a child, my father would draw back the curtain in my room. He would greet the morning with the statement “What a great day for the race!” The first time he said it, imagining some important sporting contest, I asked “What race?”

He replied “The human race.”

I wonder whether any other race matters.

But you can go to Royal Randwick and ignore the results. You can focus on the frocks, drink the champagne, and enjoy the spectacle.  And have a good time. Which is what I did.

Ten very different ten minute pieces, each a different vision. You don’t need to agree with these visions, or how they’re presented. It’s just good to be shown, or reminded, they exist.

But it would be obtuse, bordering on perversion, to suggest I didn’t have favourites.

All Clear, written and performed by Omri Levy, Daniela Stein and Natasha Reuben, and directed by Samantha Bauer, was pacey with sharp, well executed movement.

Feather, written by Pamela Western, was the intriguing story of two women unhappy with their very different lives. Cleverly directed by Lisa Thatcher, and performed with humour and poignancy by Kate O’Keeffe and Amelia Cuninghame, the play was a thought-provoking exploration of how helping others doesn’t need to get quagmired in moralising.

Winter Retreat by Abigail Somma told the story of two lost souls at a meditation retreat. Directed by Anne Brito, the performances by Edric Hong and Nell Nakkan were both funny and moving.

Now, if some pieces speak to me and others do not, who is it exactly that needs to be judged?

Our friends have a moral duty to terrify us. Paradoxically, it reminds us we’re not alone.

Theatre serves the same purpose. Theatre is otherness. A window to other worlds.

So draw back the curtain, let in the light, and enjoy the view.

Veronica Kaye

* Unless you’re running the contest.

Short and Sweet

Vampire Lesbians of Sodom

1 Mar

Due to the title, the more discerning theatre-goer might suspect this is not a piece of naturalism.

What it is, is a superb piece of nonsense.

Written by Charles Busch and directed by Samantha Young, this tale of two vampires whose rivalry spans the ages is seriously well performed silliness.


It can be easy for these sorts of shows to become sloppy. One wink at the audience too many and suddenly you’re sitting in the studio audience of The Footy Show.

But the performances from this entire cast are tight. This is top class nonsense. Hilarious, high energy and terrific fun.

Eliza Reilly and Nicholas Gell as the two tussling vampires excel (in what are easily the most truthful performances of Sapphic blood lust I’ve seen for millennia.)

This cast and creative team has built upon the outrageous script, adding even more jokes and some clever musical numbers. (Busch’s classic piece is like a well made sandpit; the gifted and youthful at heart will build in it something wonderful, while the strays will use it for other purposes.)

Being insufferably self important, I always write about what a piece makes me think about.

So what is Vampire Lesbians of Sodom about?

Is it just a welcome pause from Life’s earnestness?

Or is nonsense like this actually subversive?

A Mardi Gras show, Vampire Lesbians has the exuberance of the medieval carnival. And exuberance is in itself subversive; a reminder that dull complacency should not be allowed to reduce our mysterious, miraculous world.

Veronica Kaye

Vampire Lesbians of Sodom by Charles Busch

Produced by Brevity Theatre

Kings Cross Hotel til March 7