Tag: Andrei Schiller-Chan

SOL III Presents DESIRE UNDER THE ELMS

Intense and intriguing family drama

By Myron My

Written in 1924 by Eugene O’Neill, Desire Under the Elms is a story that explores profound human connections and the depths that people will go to have what they desire. Inspired by the myth of Phaedra, Hippolytus and Theseus, O’Neill’s story is set in New England where patriarch Ephraim (Darren Mort) returns to his home with new wife, Abbie (Diana Brumen). This does not bode well for the relationships with his three sons (Garikai Jani, Timothy Smith and Sam Lavery) as the tension builds to a devastating end.

Desire Under the Elms.jpg

Lavery perfectly encapsulates youngest son Eben’s resentment towards his father and the rage that burns inside him, yet at the same time brings to the surface the tenderness and love that he can also feel. His scenes with Brumen are gripping and you’re never quite sure which way their story is going to go, even if it is based on a Greek tragedy. Brumen’s manipulative and scheming Abbie is convincing, but it is during her horrific and tragic final scenes that she is able to channel fully everything Abbie has been experiencing until that moment.

Director and founder of The Sol III Company, Andrei Schiller-Chan, does a brilliant job in portraying these characters’ emotions and thoughts beyond the words of the play, in particular the scene where Ephraim reminiscences about his past loneliness to Abbie. Having Ephraim off to the side, we are drawn into Abbie and Eben’s private, silent conversation from Abbie’s bedroom to Eben standing downstairs in the kitchen. The fight scene between the father and son is also powerfully executed and choreographed.

While at times the story does seem to slow down significantly in pace, with a sense of repetition in the scenes being played out, the cohesiveness of the technical and design elements continue to keep us intrigued. Production designer Hahna Read‘s set, despite the limitations of the physical space on the stage, has a firm feeling of authenticity and the waft of bread baking throughout the space further added to that.

Travis MacFarlene‘s elegant lighting design is used effectively to convey the emotions and thoughts of the characters while subtly supporting the mood of the play. Similarly, Paul Raine‘s sound design is evocative and adds adroitly to the environment of the farmhouse in which the story is situated.

Desire Under the Elms is a tale about ancient and basic human emotions; love and jealousy. It’s about growing up, letting go – and also, revenge. Similar to their production last year of The Exonerated, The Sol III Company excel in exploring these universal but complex themes and have created another thoughtful and captivating performance in Desire Under the Elms.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran 
Season: 24 July | 8pm Tues- Sun, 2pm Sat 16 & 23 July, 5pm Sun 17, 3pm Sun 24
Tickets: $38 Full | $33 Conc | $28.50 under 25
Bookings: Chapel Off Chapel

Image by Timothy Smith

REVIEW: Sol III Presents THE EXONERATED

Powerful stories from escapees of the death penalty

By Myron My

The death penalty has, and probably always will be, a contentious issue. There will be one side that states you have to pay for your crimes, while the other would say no-one has a right to take anyone’s lives. While no side can be universally claimed as “correct”, the Sol III Company‘s production of The Exonerated will have even the most staunch believer in the death penalty questioning their stance.

The Exonerated

Writers Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen spent the year 2000 interviewing a number of people who had all been wrongfully convicted of murder and placed on death row. After spending years and sometimes decades in prison, these people were later exonerated with Blank and Jensen using six of these people’s stories in this production.

The six actors portraying the exonerated prisoners could not have been better cast. Even with the added pressure of playing real-life people as authentically as possible, each one is able to draw us into their world and have us really feeling what it must have been like for these former convicts. Vuyo Loko and Jordan Armstrong in particular shine in their roles, showing their characters as equally strong and fragile under their circumstances.

Director Andrei Schiller-Chan excels in The Exonerated where, despite having to contend with up to ten people on stage at any time, he has contrived that you are never left overwhelmed with the stories. Schiller-Chan uses the limited space to the fullest in developing how the actors move and interact on stage. In a way, this supports the type of claustrophobic environment that we could only begin to imagine that these narrators experienced from their time in prison.

The death penalty is not the lightest of themes to handle, with productions all too often heading straight for the emotional jugular. In The Exonerated, Blank and Jensen allow those who have experienced the threat of execution to speak for themselves, which in turn allows for the stories we hear to be told honestly, with sensitivity and at a pace where the audience have the opportunity to not only digest all that is happening on the stage, but also to reflect and consider. This is what powerful and moving theatre should be.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran

Season: Until 7 June | Wed-Sat 8:00pm, Sat 2:00pm, Sun 5:00pm

Tickets: $37.50 Full | $32.50 Conc

Bookings: Chapel Off Chapel or 8290 7000