Tag Archives: TAP Gallery

The Good, The Bad and The Lawyer

16 Oct

The centre of this play is Henry Crowley, played by Mark McCann. A comfortable lawyer, his world is rocked when his wife (Tricia Youlden) decides to sponsor an asylum seeker (Geoff Sirmai). And to add to Henry’s discomfort, his very working class cousin (Marc Kay) drops in. It’s not good timing; all Henry wants is to present the image of successful stability to a journalist from the Financial Review (Brigid O’Sullivan).

There’s some good laughs in Tony Laumberg’s script and director Richard Cotter elicits big fun comedic performances from his whole team.

GBL 37 - Mark+Tricia

The character traits satirized are self importance and narrow mindedness.

The power of theatre is its concrete nature. No airy abstractions here, not when there are flesh and blood characters so close we could almost touch them.

This is also theatre’s weakness. Henry Crowley in all his glory – parochial and devoid of generosity of spirit – is a particular man.

That man.

Not me.

How many people have sat in a theatre and tried to find comfort in that belief?

Veronica Kaye

The Good, The Bad and The Lawyer

TAP Gallery until 27 Oct

http://www.tapgallery.org.au/2013/09/the-good-the-bad-the-lawyer-starts-october-10-early-bird-offers-2/

Penelope

19 Sep

United we stand. Divided we stand – in an empty swimming pool, waiting to be butchered by a legend.

That’s the scenario of Enda Walsh’s play Penelope. Four men have unsuccessfully vied for the affections of Penelope and soon her long absent husband, Odysseus, will return. There will be consequences.

Walsh’s play is rich and playful. It sets competition against co-operation. Are we really capable of the latter?

Director Kate Gaul’s production is superb. The cast is top class, and they bring to life Walsh’s snappy word play.

Thomas Campbell as Burns. Photo by Kathy Luu

Thomas Campbell as Burns. Photo by Kathy Luu

There are some extraordinarily powerful speeches, which provide an effective foil to  the lighter raillery. The monologues by Nicholas Hope and Thomas Campbell alone will get me back a second time.

Gaul and designer Tom Bannerman have magically transformed the space. We are in the pool. Or is it the gladiator’s amphitheatre?

But they’re a sorry lot of gladiators. Perhaps collaboration is their only hope.

Dramatists have a vested interest in seeing hostility at the heart of human nature. It’s their ideology. With out this belief it’s hard to spin stories.

But is it true? News reports provide easy confirming evidence. But journalists are the close cousins of dramatists, and share their needs.

This play puts it out there; competition or co-operation?

It’s a fascinating question. With no answer.  Except, of course, the one we make with our own lives.

Veronica Kaye

 

Penelope

TAP Gallery til Oct 6th

http://www.sirentheatreco.com/

Decadence

11 Sep

This is all class. Class war, that is. And a great night of theatre.

It’s fun, physical and bitingly satirical.

The performances by Katherine Shearer and Rowan McDonald are tremendous. They play two couples, one upper class and one lower. And these twin characterisations are superbly playful.

decadence_fringe_program

Steven Berkoff’s script, written in punchy verse, is naughty and rude, sharp and clever. It’s a glorious collection of both repartee and comic monologues, ranging over topics like sex, excess and casual violence.

Set in Thatcher’s England, it hasn’t lost its relevance. Only those whom it would serve to do so might think it had.

And that’s one of the joys of the piece, not just the mocking of the decadence of the privileged, but the skewering of what Marxist theorists call ideology.

Ideology refers to the views we hold that perpetuate our position in the economic hierarchy.

It’s a sobering concept. That our vision of the Truth is not honest, but either self serving or self sabotaging.

And it’s a concept that should drive us to ask ourselves a curly question:

What I call Truth, what does it Do?

Veronica Kaye

 

Decadence

TAP Gallery until Sun 15 Sept

http://2013.sydneyfringe.com/event/theatre/decadence

Brad Checks In and Summer of Blood

1 Sep

Now, why do they call them “plays”?

Could it be that they’re “play”ful?

Because they take “play” seriously?

Creation is God playing Hide and Seek with Herself. The more serious the game, the harder She is to find. And, perhaps, the less serious the game, the more She shines through.

That’s why silliness can be such a blessing.

And these two plays are a lot of fun.

Brad Checks In, written by Paula Noble and directed by Steven Tait, plays with the adult dating scene. Built on the standard sitcom conceit that adults are just big kids, this entertains with snappy dialogue and high energy performances. Chris Miller as Brad gives an endearing portrayal of a real goof.

Romance is the silliest of the serious things. And even though its comedy, this play got me thinking about gender stereotyping, and the fact that one of the greatest threats to the modern democratic project of universal equality is sexuality. (Ok, pretty heavy, I know, but I did begin this response to a couple of screwball comedies by talking about God.)

