Tag: Chris Bunworth

Kin Collective Presents SHRINE

Intelligent and invested production of Winton’s play

By Tania Herbert

Starting with an Acknowledgement of Country and transitioning straight into an Australianism-filled train-of-thought dialogue, it was immediately evident that we were in the theatre with one of Australia’s most celebrated writers, Tim Winton. Shrine is one of Winton’s three Western Australian-based plays, presented by Kin Collective and directed by Marcel Dorney.

Shrine.jpg

The script content is not happy fare, telling the story of teenager Jack Mansfield (Christian Taylor) and his untimely death from a car accident that his bratty and drunk grammar-school friends (Nick Clark and Keith Brockett) manage to walk away from unscathed. His grieving parents (Chris Bunworth and Alexandra Fowler) find themselves struggling to come to terms with both their loss and their disbelief at the events as related by his school mates.

The catalyst come through interactions with June (Tenielle Thompson), an enigmatic and almost ghost-like character, who appears to Jack’s father Adam. She offers the chance for him to gain a last insight into his son, as she tells stories of moments from her long-term school-girl crush on Jack.

The central character of Adam – a stoic, grieving father filled with barely-contained rage – was masterfully captured by TV and theatre veteran Bunworth. The emotional range of both character and actor were engaging and believable, driving both the story and the emotion. Thompson as June plays counterpoint to his layers of emotional depth with a likeable and steady performance.

Dorney’s staging greatly added to the allure of the play, with the brick shrine centre stage functioning poignantly as prop, emotional barrier, or transitional object. This, with the heavy proscenium border and ambient soundtrack made the performance space reminiscent of a live cinema, with characters stepping from screen into the audience, beautifully capturing the theme within the play of moving between life and fiction.

The build-up and resolution were unpredictable, nuanced and somehow satisfying, in typical-Winton style. However, unfortunately there are serious eye-rolls evoked by the storyline’s gender stereotyping (quite touchingly reflected upon by the director in his program notes), with female characters presented only as passive recipients of abuse and grief. There was little Fowler could do with the character of Mary Mansfield as the wailing wife, who appears only to howl, berate her husband and embark on soliloquies of childbirth and motherhood. Her one short scene of a sweet memory with Jack is the only time she gets to be her own woman, and becomes a particularly moving moment of performance. The sections of stunted, overlapping sentences typical of Winton felt a little unnatural as more prose than dialogue – though the director used them to advantage, giving a lofty Greek-chorus feel to the unwinding of the tragedy.

Thus despite some script limitations, the direction and performances here are strong, the play engaging, and the lighting (designed by Kris Chainey) is just gorgeous. Fortyfivedownstairs was the perfect venue for a dive into what lies under the surface of Australian culture in Shrine.

Shrine is on at fortyfivedownstairs, May 24 – June 18, Tuesday – Saturday 8pm, Sunday 5pm.

Bookings: 02 9662 9966 or online at  http://www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/wp2016/event/shrine-tim-winton/.

Ticket price: $30-45.

N.B. Shrine is part of 2017 VCE Drama Studies Unit 3 Curriculum – Thurs 1, 8 & 15 June 11am school matinees are for school groups only.

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REVIEW: La Mama Presents HABITUAL CRIMINAL

Fascinating biography reaches a new audience

By Myron My

Amy Maud Bock was a New Zealand confidence trickster and male impersonator in the late 1800s/early 1900s. She was also the first child of Carolyn Bock’s great-grandfather Alfred. Using press articles and Amy’s own letters and transcripts, Bock attempts to bring this woman to life once more in this new work-in-development Habitual Criminal.

Habitual Criminal

All the actors – Martin Blum, Chris Bunworth, Helen Hopkins and Bock – were full of energy, displaying strong commitment to their roles. The myriad of characters they each portrayed – even if only for a few minutes – was done with much gusto, especially from Hopkins and Bunworth. I can see them having more fun with the roles as they develop this piece further and no longer require the script on stage with them, giving them the opportunity to use their hands and bodies more freely and to maintain eye contact with each other and the audience.

The props and costumes, whilst kept to a minimum, did well in setting the scenes up and providing context to the story. The character changes that happened with the removal of a shawl or the putting on of a coat were creatively executed and never broke the flow of the story.

Habitual Criminal was performed as part of La Mama’s Explorations season of works in various developments and in Bock’s own words, ‘this is the beginning’ of this production. It’s a very impressive and dynamic beginning too, however I feel the pace needed to slow down a little to allow for the audience to fully digest and comprehend what was happening on stage. I often found myself working hard to keep up with the actors and the material, and felt I lost quite a bit in trying to play catch-up. The story of Amy Maud Bock is quite unique and highly interesting – as my own research as inspired by this show has shown – so it would be a shame for any of this to be lost in translation and execution.