Tag: Andy Harmsen

Sly Rat Theatre Presents THE TEMPEST

An enchanting event

By Margaret Wieringa

A small boat is wrecked in a magical tempest leaving the survivors to wander an island, guided by spirits and controlled by an ousted Italian noble. Sit back in your camping chair or spread out on your picnic rug; it’s time to be enchanted with some Shakespeare in the park.

The Tempest.jpg

This is the second Shakespearean performance that Sly Rat Theatre Company have put on in Pipemakers Park in Maribrynong and it was again a thoroughly enjoyable evening. We are introduced to the island by Prospero (Brendan Ewing) as he shows the power of his magic, controlling everyone and everything including his daughter and the very spirits of the island. Ewing starts the performance loud and dominant, unfortunately leaving himself very little room to expand the performance. Consequently, we get a strong sense of the outrage and anger of Prospero, but it far more difficult to glean his softer and more complex side.

For this production, artistic directors Alan Chambers and Andy Harmsen have gender-swapped many of the characters (the original play has only one or, depending on the reading of Ariel, two females) and this leads to a completely different reading of some parts of the performance. The idea of women dominating the society that they have left through dishonesty and deceit, and of a man rising up to take his true place – it adds a new level. It also meant that the royals, all female, were young, angry warriors dressed in wild Mad-Max/steampunk costumes and dominating the stage. These costumes contrasted vastly from the island spirits in wispy veils with lots of softness. Unfortunately, many seemed to be wearing poorly-fitting dresses, and while it was clear that the actresses were wearing skin-coloured undergarments, the sense of wardrobe malfunction was somewhat distracting.

Possibly the most impressive costume would have had to have been Caliban, played by Seton Pollock in a beige lyrca suit with all kinds of mutations built in – a hunchback with a distorted spine, one very large thigh and, most obviously, elongated arms with heavy, stumped ends which gave him an animalistic gait perfect for his portrayal of this tragic character.

One thing the production needed to consider further was the sound design. There were some scenes that worked really beautifully, creating the sense of the island (especially at the start, matched with sporadic giggles from the island spirits), but some of the other soundscapes really dominated, detracting from the acting.

However, this is a performance that is being crafted for everyone to enjoy – right down to the kids. There are many standout comedy moments, most notably the slapstick antics of the sailors and the other stand-out clowns of the evening, the wonderful drunks played hilariously by Katherine Moss and Tara Houghton.

Really, though, the performance is the icing on the cake of a delightful night out. You can relax, open some wine, eat a picnic or grab some food from the food truck. Enjoy the warmth in the air, the sun through the trees, and as the day draws to a close, let Shakespeare’s Tempest take you away.

Venue: Pipemakers Park, Van Ness Avenue, Maribrynong

Season: Feb 17-19 +24-26, March 3-5, 6:30pm

Tickets: It’s all free – just come on down!


A truly wonderful evening of entertainment

By Margaret Wieringa

Cancel your plans, pack a picnic and get yourself to Pipemaker’s Park. This is a show that you won’t want to miss – and if that hasn’t sold you, it’s free!

A Midsummer Night's Dream.jpg

In case you don’t know, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a Shakespearean comedy, set in Athens one hot summer’s night. There are characters in love and characters betrothed and characters running away, and then the faeries and the like get involved, and things go crazy. Ultimately, the perfect play to watch as the sun sets in a beautiful Australian park.

The Pipemaker’s Park is a place that has been let got for a long time; walking from the carpark, you pass some ugly concrete and rusted fences. Director Alan Chambers and playwright Andy Harmsen have clearly drawn inspiration from these contrary surrounds, with the central feature of the set a rusted old pickup truck beneath a most beautiful and expansive tree.

And then the cast arrive – it was like Elizabethan Mad Max, a dystopian future-feel with ripped clothes and skinheads and a bit of ‘Am I Ever Going to See Your Face Again’. I cannot praise the cast enough. They were just fabulous – to a tee. Even the smallest role was filled with humour and delightful little quirks. As always, Puck was the favourite of the crowd – Brendan Ewing played the cheeky fawn with perfect comic timing, slipping through the crowd on the most mysterious stilt/legs. I want to go on about all of the performers, although space won’t permit – the wonderful lovers played with so much humour by Katharine Innes, Hannah Bolt, Letitia Sutherland and Seton Pollack; the hilarious Mechanicals lead by Jimmy James Eaton as Bottom. Just brilliant.

A couple of things for your comfort – plan a little. Bring a blanket and a jumper and maybe a picnic (though there are snacks, including a delicious smelling BBQ). And if it looks like the weather may turn, don’t cancel your plans – there is an undercover area where the show can move if need be. We were very lucky – there were a few drops of rain, but once some umbrellas were handed out, the rain stopped.

This was truly a community event – the audience was full of families and kids, couples and people on their own, young and old. It was a lovely feeling, and in a delightful park that I had not until this night even known existed.

Where: Pipemaker’s Park, The Living Museum of the West, Maribyrnong
When: 63:0 pm February 19th, 20th, 21st, 26th, 27th and 28th
Tickets: Free! Just arrive, spread out your blanket and enjoy!


REVIEW: Sly Rat Theatre Presents FOREIGN BODIES

Erotic, evocative and engrossing

By Amy Planner

Foreign Bodies is the newest production from Sly Rat Theatre Company, director Chris Baldock, and playwright Andy Harmsen. This seductive yet confronting look into the lives of two mismatched people tells tales of allure, disdain, political turmoil and self-discovery.

Foreign Bodies

The mood is set as you snuggle into your Indian cushion on the floor around the small intimate stage. Dim lighting, Hindi imagery and exotically draped fabric surround you and the stage. There is nowhere to hide in this theatre: the actors are within touching distance and the room is intensified.

Andy Harmsen’s script is concise, intriguing and psychologically charged, dealing with severe issues with a graceful intelligence and authentic fearlessness. There are a few elements of the story that seem to only be present to validate other unnecessary components, which detracted only slightly as the candid snapshot into the hidden truth of the sex trade overshadows any minor faults. The political circumstance was a little unclear, but under the direction of Chris Baldock, the force with which the play builds to its climax is so incredibly powerful and almost unnervingly real.

Hamsen also deserves props for sound design, which creates a true atmospheric representation of Mumbai and the hustle-bustle of the culture, which translates powerfully into the intensity of the story as realised on stage.

Sly Rat co-artistic director Alan Chambers features as the bumbling journalist, alongside the sultry stylings of Marika Marosszeky. In the unforgiving and exposing space, the performers make no excuses as their emotional journey radiates through the audience. The pair are to be commended for their willingness to be so vulnerable on the stage.

Marosszeky bares her all, both emotionally and physically, giving everyone a intensely honest look into a totally dishonest world. Chambers felt a little unsteady in the beginning, but really held no punches when he settled in to the role. The duo prove themselves to be refreshingly genuine and superbly gifted.

Victoria Haslam and the cast use costume and makeup techniques that bring real depth to the characters and the setting. The sheer sweatiness of Chambers’ character in the opening was unbelievably convincing.

Foreign Bodies is funny, confronting and altogether engrossing for the audience. This production promises to challenge your boundaries and bounce off your curiosity – it truly does.

Venue: The Owl and Cat Theatre, 34 Swan Street, Richmond

Season: 23 October – 31 October

Bookings: http://www.trybooking.com/155361

REVIEW: Sly Rat Theatre Presents THE MARTYRS

Holy horror and humour

By Myron My

The Martyrs is the first production by new company Sly Rat Theatre that looks at religion, the church, and its scandalous history of child sexual abuse and pornography. Despite the heavy themes, it somehow manages to create a great balancing act between being horrifying and humorous.

The Martyrs

There was however an unfortunate feeling of general miscasting between the actors and the characters they were portraying except in the case of David Ryan Kinsman as Pastor Mike Foster, the zealous and energetic leader of the ‘Earthquakers’ who really jumped in and let himself be enveloped by the role. Another notable mention would go to Marika Marosszeky who played the adult-porn writer Valerie with great conviction.

The inclusion of a Jim Henson-esque ‘horror’ puppet as Chloe Barker was an intriguing decision. The collaboration of puppeteer (Cameron Powell) and voice actor (and producer Jennifer Piper) was very charming and humorous to watch. The swap from puppet to human was also an interesting idea which worked quite well. In contrast, the use of the clucking chicken-like anti-pornography group as an ongoing metaphor did pull you out of the show, and the narrative could have done with a little more clarity in direction as at times, as the plot did get rather too confusing and abstract for a truly enjoyable performance.

Ryan Hodge’s lighting and set design was very impressive. Throughout The Martyrs, scenes were lit in delicate degrees of brightness and shadow, playing with the idea of good and evil, light and dark, and sex and religion. The scenes that really stick in my mind are those where the actors are only seen as dark silhouettes and thus creating a very powerful impact. It was great to see the stage fully utilised and the performance being brought out into the audience: also, having us sitting in makeshift church pews helped to further create a strong connection to the themes being played out.

The Martyrs is a very ambitious first production by director Alan Chambers and writer Andy Harmsen and because of the strengths mentioned above and despite the issues noted, they have ultimately created an entertaining and reflective piece of theatre.

Venue: Revolt Productions, 12 Elizabeth Street Kensington, 3101

Season: Until 16 March (except 11th) | 9:00pm, Sun 2:00pm

Tickets: $28 Full | $25 Concession

Bookings: http://revoltproductions.com