Tag Archives: Bondi Pavilion


6 May

Directed by James Dalton, this is a deeply atmospheric piece. Two actors deliver dueling monologues, which only occasionally intersect. Initially the actors are in the tightest of pinpoint spots; the darkness is the third character. James Brown and Tom Hogan’s soundscape is ominous.

The world of the play is one of guilt; about sins of omission, about parental error. It’s also a world of unexplained violence and reckless impulses. A man leaves an injured woman at the side of the road. Another woman vacillates as she struggles with the rearing of a troubled child. Georgia Adamson and Martin Crewes give powerful performances, textured between fear and that learnt complacency we employ to reassure ourselves that all is, in fact, OK.


Writer Brooke Robinson engages her audience in two ways.

One is through quirky observations about human responses. Is my son better off in a wheelchair? Why did I think only of myself at the time of the accident? Why do we assume that the disabled are better people? (Do we? The age old stereotype is the opposite.) This sort of offbeat observation can be wonderfully stimulating, little electric shocks which either tickle or torment.

The other way the play engages is by withholding information. What has actually happened? What connection do these characters have?  Once again, this sort of slow drip can either be a torture or a delight. Whichever way you experience it, the technique very effectively creates an atmosphere of foreboding, a heightening of the senses, and a deep questioning: In our privileged suburban lives is all, in fact, OK?

Veronica Kaye

Animal/People by Brooke Robinson

Bondi Pavilion til 16 May


The Way Things Work

12 Nov

Ever since Dorothy Parker quipped of The House Beautiful that it was the Play Lousy, the more attention seeking of the critical fraternity have dreamed of such gift titles.

And so, if I was of this infantile nature, I would pounce on The Way Things Work and say that it’s Not The Way Plays Work.

But Aidan Fennessy’s play is intriguingly nontraditional in its structure. Two actors play six separate characters in three distinct scenes. The satisfaction of character development is sacrificed for the pleasure of discovering plot connections.

Leland Kean’s cast has fun with the comedy. On opening night there were fluency issues, but these will iron out.

In the first of the triptych, Nicholas Papademetriou is a state minister accused of corruption. He claims that corruption is endemic and systematic whenever there’s a hierarchical power structure.

Photo by Zak Kaczmarek

Photo by Zak Kaczmarek

Without denying the need to explore other possible power structures, the minister’s argument is rather absolutist. A little like saying that human beings will inevitably suffer disease so why bother looking after your health? Or I’ll be tired tonight so why get out of bed this morning?

Corruption is real. But cynicism merely justifies it. It’s one of the ideologies that enables it.

In the final scene, in a deliciously provocative moment, Ashley Lyons plays a hit man searching for a type of honour. The character refers to the Anzacs. ‘They did what was right.’ Does he clearly connect this with what actually happened to them? If this is honour, who’d want it?

A play like this sends you off into the night (a night perhaps both literal and metaphorical) asking whether we have developed the ethical tools to build an honourable society?

Veronica Kaye


The Way Things Work by Aidan Fennessy

A Rock Surfers Theatre Company production

Bondi Pavilion til Nov 29


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



The Removalists

27 May

Full disclosure: I really like this play. I always have.

And Leland Kean’s production is terrific.

I like this play because I don’t like the characters.

I like that these actors let me not like the characters.

I like that the characters don’t like each other. There’s not a lot to like.

I’m thrilled by the revitalizing energy of a play and production like this.

REM 7 - Simmonds, Kenny & Ross handout

We are told at drama school, as we flirt, doze and doodle, that characters need to be sympathetic. Conservatives want it that way. They don’t want to be challenged.

It can be tempting to say: ‘I want to like these people, at least some of them, because I want to believe theatre is a mirror. If I don’t like them (any of them) there are two alternatives: either I’m not likeable, or theatre is not a mirror.

The first alternative does not bear thought.

The second alternative is a possibility, but it will leave me much poorer. That’s because theatre is a magical mirror that does a jolly good job of not just reflecting my momentary appearance, but seemingly the entirety of Life, and that such a thing could be captured and condensed is extremely consoling, for instead of fear at Life’s wildness and open-ended possibility, I can continue in my (privileged ) complacency.

So, if I don’t like the characters I won’t like the play. There’s too much at stake.’

But brilliant satire undercuts this easy out. And this is brilliant satire.

Williamson’s characters are gloriously unsympathetic; too weak, too violent, too selfish.

And Kean’s cast is wonderful. The performances are hilarious. The responses of Caroline Brazier as Kate are worth the price of admission alone. Sam O’Sullivan as Constable Ross provides top class clowning.

The changing power relations are fascinating to watch.  Anger and humiliation are perpetually paid forward.

In this cutting indictment of the violence inherent in our society, I have a favourite scene.  It’s when Kenny, knowing he’ll be beaten by the police, begs the hired removalist for help. And the removalist, the man with no real back history in the play, and so therefore everyman, says it’s not his business.

It’s not our business.

How often do we say that?

Veronica Kaye

The Removalists by David Williamson

at the Bondi Pavillion til 15 June


Lenny Bruce: 13 Daze Un-Dug in Sydney 1962

30 Apr

I don’t write reviews. I write what people call responses. And I think Lenny Bruce would have liked that. He was never one to stick to the script.

Lenny didn’t do what comedians call a ‘routine’.  He just jammed away. He was a free thinker, and this informed the way he performed.

