Sunday 28 May 2017

Shrine review

There can be no greater pain than that of a parent losing a child. Presented by the Kin Collective, Tim Winton's Shrine, focuses on two parents who - a year on from when their son has died - are still struggling to find solace in what has happened and to move on. With a future that seems to provide nothing but sorrow, they both end up relying on the past to get them through the present.

Winton's writing is heartfelt and poetic, but when it is placed into a performance theatre context, it is almost impossible to retain the same emotional depth due to the narrative devices used. Marcel Dorney attempts to create honest and raw characters but his direction and some ineffective blocking leads to a strong disconnect between character relationships as well as the characters and the audience. If we are expected to feel sadness and grief, to share in the pain of the Mansfield's, then Shrine simply doesn't work.

The scenes between Alexandra Fowler and Chris Bunworth as the mourning parents are too theatrical to create any true emotional connection where even Fowler's devastation at Jack's funeral feels contrived. Bunworth's scenes with June (Tenielle Thompson) initially start off distant and awkward, but the two performers eventually find their flow and the relationship is probably the most genuine of all being portrayed.

Friday 26 May 2017

Hoke's Bluff review

There is nothing quite representative of American culture than a packed auditorium or sports field of screaming high schoolers cheering on their team. The colour, the noise and the atmosphere can be electric and in Action Hero's Hoke's Bluff, this is vividly brought to life through a high-paced exploration of glorified dream chasing. 

The space is authentically designed to resemble a basketball court with bleachers on each side and the school flag and mottos emblazoned on the walls. A dancing animal mascot is rallying the crowd, popcorn is handed out and loud music is playing that would have even the grumpiest and sullen of attendees find themselves surrendering to the spirit of the game.

Thursday 25 May 2017

Crush review

In Rob Young’s Crush, three employees working for a national newspaper struggle with keeping their personal lives outside of the workplace as well as the news. While the premise begins interestingly enough with its authentic office atmosphere and entertaining tête-à-tête between Johnny the journalist and Celia the editor, the writing struggles to remain on track with its intentions.

Young seeks to explore what happens when love and sex enter the workplace while at the same time looking at office politics and the lengths people will go to to break a story. Unfortunately the latter is barely probed and the outcome of these decisions, such as whether Celia believes the paper should profit from the death of her ex-partner, are more or less forgotten about as soon as they occur.

Furthermore, there is a lack of believable vulnerability from the characters due to the amount of time dedicated to the three of them discussing their feelings and experiences in relation to people who are not in the show instead of between themselves. As a result, there is little emotional impact throughout, where by the conclusion of the play it still feels like we haven’t fully scrutinised their fears and hopes on love.

Monday 22 May 2017

Spring Awakening the Musical review

Based on the 1891 play by Frank Wedekind, Steven Sater's 2006 musical adaptation of Spring Awakening continues its exploration of children coming to grips with sex and sexuality at a time where the adults around them will do anything possible to prevent them from growing up. Presented by StageArt, the musical is brought to life by an energetic and committed cast but ultimately falls short of retaining the intent and integrity of the original play.

Ashley Roussety and Jessie-Lou Yates as Melchior and Wendla are charismatic on stage and clearly have the skill and talent to lead a show, however their on-stage chemistry is never given the time to develop. Brent Trotter as Moritz, does exceptionally well with his acting and singing, portraying a boy struggling to deal with the pressure placed upon him. The cast of 15 deliver some strong performances overall but the use of German accents was inconsistent and not always accurate. While the play is set in Germany there isn't a need for the accents, especially if the entire cast is not going to be speaking in German accents

Director Robbie Carmellotti has characters present in many scenes that they are not involved in, building on the idea that they all share the same thoughts and feelings and have an understanding of each other. Unfortunately haphazard directing results in scenes that play out overly dramatic, such as the revelation that Martha's dad beats her, while others are underplayed and lack the tension they require, such as when Wendla begs Melchior to beat her with a wooden switch. Carmellotti's minimal yet intelligent stage design is symbolic of the sexual awakening that will eventually envelop these children with a large tree covering the floor of the stage with branches continuing to run along the walls.

Sunday 14 May 2017

Spencer review

Regardless of how crazy your family members make you, they're always going to be your family so you might as well learn to put up with them. Presented by Lab Kelpie, Spencer spends a day with the Priors who are busy planning the arrival of the newest addition to the clan. Youngest sibling and AFL player Scott is about to meet the son he never knew he had, a result of a one-night stand two years earlier. The entire family seems to live through Scott's successes, but what happens when the most accomplished member of the family is the most unhappy and confused? 

Jane Clifton is absolutely marvellous as Marilyn, the matriarch of the Priors, who despite her harsh criticisms and comments to her children simply wants nothing but the best for them, which becomes tricky when her ex-husband Ian (Roger Oakley) returns. Initially coming off as insensitive and selfish, Oakley shows that even though Ian was a husband and father, he was still a person who needed to find happiness, even if that went against the traditional notion of what that should be.

Saturday 13 May 2017

Awakening review

Sex, suicide, masturbation, rape and depression. These are a few of the themes that German playwright Frank Wedekind explored in his 1891 play Spring Awakening. While controversial at its time, it was an opportunity for teenagers to see themselves as people who have big ideas, difficult choices to make, and an awareness of sex and sexuality. Fast forward 126 years and Daniel Lammin's adaptation, Awakening - in collaboration with students from Monash Uni Student Theatre - is just as powerful, important and necessary as the original in giving people a true insight as to what teenagers must contend with in today's society.

Lammin has put together an extremely talented cast who excel in the challenging roles they share. Nicola Dupree, Samantha Hafey-Bagg, Eamonn Johnson, James Malcher, Sam Porter and Imogen Walsh all have great chemistry on stage and a clear understanding and appreciation of who their characters are, leading to some incredibly intuitive performances. Of particular note are Walsh, Dupree and Malcher, who take on each role with outstanding commitment and emotional intensity.

Monday 8 May 2017

Toyer review

North of Eight is Melbourne's new theatre company on the block and they return this month with their second show of their inaugural season, Gardner McKay's Toyer. The Australian premiere of this psychological thriller takes place over roughly 24 hours with a stranger entering a woman's life at a time when the city is being terrorised by a man who rapes his victims before lobotomising them.

Maude (Faran Martin) is a clinical psychiatrist who lives alone in her LA home in the hills and has recently drawn the attention of an unknown voyeur who watches her in the evenings. Peter (Kashmir Sinnamon) is a stranger who has just repaired Maude's car and needs to use her phone to call his friend. With the "toyer" on the loose, so-called because he toys with his victims before he attacks, it might not be the safest option to let Peter inside, but he's charming and friendly and makes Maude laugh, so should the risk outweigh the temptation?