Tag: Caitlin Mathieson

Boutique Theatre Presents MERRY CHRISTMAS, BITCHES!

Festive family gathering with grim but witty twists

By Joana Simmons

Tis’ the season to be jolly. Or so they say, as for many of us, Christmas can be a time of togetherness, tinsel, traffic, terrible gifts and tension. Boutique Theatre‘s production of Merry Christmas, Bitches! written by Samantha Hill captivatingly reveals all the sides of the silly season, as told by various female members of the McDoonie family on a sweltering Christmas day between the prawn cocktails and rum and cokes.

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The Tuxedo Cat’s upstairs space was filled with presents of all sizes stacked amongst baubles, stars and reindeers. Breanna (Samantha Hill) held the audience in her hand as she set the scene with her colloquial monologue detailing the family dynamic, tense from Christmases gone by, which wasn’t to be bought up this year because ‘you don’t start shit at Christmas’… but they have discovered a dead body under the shed in the backyard and it’s all a bit weird. The one-liners are comical and the content is well thought-out. The writing throughout this show is extremely clever and maturely takes us down all kinds of deep paths, with great social, political, gender and satirical commentary sparkling through.

We meet Joanna (Ana Mitsikas) the divorcee, somewhat neurotic vegetarian, and outsider. Her individual story is as interesting as the last; it’s not so much about what has happened, but the details about the relationships that get us invested in each character’s story. Caitlin Mathieson’s portrayal of year 12 graduate Greyson was authentic and strong. In her Christmas pud earrings and kitschy green t-shirt, Sylvia (Emma Jo Makay) is the aunty who tries so hard to make everything perfect and doesn’t quite get it and pulls our heart strings as she cries for the 5th time that day – her first Christmas without her Dad. The matriarch, Bev (Jen Watkins) had fantastic and charming – or as Bev would probably say – “grouse” physicality. Truths come to light, some dark, some relatable, some shocking. The audience is captivated. It’s contrasted with eight year old Snow-White dressing scooter-riding Emma-Leigh (Lauren Mass) who is hilarious and dynamic.

There’s many wonderful things that hit home in this show. The structure is strong, with characters I can definitely compare to my family and who were played well. At 90mins with no interval, I did feel it was too long, as the whole time it was only one person speaking at a time. Director Michaela Bedel has done a stellar job keeping the pace through this massive melting-pot of stories, while the show was seamlessly stage-managed by Dylan Morgan. The set of presents by Nick Casey and Alicia Aulsebrook was bought to life by lighting designer Grace Marshall; before the show started I glanced around and couldn’t see a complex lighting rig but what she did with what she had was very effective.

I made it to this show only at the end of the run. I’m incredibly glad I did. It is a show for anyone who has had a not-so-festive family gathering, for anyone who doesn’t quite feel like they fit in the family mould, or feel the need to carry on with all the baubles and bull-shit. I heartily hope it comes around again next year, for Merry Christmas, Bitches! was witty, wise, and well worth watching.

Merry Christmas, Bitches! was performed at The Tuxedo Cat from 7th – 11th December, 2016.

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Vic Theatre Company Presents THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE

A superb production of this very funny musical

By Sally McKenzie

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee sounds, on paper, like a very interesting concept for a musical. However, with an original and at times beautiful score by William Finn, hilarious dialogue (some written by Rachael Sheinkin and some improvised by each new cast), and the inclusion of four audience participants as extra spellers, Spelling Bee is one of the funniest, most creative musicals to come out in the 2000s. This production, performed by Vic Theatre Company, is no exception.

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The story centres on a group of six children (played by adults), the man and woman running the bee, and the comfort counsellor, all of who are dramatically affected by one day at the ‘Bee’.

In this production, the sound designed by Marcello Lo Ricco is excellent, with the band well-balanced and never overpowering the singers. Once or twice a solo line was unable to be heard over the ensemble, however; never at a critical point. Lighting by Jason Bovaird was well-designed, with the dialogue happening under stark lights reminiscent of the gymnasium setting, and the lighting during the songs more ‘stagey’, with spots and bright colours, often to great emotional and dramatic effect.

Rebecca Moore as Rona Lisa Perretti is placed and poised with a beautiful ‘legit’ soprano voice that suits the role perfectly, although is perhaps a little young for the role.  David Spencer plays a less exaggerated Panch.  Mahoney (Matt Heyward) was vocally well-suited for the role, although his character came across as perhaps a little too ‘mellow’ and understated.

The Spellers are where the show really shines. It was refreshing to see now well-worn characters played in different ways than the usual. Chip (James Coley) executed his ‘jock’ role perfectly. Olive’s character (Caitlin Mathieson) was played as ‘realistic’ and mature. Although a convincing and heartfelt performance, it left a couple of her usually ‘funny’ lines falling flat.  Sage Douglas as Logaine and Henry Brett as Leaf both managed to find subtleties and levels in characters that are often played ‘over-the-top’. They were both adorable, and Teresa Duddy (Marcy) also executed her role well. Special mention to Riley Nottingham as the Janitor, who managed to be hilarious without a single line of dialogue.

Direction, by Ben Giraud, is clever. He makes innovative use of the space, and it was nice to see the more movable chairs instead of the static bleachers commonly used.

Musical direction, by Trevor Jones, is excellent. It was very fitting to see the talented musicians in the band aptly dressed in school uniform and reacting to the action on stage.  Vocal harmonies were perfectly balanced and executed. Choreography by Bernie Bernard is also extremely creative and unique, matching the moment perfectly.

Costumes, by Zoe Felice, are well-suited and strike just the right balance between outlandish and everyday. Meanwhile the set by William Bobbie Stewart is highly creative, with yellow tarps lining the walls, paper cut-out bees and banners hanging down, and the floor painted as a gymnasium floor.

Overall, Vic Theatre Company’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is excellent, both side-splittingly funny and heart-wrenchingly beautiful, and well worth checking out whether you’ve never heard of it, or you’re a well-worn veteran, like myself. You won’t be disappointed.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is playing at The Lawler from 30th of March to the 10th of April.  Bookings www.mtc.com.au  | 03 8688 0800

Image by James Terry