Tag: Club Voltaire

Bitten By Productions Presents DRACULA: THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER

Atmospheric and intriguing

By Rachel Holkner

Dracula is a character who requires no introduction, no commentary and, one might think, no new stories. Dracula: The Last Voyage of the Demeter proves otherwise. This new play by Sean Carney fills a tiny gap in the story we know so well, providing an explanation for what happened on the ship Demeter before its arrival at Whitby.

Dracula.jpg

Set entirely in the ship’s hold with the chained vampire holding court, various members of the crew and passengers descend the ladder out of necessity or curiosity. There Dracula does what psychopaths do best: charm them in to revealing more about themselves than they intended. Tension builds as the unseen crew of the ship, slowly at first, then with impossible rapidity, are murdered or vanish.

Carney’s writing is assured, but occasionally misses a step through basic anachronisms or overt exposition. There is no humour to this dark tale of human flaws, yet the dialogue is scattered with truly clever language and witty notes which effectively relieve the strained atmosphere.

Gregory Caine as Count Dracula pulls the story along beautifully, commanding the stage faultlessly. Unfortunately this only highlights the rather static performances of the other players who rarely change the pitch of their rather one-note characters. Mumbling Nichols (Matthew Elliot) was unfortunately incomprehensible at times, while Captain Atkins (Robin Darch) suffered a similarly wobbly accent.

As the characters descend in turn to bargain with the captive monster the play becomes repetitive, due in part to static stage direction. Ineffective use of the space grew tiring to watch. Surely the single chair could be moved to elsewhere on the stage to provide a little relief. I feel opportunities were also missed by director Ashley Tardy to utilise the terrific staircase into the performance space that the venue provides.

Celina Mack as young Elizabeth and Stephanie Daniel as her mother Jessica make an excellent partnership, effectively portraying that relationship. I would have liked to see Gabriel Bergmoser as Gibson and Chris Grant‘s Hopkins have an opportunity to play off each other a little more too as their characters were so at odds with each other.

Effective set dressing and costuming set an impressive claustrophobic atmosphere of a ship’s hold to the venue; audio effects and of course theatrical smoke to represent the fog set the audience well inside the story before the play even began.

Dracula: Last Voyage of the Demeter is the perfect piece to head to as a respite from the Comedy Festival.

Thursdays to Saturday from April 13-22

Club Voltaire, North Melbourne

https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=265879

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REVIEW: Bitten By Productions’ THE LUCAS CONUNDRUM

Moral issues churn against artistic integrity

By Margaret Weiringa

How can you argue against a dying child? In The Lucas Conundrum, playwright Gabriel Bergmoser has created a script that seeks to explore the complexities of this infamous issue: the protagonist Robert Stone is one of Hollywood’s most successful directors, an innovator whose fantasy films changed the way movies are made, and his soon-to-be-released film is his first return to his hugely successful franchise in over thirty years. Then an internet petition with millions of signatures begs him to let a dying child watch his film before the kid passes away, and Stone don’t want to – not until it is ready by his high standards.

The Lucas Conundrum.jpg

Unfortunately, this promising plot about the changing power of the auteur, the modern film industry and social influence is presented mostly as a series of cocaine-fueled arguments that gradually lost my attention. The arguments built, but somehow the tension onstage didn’t seem to. Perhaps it was that the stakes did not seem high enough – the set-up was that Stone would lose everything if he did not bow to the studio’s pressure. In this production, Greg Caine offered a solid presentation of Stone as a man who was arrogantly confident that his decisions were the right ones, but I didn’t feel that this interpretation fully supported this situation as something that would destroy his career and, therefore, his life.

Chris Grant played Freddie, the man who was trying to force Stone’s hand. His character started as a believable, albeit over-the-top Hollywood-type, but as the arguments intensified, he became more and more comical, even to the point of slapstick. Despite the description “funny, (and) incisive”, the play generally seemed to be going for a more realistic feel, which made his valiant performance feel rather out of genre.

The two women in the cast, Alicia Beckhurst as Stone’s girlfriend and Angelique Malcolm as his ex-wife, both gave good performances in their roles, but disappointingly neither character was given a lot for the actors to really bite into. The female roles were quite functional and stereotyped, although there was certainly the opportunity to create characters who are more than just the relationship that they have with a man.

Essentially, The Lucas Conundrum is a good, promising production that has just missed the chance to be great. I think that the work would have benefited from further script and character development to explore an interesting premise and a complex real-world situation: who owns the art?

Where: Club Voltaire, 14 Raglan St, North Melbourne
When: Feb 17 – February 27, Tues-Sat, 7pm
Tickets: Full $20 Conc $15 through www.trybooking.com

REVIEW: Such As They Are Presents TRANSPLANT

Gets under your skin and touches your heart

By Myron My

Every now and again, there is a show that is so unexpected and unusual that it remains vividly with you for quite some time after seeing it. Presented by Such As They Are and as part of the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival, Transplant is one such show. Performed at its uniquely designed installation space in a corner of Club Voltaire, it is a self-proclaimed “medical fairytale” that seamlessly infuses puppetry and performance.

