Tag: Conor McPherson

Q44 Theatre Presents SHINING CITY

Poignant and powerful

By Myron My

The effects of grief and guilt are hauntingly explored in Q44 Theatre‘s latest production of Conor McPherson’s Shining City.

Shining City.jpg

Set in Dublin, the story revolves around a therapist and his patient, each with his own set of demons to face, and it is another example of the exemplary work on which this theatre company is building its reputation.

Anthony Scundi is exceptional as Ian, an ex-priest struggling with his loss of faith who has just opened up a therapy clinic. While initially coming across as someone who has his life in order, the ensuing scenes paint a picture of a man who is gradually unraveling. Scundi is well-paired with Sebastian Gunner as John, his new patient and the rapport they share feels genuine. Gunner nails a lengthy monologue that requires him to find the right balance of a range of emotions as he recount the events leading up to the death of his wife.

Madeline Claire French as Ian’s wife Neasa, and Nick Cain as Laurence, deliver some strong work in their short but pivotal scenes in Shining City. The chemistry shared between Cain and Scundi in their scene is palpable, and Gabriella Rose-Carter‘s intimate direction clearly conveys Ian’s confusion and helplessness. This results in the most engrossing and intense scene of the play, and keep the audience guessing as to what is going to happen next and how the events are going to play out.

Rose-Carter once again creates engaging and captivating work from her actors, allowing them to embody their characters, and the interludes she instigates between the scenes are well-executed. There is no sense of time or being rushed during the show and Rose-Carter allows things to linger, so that we can interpret them as we like.

The scenic design by Casey-Scott Corless and construction by John Byrne functions as a great metaphor on our attempts to keep our true thoughts and feelings buried, and exposes a duality in our efforts to present ourselves as someone we feel we ought to be. This is supported by the subtle yet effective lighting design by John Collopy that really pushes the claustrophobia in the play.

Shining City is not just a play about John and Ian, but also Neasa and Laurence, and even then it’s about something bigger. It’s about people who are confused and have lost their way, and are doing whatever it is they can to do better – to be better. While set in Dublin, this could easily be any one of us in these characters’ shoes. It’s a lingering and thought-inducing show on people’s struggle to find meaning and connection in the world in which they live.

Venue: Q44 Theatre, 550 Swan St, Richmond

Season: Until 27 November | Wed- Sat 7:30pm, Sun 6:00pm

Tickets: $35 Full | $30 Conc

Bookings:Q44 Theatre

REVIEW: MTC Presents THE WEIR

Spectacular veteran cast share a drink

By Christine Young

The Weir takes place at a country pub in the south of Ireland where a handful of locals have taken refuge on a cold, windy night, though there’s no doubt they enjoy a regular tipple regardless of the weather. The stage in the Arts Centre’s Fairfax Studio is aptly decked out as a cosy pub with a bar for gossiping and a hearth for conversations from the heart.

MTC THE WEIR photo Jeff Busby

It’s clearly an important meeting place for local bachelors of a certain age who gather for a bit of ‘craic’ (conversation) which is central to the Irish psyche and way of life. The Weir is true ‘slice of life’ theatre: the audience eavesdrops on a conversation between the publican Brendan and locals Jack and Jim who are soon joined by Finbar and the mysterious newcomer Valerie.

The cast of MTC’s (Melbourne Theatre Company) production is impressive and all are veterans of Australian stage and screen: Nadine Garner (Valerie), Peter Kowitz (Jack), Finbar (Greg Stone), Jim (Robert Menzies) and Brendan (Ian Meadows). You may not recognise all their names but their faces are familiar from recent ABC programs such as Janet King, Doctor Blake Mysteries and The Moodys.

So the casting is excellent, the acting is brilliant, and the setting is just right. But the play itself is slow going and this reviewer found the first half, well, boring. It’s quite possible that I missed the whole point but it seemed to me that the initial conversations and stories were so pedestrian that they weren’t very interesting. Even naturalistic theatre needs some contrived excitement to propel a play’s narrative.

The play only began to pique my interest when Nadine Garner as Valerie delivers a heart-wrenching monologue which becomes the ‘psychological moment’. From this point onwards, the characters begin to speak authentically and drop the bravado.

That said, there are plenty more learned people than me who have given The Weir high praise. The play was Irish playwright Conor Mcpherson’s breakthrough script in 1997-98 and it won several prestigious theatre awards following its premiere season in London.

It’s not my glass of brandy … but it is wonderful to see some of our finest actors treading the boards together.

Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne
Date: Until 26 September, 2015
Tickets: $49-$119
Booking: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

REVIEW: Hoy Polloy Presents THE SEAFARER

Award-winning play a tough sell

By Margaret Wieringa

Sharky has returned to his blind, alcoholic older brother Richard just before Christmas. For a change, Sharky is not drinking. On Christmas Eve, they have several visitors and a card game takes place, with only Sharky aware of just how high the stakes truly are.

The Seafarer - Photo Credit Fred Kroh

fortyfive downstairs was an excellent space to house Richard’s lounge room, the only set of the performance. The wind gushing down the laneway and the old floorboards added ambience to that created by the old furniture and dim walls (although so many of Guinness and other Irish brand alcohol posters seemed unnecessary to set the scene).

Overall, the play dragged. The script by Conor McPherson has been nominated for a variety of awards including the Laurence Olivier and several Tony awards, but it felt very long and repetitive and, at times, boring. There were several times when it was necessary to get Sharky and Mr Lockhart alone, but the way the other characters were removed from the scene was clumsy and obvious.

It is a script with a lot of dialogue, which can run the risk of losing crucial dramatic silences. There were some attempts to create these moments, most notably from Sharky, whose near silence in the second act is a big change from his verbosity in the first, but it seemed far too contrived. And somehow in all of these weighty moments, the heavy truths that are to be revealed are lost, and the emotional lows were unclear.

The mismatched ages did create some confusion as to why these five people were in a room together at all, but despite the terrible drunken staggering, the somewhat average Irish accents and a rude audience with phones ringing several times (even during crucial scenes), each of the five actors had moments that worked really well in the performance. As Ivan, Adam Rafferty had a few lovely incidents of storytelling portraying a character who can wax lyrical and dig himself into the odd hole. Mr Lockhart, played by Michael Cahill, gave an excellent description of the hell that a man can feel, while David Passmore captured the jovial edginess of Nicky, and Geoff Hickey and Barry Mitchell were able to show the challenges of a strained relationship between brothers with much regret and pain in their history.

Venue: fortyfive downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Season: 30 July – August 10
Tickets: $33-$38
Bookings: 9662 9966 or http://www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/buy-tickets/?event=seafarer