Tag Archives: James Dalton

Animal/People

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.

Animal-WEB

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

http://rocksurfers.org/

Cough

13 Apr

The dialogue between adulthood and childhood is an endlessly intriguing one. Children learn from adults and adults from children.

But it’s also through this intergenerational dialogue that we define ourselves. Don’t be such a child, adults tell each other.

Cough is set in a daycare centre, and playwright Emily Calder’s presentation of the two generations is fascinating. Much of the humour in this very funny play comes from the immaturity of the adults. Concern has been corrupted into fear, and the parents fret endlessly about their children’s welfare. But the children’s lives are also filled with trepidation.

Provocatively, both generations are played by the same actors. This brings to the foreground the issue: Is fear a learnt behavior? Or is it simply the human condition? (These questions are highlighted by the hilarious discussions between the parents about child rearing methods. ‘That’s just a theory. It’s definitely a theory!’ they snap.)

Photo by Lucy Parakhina

Photo by Lucy Parakhina

The performances are fabulous, with Vanessa Cole, Tim Reuben and Melissa Brownlow slipping between child and adult in a splendidly subversive manner. Tom Christophersen is the fourth in the ensemble, and his creation of Frank, the creepy toddler, is comic magic.

Director James Dalton production is wonderfully inventive and a sensual delight (especially keeping in mind this is not high budget theatre.) He is aided admirably by his design team. Benjamin Brockman’s lighting design is brilliant. The soundscape by Tom Hogan is appropriately ominous.

Cough might be about fear, but it’s also about connections. The generations are inextricably linked, and there’s a real pathos to this. But, of course, there’s also something deeply moving. The play is satirical, but something more. The final image is a beautiful blossoming challenge. Tantalizingly ambiguous, it’s filled with foreboding, but it’s also suggestive of that other shared human characteristic – the potential for wonder.

Veronica Kaye

 

Cough by Emily Calder

107 Projects til 20th April

http://unhappen.org/cough

A Butcher of Distinction

9 May

You’ve got to be cruel to be kind. Kind of weird, that is.

Cruelty is the vice par excellence of our society. It has not always been thought such an evil. The medievals routinely used it to ‘purify’ souls.

Yet for us moderns, cruelty’s just plain sick.

But still it remains.

And so every progressive talks of how we must diminish it.

And so we desperately try to explain its causes.

A Butcher of Distinction by Rob Hayes is a very rich night of theatre; very funny, and deeply thought provoking.

It explores the sources of cruelty.

Is it simply that ‘they do evil who have evil done to them’?

Or does cruelty stem from a more deep seated lack of empathy? Is there an almost institutionalized damming of our ability to see others as completely human? Are we living through an Ice Age of the imagination, that leaves us frozen in our isolation, unable to truly connect?

Photo by Lucy Parakhina

Photo by Lucy Parakhina

Teddy, played brilliantly by Paul Hooper, is a rough tough pimp. To him, people are commodities. The play also asks ‘What are the consequences of this attitude?’

This is dark, dark comedy, directed dazzlingly by James Dalton. His cast (Liam Nunan, Heath Ivey-Law and Paul Hooper) deliver top performances; sharp, precise and bitingly funny.

Which brings me to my final point; if cruelty is such a burning issue in our society, it must be presented on our stages. But how is this best done?

A Butcher of Distinction is not a piece of naturalism. (Would we want it to be?)

But what can humour do with such emotionally charged situations as the ones presented in this play?

Laughter sparks us to think. It makes us glory and delight in our ability to connect.

And in connection is the death of cruelty.

Veronica Kaye

A Butcher of Distinction by Rob Hayes

Old 505 Theatre til 26th May

http://venue505.com/theatre