Photo by Marnya Rothe

Photo by Marnya Rothe

And I really enjoyed how this also informed Benito Di Fonzo’s Lenny Bruce: 13 Daze Un-Dug in Sydney 1962.

Playful, energetic, discursive – jazz like – this is entertaining, thought provoking theatre.

Lucinda Gleeson’s production is engaging and the cast is terrific. Sam Haft as Lenny is sensational.

But hang on, this is sounding awfully like a review……

So let’s jam.

What did this production make me think about?

Not the old Sydney that ‘undug’ Lenny. (Nostalgia is so yesterday.)

Not the new Sydney that will smugly congratulate itself on how far it’s come.

What this show made me think about was Lenny’s iconoclastic spirit.

Are we so very different from the puritanical audiences that he shocked in 1962?

What are the topics we won’t touch now?

What are the topics that would make us run someone out of town now?

The society of the early 60’s used the concept of decency to dismiss what it was too afraid to explore.

Now, we employ a knowing world weariness.

If we don’t want to think about something – say, the massive inequalities in wealth that still exist on our planet, or the way we squander our lives of unparalleled privilege by amassing superannuation – we now roll our eyes and say that it’s been said before.

And then continue to live in exactly the same way.

And that would have made Lenny say, ‘Fuck you!’

But he’s no longer here.

So it’s up to us.

Veronica Kaye

Lenny Bruce: 13 Daze Un-Dug in Sydney 1962

by Benito Di Fonzo

Bondi Pavilion til 4 May


I want to sleep with Tom Stoppard

5 Sep

I don’t, actually. I’d settle for a warm handshake. And a little intellectual conversation.

So I don’t want to sleep with Tom Stoppard. Toby Schmitz on the other hand…..

I saw a preview of this show. But as many artists know, every performance is a preview. The real action happens later, in the audience’s hearts and minds. Perhaps in the foyer afterwards. Perhaps in the car on the way home. Perhaps when we next choose to replace a harsh word with a soft one, or a simplistic explanation with a gentle smile of bafflement.

I want to sleep with Tom Stoppard is replete with knowledge about the biz and that’s part of its charm. It’s well aware of the theatre world’s foibles, and of the many challenges faced by artists.

Schmitz’s script is clever and very engaging. There are some great situational set-ups and plenty of terrific one-liners. (In some circles, the one-liner is denigrated. It’s not part of naturalism’s doctrine;  it allows characters to be as intelligent as the artists who create them. And that’s a dangerous heresy, for how then would artists be special? )

Director Leland Kean has cast well and elicits winning performances from the entire team. I found Caroline Brazier as the actress (sic) particularly poignant.

Now, everyone’s a critic. Except me. I write about what plays make me think. (For the audience every performance is a preview.)

And what did I want to sleep with Tom Stoppard make me think about?

Early in the play the question of the value of theatre is aired. It then remains suspended in the play’s atmosphere, a thin mist but one impossible to avoid, regardless of the personal stories that unfold.

Of course, the question ‘what is the value of theatre?’ contains a category error. It’s like asking ‘what’s the weather pattern of Wednesdays?’ There’s no such pattern.

There is no ‘value of theatre’. There’s nothing so distinct and clear and unassailable that can transcend the flurry and fuss of life. Sometimes, at their weaker moments, artists would like there to be. Then their challenges – and they are many – would be easier to face.

But whatever value there is in theatre is dependent on too many variables, the audience being one. For every performance is a preview……

Veronica Kaye

I want to sleep with Tom Stoppard

Bondi Pavillion til 22nd Sept


StoryLines Festival

17 Aug

Why do we put on theatre?

If it was to make money it’d be an odd choice. Many of us would do better as lawyers, or selling mobile phones, or even waiting tables. Hey, you might even make more washing windscreens. It’s a lucky enough country that you could almost live on that. And lucky enough that most of us don’t need to try to.

So why do we put on theatre? It’d be easier not to. It doesn’t just happen. It can be like herding cats.

And don’t give me that crap about theatre being the most natural thing in the world. “All the world’s a stage” is just professional myopia. To footballers all the world’s a game. To risk assessors all the world’s an accident waiting to happen. To fishermen all the world smells of fish.

We put on theatre because we’ve got something to say. That something can be as sad and shallow as I didn’t get enough attention in my childhood and so I want it NOW.

Or it can be a gift.

Suzanne Millar’s StoryLines Festival is a beautiful gift. By giving voice to a range of minority cultures, it’s a timely sharing.

I was lucky enough to see A Land Beyond the River and Junction, two plays by Justin Fleming that are part of this festival. Both pieces were brought to stage by some marvelous performances.

Junction is a symbolic piece exploring the concept of responsibility. We make the world, it says – a dreadful dazzling duty.

A Land Beyond The River employs the conceit of a university production of To Kill a Mockingbird. It features the moving personal stories of three African refugees.

Here’s my memory of my favourite section [apologies to the very talented Justin].

You’re black, someone says to one of the African Australian actors. You should play the role of Tom Robinson.

And so he does – but, for a man faced with hanging for a crime he didn’t commit, a trifle too exuberantly.

WHAT was that? Can’t you understand the extraordinary prejudice Tom has suffered?   Couldn’t you be, I don’t know, more…. cowered?

I could try, I guess, replies the recently resettled refugee, but right now I feel like I’m the luckiest man in the world.

That is the beautiful gift: That we acknowledge our good fortune. And share it.

Veronica Kaye


Bondi Pavilion til 25 Aug [A Land Beyond The River and Junction til Aug 17]