BRAD all cast 01

Summer of Blood, written by Robert Armstrong and directed by Stephen Carnell, plays with slasher films. Once again, there’s plenty of quick fire quips, and this time, a reel of film insider jokes. Carnell elicits from his actors the wonderfully appropriate larger-than-life performances that make this sort of silliness sing. Katie Shearer has a ball with the role of the ambitious starlet.

It’s a play about film.

Now, why do they call them “films”?

Could it be because they’re

(Oh, hang on. That’s not going to go anywhere.)

Veronica Kaye

 

Spring Comedy Double Bill

Brad Checks In and Summer of Blood

at TAP Gallery until 7 Sept

http://www.tapgallery.org.au/2013/08/spring-comedy-double-bill-tuesday-27-august-saturday-7-september-6-30pm-8-15pm/

The Merchant of Venice

12 Aug

Playwrights make plays in the way that barrel wrights make barrels. They just bang ‘em out.

That’s what Shakespeare did with The Merchant of Venice, and all of them.

And that’s what makes Steven Hopley’s current productionwith its brilliant cast, so fascinating and watchable.

(If this seems counter-intuitive or illogical, please stick with me anyway.)

Merchant of Venice

Shakespeare lived before the great age of Romanticism, which promoted artists to the role of high priest. He was just making entertainment, and a living.

He tried not to tread on too many toes.

For example, there is little of the spiritual life in Shakespeare. His plays are remarkably secular.

Was he just being true to his experience? Or was he simply avoiding the great religious controversies of his time? Remember, ‘heretics’ were still being persecuted.

The Merchant of Venice, despite having more talk of religion than most his plays, is intriguing because it’s still not spiritual.

(There are claims the play is anti-Semitic. To a modern sensibility, these claims are often mitigated by the fact that the Christians portrayed fare little better in our estimate than the Jews.)

Shakespeare talks of religion in The Merchant of Venice simply because he is making dramatic use of an imagined difference between Christianity and Judaism.

He exploits an old trope – that of the spirit versus the letter.

Shylock the Jew (played magnificently in this production by Mark Lee) will have his pound of flesh because the contract stipulates he can. And his downfall is ultimately because of this very insistence on the letter of the law.

And Portia (played by Lizzie Schebesta with a beautiful precision) gives her famous speech in praise of mercy. This one moment is an inspiring expression of the spirit. Give up on the law, it says, and just show love.

The spirit versus the letter? ‘We got this right, and the Jews did not.’ This is a story Christians have told themselves through the millennia. Ironically, in its harsh and simplistic judgement, it’s an attitude that negates the very insight it supposedly celebrates, and makes clear that the division between the letter and the spirit is not a division between religious traditions at all.

Rather, it’s a battle that must be fought in every life.

Which brings me back to Shakespeare.

I find him, in many ways, a dissatisfying voice, because he shows so little interest in the spiritual. (A lack of interest which goes a long way to explaining the currently fashionable claim that he’s universal, when really he just speaks to our own materialist society. Is it the greatest of cultural tragedies – that our most acclaimed writer is so deficient in one beautifully rich sphere of life?)

And what of the decision to continually produce his plays? The letter or the spirit? Going perpetually back to the ‘canon’ smacks very strongly of the former. Are we making theatre that breathes life, or is it an exercise in borrowing authority and aiming to get things right?

But this production, with its superb performances and the simple beauty of its staging, is a marvelous piece of theatre.

It’s an eminently watchable performance and an extraordinary stimulant to post show discussion.

See it, and consider both theatrical choices, and life choices.

Veronica Kaye

The Merchant of Venice

at TAP Gallery until 24 August

http://www.sydneyshakespearecompany.com/#!current-production/cb3i

 

Electra

16 Jun

To see ancient Greek drama is a blessing.

To see it done well is a gift from the gods.

I saw director Richard Hilliar’s production of Sophocles’ Electra on the last night of its run. I wished I had seen it earlier, because I would’ve gone to see it again.

Firstly, because it was a superb production. Hilliar’s use of the stage is brilliant. The entire cast is wonderful, and Amy Scott-Smith as Electra is just extraordinary.*

Secondly, because well produced classical theatre is a window into another world.

I know many people will disagree with this attitude. They will argue eternal relevance. They will argue that the passions explored in ancient Greek drama are universal.

I doubt the existence of such universals. I’m not sure who would ever be in the position to judge that such feelings were so ubiquitous.

Sophocles wrote in a particular time and place for a particular audience. If he is appreciated now it is because of excellent productions such as this, and because he continues to speak to particular people.

For me, the ancient Greeks are too fierce. And they care too much about family.

Sure, I’m being facetious, but also I’m not.

I suspect some things have been added to the philosophical ‘tool box’ since they lived. And I do mean in terms of ‘ways of seeing’, rather than the obvious material benefits that make our lives longer, safer, and dare I say, more middle class than theirs.

Let me give a single example. It’s a ridiculous historical generalization and I don’t mean to defend it, but here it is anyway:  I suspect something happened on the fields of Assisi that altered human sensibility, or at least added another way of looking at the world to the many already available. When Francis sang to Brother Sun and Sister Moon, and lived a life of what can only be described as extreme gentleness, something else was added to the ‘tool box’.

And this ‘adding’, or at least rediscovering, has happened over and over again. (Though, again as a single undefended example, the early 20th century suffragettes might seriously question whether any ‘rediscovering’ was going on as they fought for representation.)

My point, long winded though I have been, is that Sophocles’ vision of life is particular, and limited. As must everyone’s be.

That’s my universal.

Productions like this are magnificent because they make us realise, or remember, that there can be this ‘way of seeing’ too.

I suspect this is the greatest gift theatre can give.

Veronica Kaye

Electra by Sophocles

at TAP Gallery til 15 June

 

* For those new to my blog, it’s probably worth pointing out that I write what I call responses, rather than reviews.

 

The Credeaux Canvas

25 Mar

A captivating tale, performed beautifully; what more could you ask for?

But naturalism in theatre is perfectly positioned for even more: the exploration of some pretty big questions.

Naturalism takes as its fundamental premise that there’s a Truth, and so no form is more suited to the exploration of “what is true?”

And The Credeaux Canvas by Keith Bunin does this in a way that’s utterly entertaining and entirely accessible. Funny and very moving, it’s an exquisitely crafted piece that asks ‘what is real?’

What is real art?

What is real love?

Director Byron Kaye’s production is simple and engaging. The performances he elicits from his cast are wonderful. The shifting relationships between lovers Amelia (Kitty Hopwood) and Jamie (Richard Cornally) and artist Winston (Alex Shore) are marvelously realized. Jennie Dibley, as Tess Anderson Rose, the art dealer they’re attempting to con, delivers a strong portrait of a surprisingly complex woman.

smlprod15

(A philosophical digression: the worm at the heart of naturalism is its desire to look backwards, to say ‘this is a record of the world’. But it ain’t over til it’s over, and so no record can ever be complete. Naturalism ignores the unpredictability pregnant in Time. This makes its theatrical incarnations only the more fascinating, as theatre is wedded to presenting change. And so theatrical naturalism is committed to saying that it’s change we could have seen coming all along. So, in one sense, no change at all.)

The fascination of The Credeaux Canvas is that it subverts naturalism in another way. It reminds us that reality, Truth, is a made thing. We don’t just discover the truth, we create it. We don’t just witness reality, we love it or hate it. We are not outsiders. We are in it and of it.

The Credeaux Canvas offers insights into why we attempt to capture Life at all. And it reminds us why it’s such an magnificently alluring fool’s errand.

Veronica Kaye

The Credeaux Canvas 

at TAP Gallery til 6 April

http://www.tapgallery.org.au/2013/02/sure-foot-productions-presents-the-credeaux-canvas-from-20th-march-2013-to-6th-april-201/

Savage in Limbo

25 Oct

Firstly, a story.

I used to live with a cop. He was a good man, but he had his personal demons.

One Tuesday morning he came home from a night shift more quiet than usual. I asked him how the shift had been. He’d driven around in a patrol car with his partner. At about 1 am they’d got a pizza. At 3 at a late night servo they’d got Slurpees. At 4 they got a call to a house where a teenage boy had hanged himself.

He’d left a note blaming dad.

‘And what was I doing?’ my flat mate said. ‘Just driving around!’

Then, for a while, he said nothing.

‘If I’d been there,’ he said, ‘I know what I would’ve said: Things change. I know shit all about your dad. Maybe he is the biggest dickhead in the world, I don’t know. But things change. I’m not saying him. I’m saying you.’

For 20 years I’ve told this story to anyone who’ll listen.

I don’t write reviews. I write about what plays make me think and feel.

Savage in Limbo by John Patrick Shanley is about our desire to change. It’s also about our desire to be known. It’s about how these two desires are mutually exclusive.

From this tension, Shanley has created a very funny, very moving play.

And director Stuart Maunder elicits performances of extraordinary energy from his superb cast.

People don’t change. That’s what you hear.

Don’t believe it.

For even if it was true, who of us would be in the position to know it? How much do we actually know of anyone’s life? And who can know what tomorrow holds?

We say people don’t change because it’s simpler. Sadder, but simpler.

The titular character, Denise Savage, played brilliantly by Katherine Beck, has a cracker of a speech about what she calls ‘dead issues’. Everybody’s too damn smart, she complains. No one talks about things, she says, because they already know everything.

But we don’t.

And we need to be reminded that’s a blessing.

Veronica Kaye

Savage in Limbo

TAP Gallery til Nov 3

http://www.tapgallery.org.au/2012/09/savage-in-limbo-by-john-patrick-shanley-oct-16th-nov-3rd/

This is Baby Doll, and Jesus

11 Oct

I was going to write about Factotum Theatre’s Jesus, but only caught the final performance of the run, and was then packed in a suitcase (like a sock puppet) and was whisked off to the Melbourne Fringe.

Charles Mee’s script is sourced from court reports and other records of human misery. It’s a catalogue of  troubled human behavior, from the unusual to the downright horrible.

At one moment, when a character confesses to incest with his daughter, the woman next to me in the audience said, quite loudly, “Gosh.”

I felt a more appropriate response would’ve been “Jesus Fucking Christ!”

Which is one obvious explanation for the title of the play.

Director Liz Arday employs a beautiful simplicity in her staging. In TAP Gallery’s white box theatre, she allows her tremendous cast to tell with an uncluttered honesty their confronting tales. Her directorial decisions, and the actors understated performances, honour the text, and honour the people it presents. It’s deeply moving theatre.

The play asks “Are we our actions?”

It speaks of forgiveness – not to excuse wrong doing, but to see a way forward. And the end of the play is extraordinarily uplifting.

There is, I know, a duality here.

We must be responsible for our actions. We cannot be reduced to them.

And both of these ideas must be held simultaneously, and seriously.

This is the sort of thing theatre can do so well – present multiple viewpoints, in conflict and in coexistence. And Arday and her team have made this miracle happen.

The second reason I suspect this play is entitled Jesus – despite not being what most of us label ‘religious’ – is that the pre-institutionalized carpenter of Nazareth is a spokesperson for forgiveness, for the miracle I have referred to.

I saw the last show of this short run. There’s talk of a remount.

I was deeply affected by Jesus the first time.

I await the Second Coming.

Currently, Factotum Theatre is presenting This is Baby Doll in TAP’s black box theatre.

It’s a script created by Arday from the Tennessee Williams’ play 27 Wagons of Cotton and Elia Kazan’s movie Baby Doll. The marketing claims Arday has “stolen” it, which is indicative of an audacity that shines through this entire production.

Once again, simplicity rules, and rightfully. On a stage lit by a single (though sometimes swinging) globe, a world of passion and deceit is powerfully evoked.

Arday elicits strong performances from her cast, especially Emily Sheehan as Baby Doll. Sheehan’s Baby is a superb portrayal of naïvety.

Baby has been kept a child. She’s a mere pawn in the conflict between the men.

Does this mean the piece is dated?

You meet people who think the gender revolution is over, or very nearly over.

It is not.

It never will be. No revolution is. Every generation makes the world. The task will never be complete.

And that is both a terrible and wonderous thing.

Veronica Kaye

This is Baby Doll

TAP Gallery until Oct 13

http://www.tapgallery.org.au/2012/09/this-is-baby-doll-stolen-from-tennessee-williams-and-elia-kazan-october-4-13preview-oct-3830pmsat-5pm/

Heart Dot Com

9 Oct

I’m not much interested in romantic love.

And I’m not a reviewer.

I write about what plays make me think and feel.

I’m not particularly keen on evaluation. Sure, there’s a place for it. But it smacks of the early stages of a relationship. Before real love develops.

Heart Dot Com deals exactly with that stage.  The ‘desperately hoping someone will find us lovable’ stage. There’s much humour in this – and the deepest of all sadnesses.

And it’s all wonderfully distilled in this multi-artist project. Writers Luke Carson, Ellana Costa, Jasper Marlow, Katie Pollock and Alison Rooke have created characters who itch with desire and ache with loneliness.

From her extraordinary ensemble (Felix Gentle, Paul Hooper, Madeleine Jones, Tim Reuben and Randa Sayed) director Olivia Satchell elicits performances that are both funny and moving. And Satchell’s staging is beautiful – simple and poignant, and the final image is an affecting portrait of shared isolation.

Ok, despite my initial statement, there does seem to be an awful lot of evaluation in this response.

Or is it just affection? Affection for a piece that explores what just might be a universal – the desire to be loved.

I’m not much interested in romantic love.

It won’t save us.

Real love is the connection with all beings, and the wish to limit their pain and help them flourish. It proceeds from the realisation of the strength of their desires and, as a result, the depth of their vulnerability.

And theatre like this is the perfect place to rekindle – or begin – that real love affair.

Veronica Kaye

Heart Dot Com

TAP Gallery until Oct 14

http://www.tapgallery.org.au/2012/09/heart-dot-com-a-multi-playwright-project-directed-by-olivia-satchell-october-3-14-7pmoct-714-5pm/