Tag Archives: Anthony Skuse

Platonov

10 Nov

People desiring but never acting.

Chekhov’s plays usually have me thinking about cowardice.

And one evening I will finally muster the courage to just get up half way through the first act and walk out.

Of course, I’m joking.

Platonov is early Chekhov, and more happens in it than usual for the master. (Perhaps too much. And there’s an atypical focus on one character; a young man and his relationships with women. Which I could patronizingly and erroneously suggest is typical of young male heterosexual writers.)

But I don’t want to overstate any of this. This is fascinating theatre, and not just because it offers an insight into the masterpieces that were to come later.

The language of Anthony Skuse’s adaptation is beautifully pitched. Grounded in the late nineteenth century origins of the play, it still speaks with a contemporary living voice.

Photo by Matthew Neville

Photo by Matthew Neville

But the primary joy of this production is the performances. Skuse has gathered an extraordinary group of actors and has created a space in which the entire cast create mesmerizing work.

I’ll mention only four. (It’s a fourteen hander. See it for a master class in acting.)

Charlie Garber gives us a thoroughly watchable Platonov. Part charisma, part moral outrage, part self loathing, it’s all leavened with just a sprinkle of humour. Many of the female characters love him, and I suspect so will the audience. As his simple, gentle wife, Matilda Ridgway is heartbreakingly phenomenal. Suzanne Pereira as Anna gives us dignity at odds with desire, and it’s a deeply moving portrait. Geraldine Hakewill plays Sofya with a tense stillness, an intriguing balance between empowerment and bewilderment.

It’s a big play, but I’ll end with reference to a single moment.

Platonov snaps “What God do you serve? What God do any of us serve?” It’s Chekhov’s challenge. Is this (and the plays that follow) an indictment of particular individuals or of an entire society?

We are flawed. The world is flawed. But do we make the world or does the world make us? This is the gloriously humane tension in Chekhov’s vision. It’s what makes him such a compelling dramatist. And it’s what this production captures so wonderfully.

Veronica Kaye

 

Platonov by Anton Chekhov

directed & adapted by Anthony Skuse

presented by Mophead & Catnip Productions

ATYP, Studio One til 22 Nov

http://www.atyp.com.au/

4000 Miles

7 May

Bad plays are hyperbole. Good plays are metaphor. (And, yes, generalizations are annoying.)

And the best metaphors are underplayed. They’re not allegories, but something more subtle and gentle.

We say plays are good

– and this one is. Very. And the production is superb. The cast is uniformly brilliant. And Anthony Skuse, once again, has shown he’s a magnificent director. As an example, the pacing of this piece is enough to make you fall in love with time. Like Philip Rouse’s The Ham Funeral, I’d see this production again purely to enjoy the director’s work; which is, of course, a ridiculous thing to say –

but, anyway, we often say plays are good, without saying how they were good for us.

I don’t mean on what personal basis we judge them to be good, but rather what good they do us.

Good plays help us. We leave the theatre richer than we entered it.

4000-Miles-Hero_EVENTPAGE_0

4000 Miles is a play that offers the gift of tolerance.

Tolerance is sometimes devalued as a virtue; as though it was the poor little cousin of Love. Tolerance seems somehow less passionate, less committed, less generous. But watch four brilliant actors (Diana McLean, Stephen Multari, Eloise Snape and Aileen Huynh) create characters who gently navigate their differences, and Tolerance becomes Love’s twin.

I began by praising metaphor. The old argument is that good plays, by taking a specific situation and presenting them simply, honestly and unadorned, are suggestive of much wider issues.

Amy Herzog’s play is beautifully rich in this type of metaphor.

But it’s also rich in another type, more literary, but subtle. I won’t discuss most of these for fear of spoilers, but I will mention one.

Diana McLean plays Vera, Leo’s grandmother. Vera is what she calls a political progressive. (Just to hear those words on an Australian stage is a delight!) Vera is ageing; she is losing her hearing, she is losing her memory. Sometimes she doesn’t have the words for things, for her political ideas.

But Vera still tries to find them. And still tries to act on them.

And that task isn’t just Vera’s.

Veronica Kaye

4000 Miles by Amy Herzog

until 18 May

http://www.atyp.com.au/under-the-wharf/productions/4000-miles

Punk Rock

12 Aug

This is not a review. I don’t write reviews. But I do try to stick to the “no spoiler” convention. But, this time, I won’t. So please stop here if you don’t want to know what happens in the final third of the play.

Punk Rock is brilliantly directed and performed.

But I wish I hadn’t seen the last two scenes. I wish they’d been edited from the play. I wish the behavior they present was edited from life. And, on this last point, I’m not sure who’d disagree.

I wish I had read a spoiler before I’d seen Punk Rock.

The play raises questions like “Why do people commit horrific acts of violence?” and “How can horrific acts of violence be prevented?” It’s said that it’s not a playwright’s duty to supply answers.

It is, however, mine.

So here we go:

Question:  Why do people commit horrific acts of violence?

Answer: They do evil who have evil done to them.

Question: How can horrific acts of violence be prevented?

Answer: Don’t commit any violence yourself. (And lobby for greater gun control.)

Question: Glib and simplistic?

Answer:  Let’s try it and find out.

And I think that’s what the play says (though not the bit about the gun control; at least not overtly).

pantsguys’ production of Simon Stephens’ play is harrowing. I wanted to walk out. I dislike violence on stage. But I prefer it there to anywhere else. And this play says, in no uncertain terms, let it stop here.

Veronica Kaye

Punk Rock

season extended til 18 Aug

http://www.atyp.com.au/under-the-wharf/productions/punk-rock

Lord of the Flies

13 Apr

Last night at New Theatre we were presented with a spectacle of brutality and barbarism, a savage world of tooth and claw, barely hidden behind the thinnest veneer of civilization. But then the champagne ran out, and we were all politely ushered out of the foyer and into the street, to continue our revels elsewhere.

Director Anthony Skuse’s production of Lord of the Flies – tight, disciplined, and inspired – puts the lie to William Golding’s myth of the savagery barely below the surface.

Written after the horrors of World War Two and during the Cold War threat of nuclear holocaust, Golding’s novel must have rang true for many people.

This stage adaptation by Nigel Williams doesn’t ask an audience to consider the truth of the myth. The powerful performances from the entire cast make it quite believable.

What is valuable about this play is that it reminds us that the question is not merely “Is this true?” (The only honest answer to which is “who knows, and who could know, humanity’s ‘true’ nature?”)

What a strong production like this does is remind us that the question is also “What is the impact of me believing this myth to be true?” What behaviour is encouraged, what choices are endorsed, by the myth encapsulated in the slogan “All men are born evil”?

As our revels continued elsewhere, this question was discussed, in depth and happily without heat. We were almost civilized.

Veronica Kaye

Lord of the Flies

New Theatre  until 12 May

http://www.newtheatre.org.au