Transplant

As we wait outside the curtains of the performance, a nurse (Tim Ratcliffe) appears and before we know it, we are being prepped to assist in a surgery. Nothing is forgotten in the process, as we are told to swab behind our ears, have our nostrils examined and if anyone has been travelling overseas in the last month, well…

The whole procedure is quite surreal and preposterous but Ratcliffe does not skip a beat nor give any indication that any of this is an act. Even when the audience is overcome with laughter, he remains beautifully straight-faced and coldly serious. This is the reality we have entered.

Once we are ready, we are led to another room where a surgeon (Mark Penzak) is working hard at keeping his patient – who just happens to be a beautifully constructed puppet – alive. Unlike the first half of the show, the surgery scenes have a strong air of a fairytale world that has been ravaged by a plague. What follows are some highly engaging and visually enchanting moments where the less said about them the better the experience will be.

The two rooms have both been immaculately and authentically designed in Transplant. The lingering smell of disinfectant in the prep room shows that no attention to detail – whether visual or not – has been spared. The same can be said about the puppet design and puppetry by Eliza-Jane Gilchrist, whose creation and mechanics find just the right balance of real and make-believe.

Transplant is a highly entertaining evening that ensures a full sensory experience for its audiences as they explore ideas of life and death and humanity. Due to the nature of the show, it is limited to small number of audience members at a time, so book ahead for this one and enter Such As They Are‘s beguiling fantasy world to see what awaits you.

Venue: Club Voltaire, 14 Raglan St, North Melbourne, 3051

Season: Until 4 October | Sat 6.30pm, 7.15pm & 8pm, Sun 7.30pm, 8.15pm & 9pm.

Tickets: $18 Full | $14 Conc

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

REVIEW: Sophie Joske will BECOME A FUNCTIONAL ADULT IN 45 MINUTES

Tightly-wrought, intelligent and very enjoyable performance

By Myron My

Sophie Joske wants to become an adult. She wants to be accomplished and respected as a person, but she’s not quite there yet. Presented as part of the 2015 Melbourne Fringe FestivalBecome a Functional Adult in 45 Minutes is a cautionary tale in which Joske explores what life must be like to be a successful adult.

Become a Functional Adult in 45 Minutes

Joske sets her sights on graduating from the Mature Learning Academy as an ‘adult’ so she can finally go out and live her life. What follows is a series of satirical ‘self-help’ tests in a variety of categories, such as work, social skills, relationships and sex, to assess just how prepared Joske is at handling these situations as a fully-fledged adult. Sadly, she fails at each, but not without some real laughs along the way.

Joske’s punchlines are well delivered and the flashbacks scenes are a touch of gold. One of the many great moments of the show is the “positive female affirmations” that play over the speakers as Joske gets changed into a different outfit. Joske’s desperation to graduate reaches a dramatic climax that you can see coming but are ultimately still stunned and surprised by what has eventuated. The one serious moment of the show is executed extremely well and really pushes the message Joske is trying to say.

Become a Functional Adult in 45 Minutes offers a witty critique of modern society and the sexism and gender inequalities that are so prevalent within it. A memorable example of this is Joske’s revelation of the process women ‘must’ go through in order to look and smell attractive enough to the opposite sex whereas men…just need to take a shower. Joske also takes a swipe at our ageist society, which will question your life choices if you are over 30, and not yet married with children.

Become a Functional Adult in 45 Minutes is a highly restrained and subtle look at how society is programming us to be the type of adults it wants us to be rather than allowing people to make their own choices. It’s an important message for any person of any gender or sex to be aware of. Joske’s balance of humour and critique is well thought-out that has you walking out questioning what exactly has influenced your decisions in life – but still with a smile on your face.

Venue: Club Voltaire, 14 Raglan St, North Melbourne, 3051

Season: Until 28 September | 7.30pm

Tickets: $20 Full | $17 Conc

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

REVIEW: Adam J. A. Cass’ FRACTURED

Dark visions powerfully portrayed

By Myron My

We are now living in a dystopian world of the named and the unnamed, where safety and comfort are a thing of the past and children are now brought up in a society where the only games they remember are guessing how many bombs are going to go off in the night. Adam J. A. Cass’ Fractured explores this frightening vision through five “broken” souls.

Fractured

Danelle Wynne is the standout of the cast as Astrid, the almost feral child who is too afraid and suspicious of anyone to let her guard down. Her animal-like qualities and habits show how deeply she has been affected by her experiences and form a strong contrast to the rest of the people around her, such as Suzi Loo played by Nicole Morgan. Morgan is also strong in her character portrayal and her concluding scenes were completely and utterly engrossing. Rounding out the impressive cast are Natalie-Lynne Pillar, Josh Vasilev and Amy Firth.

