Tag: Christian Taylor

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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Melbourne Fringe 2016: HOW CAN YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT?

Waking up to the world

By Myron My

In How Can You Sleep At Night?, Christian Taylor delves into the world of climate change, death and insomnia. While I was initially uncertain on how one could cover these three topics in detail and with clarity in a 60 minute show, Taylor easily accomplishes this and much more with his debut solo performance for the 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival.

How Do You Sleep at Night.jpg

Taylor is having somewhat of an existential crisis about the world while also dealing with what happened to Andy. He can’t sleep at night and the only one that he seems to be able to talk about this to is to a sentient jellyfish, voiced by a different actor every night. On the performance I attended, Hayden Burke had the honour and his sassy banter with Taylor was full of laughs and deep thoughts. If there were an award for best non-human performance in a Fringe show, it would go to the jellyfish.

Taylor is charmingly honest and vulnerable on stage, freely allowing the audience to see his anxieties and worries. His story-telling is engaging, and while he shares seemingly unconnected thoughts and ideas, by the end of the show he manages to bring them all together with ease. There are some really touching moments throughout the show, and to see people decline Taylor’s offer to dance the waltz with him was upsetting, such was the emotional response he elicits.

The intelligent set design and visuals aids used throughout the show prevent us from getting too overwhelmed or confused by the science and astrophysics information regarding the galaxy, gravity and mass. The lighting used is also well thought-out, particularly when Taylor gets us to imagine looking up into the sky, and seeing all the colourful stars that are out there.

Somehow Taylor has to try and make sense of all this confusion and uncertainty over the future – we all do. How Can You Sleep At Night? doesn’t seek to give you the answers, but it wants us to think about them and how our choices will ultimately affect us and everyone around us. Until then, as Taylor and the jellyfish acknowledge, all we can do is just keep swimming.

Venue: Fringe Hub – Upstairs at Errol’s, 69 – 71 Errol St, North Melbourne, 3051
Season: Until 23 September | Tues – Sat 6pm, Sun 7pm
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $24 Full | $20 Conc | $18 Cheap Tuesday
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Image by Bec Taylor

REVIEW: La Mama Presents FLASHBLAKS

Newest voices in indigenous theatre

By Myron My

With their recent residency at La Mama Theatre, Ilbijerri Theatre Company, Australia’s longest-running Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander theatrical company, performed a staged reading of a new piece of work by Jacob Boehme and directed by Isaac Drandic.

Flashblaks looked at a variety of themes revolving around identity, whether it be cultural, sexual, individual or social. Boehme used three generations of women from one Indigenous family to tell this story and despite these generational gaps, the issues and struggles end in corresponding for each woman.

Tammy Anderson in Flashblaks_ Photo Dorine Blaise

The youngest of the three women, Sarah (Monica McDonald) finds her own personal culture struggle through the fact that her father is white-Irish and her mother is Indigenous. Sarah’s sexuality is also explored and her facebook chats with Craig (Christian Taylor) provided the right level of lightheartedness and comedy to counteract the more dramatic stories of Flashblaks.

As we were sitting and listening to the story unfold without any costumes, props or direction, the strength of Boehme’s writing was obvious, whereupon the story flowed with much ease as it weaved in and out of the lives of its characters. My only issue regarding the script was the inclusion of a side story between the characters played by Taylor and Melodie Reynold-Diarra, which seemed out of place with the rest of the pace and tone of Flashblaks.

Boehme has given all characters clear and distinct voices, and the talented cast (including Ian Michael and Nikki Ashby) works with the language to successfully portray believable characters. There was some brilliant reading of scenes from McDonald and Tammy Anderson as Sarah’s mother and I look forward to seeing their interactions play out fully on stage. The delivery and facial expressions in particularly from McDonald were genuine and her comedic timing was subtle yet very effective.

Flashblaks is an intelligent and well thought-out piece of theatre, and this reading showcased some dedicated performances. While a profound examination of indigenous and female experience, Boehme’s exploration of identity and the consideration of how much of our present is due to our past are themes that everyone can relate to regardless of race, sexuality and gender. Whilst no answers are drawn or any resolutions found, Boehme opens up dialogue and invites discussion on these important topics and it will be very interesting to see how this piece progresses into a fully staged production.

Flashblaks was performed at La Mama Theatre from 12-14 December.

REVIEW: Fr!sk Presents #HOWTODISAPPEAR

In search of a vanishing point

By Myron My

As we take our seats for #howtodisappear, a voice-over and screen in front of us begin stating the terms and conditions of sitting in this show. We are asked to turn off our phones, but then the conditions delve further and further into issues of privacy and the voice-over begins to speed up at an almost inaudible pace.

#howtodisappear

Once the exhaustive list is finished, we are told if we disagree with any of these we have three seconds to leave the venue – otherwise we have just signed on the dotted line. This humor sets the tone for the rest of #howtodisappear.

The two performers, Patrick Considine and Christian Taylor, charm with their banter and interactions with us, as they playfully attempt to ‘one up’ each other on “The World’s Most Difficult Magic Trick”. The magic tricks were great to watch and there was much discussion with my friend as to how they could have been done afterwards.

Even though I enjoyed the show, I struggled to see any link between what was performed on stage and the description of the event. I felt I would be seeing something about technology and how nothing is private and everything about you is out there but instead, it was more or less about the magic tricks.

The other thing that puzzled me was being asked to provide the artists with our name and number so we could “fully experience the performance”. However, all that transpired was a single text message that just reiterated what the artists has asked us in person. Even the response I sent resulted in no further interaction with them, so I was confused as to its purpose.

I feel more work was needed on the ideas that Considine and Taylor were trying to convey with #howtodisappear. A clearer link between show description and performance, for example, was something required for audiences to more fully appreciate this work.

#Howtodisappear was presented by Fr!sk Festival at the Victorian College of the Arts as part of the 2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival.