Tag Archives: Riverside

Ulster American

10 Jun

Some productions are so good that any written response bubbles into the evanescence of superlatives. This is one such production. Director Shane Anthony, Riverside and Outhouse Theatre are all deserve dousing in sparkling froth.

An actor, director and writer meet the night before rehearsals begin. They discuss art and its importance. David Ireland’s script is intelligent, bold, and brilliant fun. There are more one liners than dog turds in an leash-free zone, and the characters are so beautifully drawn that sketch cartoon blooms into full blown animation.

Jeremy Water’s Jay is an Oscar winning actor, self-important and ignorant. Brian Meegan’s Leigh is a director in the time honoured tradition: excessively polite, in the manner of an attendant in a lunatic asylum; the type you ultimately realise is no attendant at all, but rather one more deluded inmate. Harriet Gordon-Anderson as Ruth the writer has that steely (self)determination that makes writers the most unwanted people in theatre. All three performances are absolutely superb.

This is a play about Thought and Honesty in theatre, and so, of course, Truth. And when Jay finally pulls out his Truth for all to see (no, it’s not THAT, but it may well as be) the triviality of that truth becomes apparent.

What do we think is important in art? Stanislavsky’s famous warning was right.

But be also warned: this is a comedy of gasps. If opera is the artform in which things too silly to say are sung, this is the artform in which things too taboo to say out loud are …. well, said out loud. Violence, sexual assault, those sort of misterdemeanours (yes, I made that word up… I think). It’s difficult to imagine a living culture without an artform that serves this purpose. If we are to set boundaries, if we’re to think boundaries are necessary at all, we must be aware of what lies on their far side. If we don’t, our boundaries are not shared decisions, but rather merely the victory of fear, or worse, the stratagems of power.

So this very funny play is important.

We need comedies this dark to let the light in.

Veronica Kaye

Ulster American by David Ireland

at Riverside until 11 June riversideparramatta.com.au

then Seymour Centre until 18 June seymourcentre.com

Image by Richard Farland

The Age of Bones

28 Mar

And your taxes are paying for it.

An Indonesian man points directly at the audience.

His comment is simple and powerful; at least 60 Indonesian minors have been jailed in Australia for working on asylum seeker boats.

This injustice is the focus of Sandra Thibodeaux’s play. It tells the story of fifteen-year-old Ikan (Imam Setia Hagi) who finds himself imprisoned here, a foreign country. The Australian authorities seemingly make little attempt to contact his family, and his parents (Imas Sobariah and Budi Laksana) are grief stricken at his disappearance.

Age of Bones

The lost boy, of course, is Down Under, and this allows for a brilliant conceit: Ikan doesn’t languish in a cell, rather we see him beneath the ocean, surrounded by an array of bewildering sea creatures, brought to life by extraordinary puppetry (I Made Gunanta and I Wayan Sira) and performance (including Kadek Hobman as a very Aussie hammerhead, loutish yet not incapable of kindness.) This world beneath the sea suggests both the greatest fears of a fishing-based culture, and the absolute absurdity of Ikan’s predicament.

Created through collaboration between artists from the two countries, The Age of Bones is a thrilling mix of English and Indonesian (with the latter translated in surtitles.) Projection, puppetry, and set that’s a wonderful evocation of a sailing boat, make for a visually stunning production.

Working with Thibodeaux’s beautiful play, directors Iswadi Pratama and Alex Galeazzi have created a piece that is amusing, engaging and challenging.

Great theatre confronts its audience, asking crucial questions. The Age of Bones asks have we lost our way?

Paul Gilchrist


The Age of Bones by Sandra Thibodeaux

Riverside Theatre, Parramatta

Produced by Performing Lines / Satu Bulan / Teater Satu

This production has closed in Parramatta, but plays in Darwin 30 March to 9 April.

Tix and info here

Waiting for Godot

4 Mar

Waiting for Godot is a seminal theatrical text for many reasons, not the least being that it has inspired two of my favourite critical quips:

“a play in which nothing happens, twice” wrote Vivian Mercer.

And, from a critic I haven’t been able to trace, “Waiting for Godot is a play that would be vastly improved by the addition, on page 2, of the stage direction Enter Godot.

It could be suggested that the play does not so much assert that Life is dull and meaningless as against actively make it so.

Photo by Petros Ktenas

Photo by Petros Ktenas

Because precious little happens in the play, critics have often searched overly long for meaning.

I think it’s just a mood piece. Perhaps that mood could be described as a type of playful pessimism.

And such a mood clearly speaks to many, many people. Directly in front of me in the audience was a young woman wearing a Year 12 jersey. The caption printed on the back?  ‘Bored’ – with the ‘o’ replaced by a smiley face.

And this production by the Riverside Lyric Ensemble is certainly good fun. With a quality cast, director Cameron Malcher presents an entertaining show. Errol Henderson and David Attrill play Estragon and Vladimir with humour and just the right touch of poignancy. Pozzo (Erica Brennan) and Lucky (Clive Hobson) are utterly engaging. Brennan has great fun with Pozzo’s imperious nature. And Hobson makes Lucky’s monologue the show stealer it’s meant to be.

The staging is simple and beautiful. The play has powerful imagery (the tree, the boots, Pozzo’s rope – or is it Lucky’s?) and this imagery is allowed to do its magic.

When first produced, Waiting for Godot was seen as something very new, and for this reason it’s been considered ground breaking. And, theatrically, it is.

But in many ways, it’s one of the final gasps of a dying world view. The play’s sense that Life is depressingly without meaning is strangely quaint, based on the assumption that Life should come with its purpose pre-packaged.

Old gods die hard. 🙂

Veronica Kaye

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Riverside Parramatta until 7 March