Tag Archives: Old 505

Seeing Unseen

12 Apr

Here’s a list of the top ten plays currently on in Sydney (for the comfort, convenience and edification of the understandably cautious consumer):

Number 1:

I’m not actually going to give any such list.*

That would be to exacerbate the very problem Seeing Unseen addresses so well.

We’re in danger of becoming a society obsessed and dominated by pop consumer sociology.  Statistics supposedly collected to serve us instead come to control us.

Seeing Unseen is a beautiful production. Devised by the company and directed wonderfully by Gareth Boylan, it’s simple, powerful and magnificently performed.

Kerri Glasscock and Michael Pigott play a couple whose every move is watched. Michael Cullen plays the unidentified monitor. He is omnipresent. He records. He gives advice.

Want to know the top ten places for takeaway in your neighbourhood? Want to know the most popular flavour of pie? Want to know the best place for coffee?

Seeing Unseen

Choices are recorded, tabulated and then declared. The effect is dire. What began as freedom, hardens to habit, and finally solidifies into destiny.

It’s a petrifying feedback system.

So, want to know the top ten ways of relaxing? Various drugs make the list, and the monitor is more than happy to administer them. An alternative is animal clips on YouTube. Bed time stories for adults.

The result of all this coddling is the loss of the very realm that best represents our adult autonomy – morality. Kerri Glasscock’s character asks ‘Is this racist?’ She doesn’t want to be racist. Perhaps a survey told her racism was wrong, but she no longer has the ability to recognize it.

Refreshingly, the major target of this satire seems to be us. Sure, there are forces and institutions that will attempt to control our life choices, but Seeing Unseen acknowledges that this is often only possible with our collaboration.

Seeing Unseen is funny, visually stunning and delightfully challenging.

Veronica Kaye

Seeing Unseen by Gareth Boylan, Michael Cullen, Kerri Glasscock and Michael Pigott

Old 505 Theatre til 26 April


*Though, if I had to list my top ten animal clips, one mentioned in this show would certainly make it – Honey Badgers of the Kalahari. I’ve seen what those determined little maniacs can do to a cobra. I’m not taking any chances.

Tell Me Again

11 Dec

It’s difficult to avoid spoilers with a production like this.

Both the structure and the subject matter attract them.

But I’ll try to resist the temptation, and so will no doubt write a frustratingly obscure response.

Firstly, I’ll consider the structure.

The play consists of a large number of very short scenes. There’s a pleasure in attempting to work out how these scenes might connect.

Like a cryptic crossword. (A phrase, which if it were question, some might reply with a ‘No thank you’.)

You could argue that empathy is sacrificed to curiosity.

Tell Me Again

I’m assuming that the play’s structure is a gimmick, that it’s purpose is to titillate. But perhaps it’s meant to represent an aspect of human experience.

If so,  it’s not an experience I’m familiar with.

But I suspect some audience members will connect this presented experience with the fate of one of the characters. Which would make for an oddly first person play. (Aside: theatre’s particular oddness is that it is not first person. Theatre presents Life from the outside, which is decidedly not how Life is experienced. It’s how Life is observed. So, both artistically and philosophically, Jeanette Cronin’s play is exceedingly intriguing.)

Now that I’ve discussed the structure with a criminal level of obscurity, let me move on to the subject matter.

A couple has a playfully gladiatorial relationship. She, in particular, is a pedantic language user. She derives power from it. She believes language is concrete. This vision eventually seems both ironic and tragic.

Performers Jeanette Cronin and James Lugton are marvelous.  They delicately weave in and out of scenes of humour and pathos.

The whole production, directed by Michael Pigott, has a transcendent beauty. In what could have been disturbingly frenetic, there is a poignant stillness.

Veronica Kaye


Tell Me Again by Jeanette Cronin

Old 505 Theatre til Dec 21



Macbeth: 9 Scenes Rehearsed

26 Apr

I’ve always thought of Macbeth as the epitome of the crime and punishment story. Macbeth and his wife do horrible, horrible things and so horrible, horrible things happen to them.

For this reason, I’ve often wondered at the presence of the weird sisters. They seem unnecessary, perhaps just a tantalizing tit-bit thrown in to please Shakespeare’s patron, James I, a self appointed expert in matters witchy.

Macbeth: 9 Scenes Rehearsed consists of scenes chosen from the play’s twenty odd scenes, and there’s an interesting focus on the sisters. They’re played with an extraordinary presence by Erica J Brennan, Kate Cooper and Fiona Green. This production is described as “an experiment in the application of the Suzuki Method of Actor Training.” This method has a strong focus on disciplined physical training. Its impact on the presentation of the weird sisters is to give them a reality that, for the first time, helped me understand their purpose in the play.

A rehearsal shot

A rehearsal shot

The crime and punishment reading of Macbeth has an inexorable logic: do evil and you will suffer evil. A sort of cold karma. But would evil be so common if its dangers were so obvious? This production’s weird sisters shine a dreadful darkness on the dilemma.* They’re an awe-inspiring presence beyond, and below, mundane experience, a nightmarish reminder of the turbidity of the human heart. The scene where Macbeth visits the weird sisters “to know by the worst means the worst” features the entire ensemble, and is brilliant, evoking true horror.

Despite being only nine scenes, the production is a very satisfying rendition of the story. The men in the ensemble (Grant Moxom, Gideon Payten-Griffiths and David Buckley) share the role of Macbeth, as the women do with his wife. This is intriguing in the comparisons it offers, but also thought provoking in its subliminal suggestion of the universality of the characters.

Director Shy Magsalin’s application of the Suzuki Method (to which I claim no expertise**) has created an evening of theatre that is beautiful to watch and bewitching to listen to.

Part of the Old 505’s invaluable Freshworks season, this is fascinating stuff.

Veronica Kaye


*Yes, I’m working the whole “fair is foul, foul is fair” conceit.

**I claim no expertise in any acting method. Or, indeed, anything else.


Macbeth: 9 Scenes Rehearsed

at The Old 505 Theatre til 27 April


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



4 Nov

Words. I like ‘em.

And writer Stephen Vagg uses them gloriously.

Built on the conceit that the sidekick phenomena found in rom-coms is often repeated in real life, Vagg’s Sidekicks is a very funny, very engaging piece of theatre.

Director Louise Alston’s simple production wisely allows the language to do its magic. And actors Emily Rose Brennan and Dan Ilic are superb; their understated delivery is a real delight.

In the movies, the sidekicks often speak more intelligently and imaginatively than the heroines and heroes

Is this true in life?

Is language the opposite of action?

There’s certainly an enormous prejudice in our culture towards this belief. ‘Actions speak louder than words.’

But volume isn’t everything. Give me subtlety any time. Through it we’ll build a richer world.

The play suggests we should stop accepting the role of sidekicks. We should let go of our self doubts and live an authentic fully-engaged life.

I think it’s a great tragedy to believe that, somehow, we’re doing good when we relegate ourselves to second place. We fool ourselves we’re being humble, when we’re just being irresponsible.

The world will be made with us, or without us.

So, all you fast talking deep thinking sidekicks, step forward!

Veronica Kaye


Old 505 Theatre til 18 November