I particularly enjoyed the lighting design with this show and the shadows that were beautifully created within the space. The scene of Rhodes (Firth) dragging in the screaming Astrid by the hair was particularly effective in utilising this, and thus heightening the powerful sense of unease early on in the show.

Peta Hanrahan‘s direction gives the actors (and their characters) plenty of opportunity to move and express themselves whilst not being too overwhelming for each other and the audience. Considering Cass wrote this work specifically for the performance space at Club Voltaire, the space is perfectly utilised and the stage design, while minimal, captures the overall mood of the show well.

However, there are a few scenes that confused me as to their purpose, especially in its attempts to be – as mentioned in the synopsis – immersive theatre. At one stage, members of the audience are handed sleeping pills only to have no real reason for this to occur, and the interaction is neither elaborated upon or discussed again.

Fractured explores the idea of having the courage to go on but also the need for compassion and humanity for people we don’t know but still need to care about and protect. The strongest, most effective moment of the performance for me happens before the show even started, and when you go to see it (as you should), you will understand what I am referring to. What endures then, is a profound sense of the responsibility we have to fellow humans who are less fortunate than us purely because of luck.

Venue: Club Voltaire, 14 Raglan St, North Melbourne, 3051

Season: Until 20 September | 7.30pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

REVIEW: Joana Simmons is TINSERELLA

Crazy Christmas cheer

By Amy Planner

Tinserella: Keeping Christmas Safe is a one-woman comedy cabaret that packs a punch and makes no excuses. It takes you an on an amusingly unexpected journey through a multitude of alter egos, original musical numbers and physical farce.

Joana Simmons has not merely hit, but smacked the solo stage with her debut writer credit, leaving nothing in the tank after throwing herself about and titillating the audience.

Tinserella

This one-woman show is really anything but: a silent, albeit very physical rendition of Mariah Carey’s “Hero”, a quasi-contemporary dancing techy and a word-mincing news reporter are just a few of the myriad of intriguing appearances in Tinserella. One of the highlights of this weighty stack was a hipster singing about the hard life of being just that – a hipster. There were a few sticky areas where characters may have been a little unsure of themselves as they came to life on stage for the first time. However there is real merit in the range of characters presented during and in the construction of the show overall. With such a colourful cabaret of characters, one-liners, lively dance moves and a spot of audience participation, Tinserella makes you question your boundaries and laugh all the way home.

Don’t be put off by the balloon you are handed as you walk in to the dimly lit room at Club Voltaire – you will soon figure out what your breathed donation gets you and you won’t be disappointed. If you are not one for audience participation make sure to steer clear of the aisle seats, unless bubble-blowing or Hi-Vis vests are your thing. In saying that, Joana has clearly made it her mission to make Tinserella a well-rounded experience you won’t quickly forget and she has succeeded.

For a sky-reaching first attempt at writing and performing solo, Joana Simmons has hit the spot and makes you giggle at the cheeky bruise she has left behind. Tinserella is ‘keeping Christmas safe’ in the most entertaining way possible.

Venue: Club Voltaire, 14 Raglan Street, North Melbourne
Season: 27 November – 30 November, 7.30pm
Tickets: $20
Bookings: http://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=110727

REVIEW: The Laudanum Project’s THE GRAND GUIGNOL AUTOMATON

Haunting tale of horror…

By Myron My

The Laudanum Project returned to Melbourne Fringe Festival for an exclusive season of The Grand Guignol Automaton. Their fourth production is set in Paris, 1920, and tells the horrific story of Sandrine Moreaux who finds herself at the Theatre du Grand Guignol. It is here she faces her fears, desires and obsessions with beauty.

Our storyteller, Alphonse Cheese-Probert, is masterful in his execution and his ghoulish appearance adds further effect to this visceral story. it’s a highly descriptive narrative that leaves you hanging on to every word as the tale delves into darker and more grotesque territory with every sentence, even without using any props or visual aids.

The Grand Guignol Automaton

Despite his strong presence on stage and the visual delights of the set and costumes, there came a point where I felt something different needed to happen on stage. The story is so intricate and demanding that it was difficult to retain the same level of concentration for over an hour when simply watching a person narrate. The reveal towards the end was very effective in resolving this, but I felt something needed to happen earlier also.

The music is a strong component to this show; the three musicians built the intensity and suspense to high dramatic effect. Costume-wise, the musicians, Lady Sophronia Lick-Penny, Barnabas Oral and Shiny Helen are just as grotesque as the story. Helen on the accordion wears an elephant-man like red silk sack, percussionist Oral has a blindfold covering his gouged-out and bleeding eye sockets and Lick-Penny on the keyboards appears as a ghoul. Always in the background but never overpowering, they blend into the story; and the moments of silence when they are not playing for effect are just as impactful.

The Grand Guignol Automaton may be an unsettling piece of raconteur theatre but it is also a great piece of theatre. It was while I was exiting the venue that I realised I had been holding my breath for quite some time from all the suspense and horror. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what The Laudanum Project come up with next.

The Grand Guignol Automaton was performed at Club Voltaire as part of the 2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival.