Tag: Dan Walls

REVIEW: Hoy Polloy Presents MEEKA

True crime meets fiction

By Narelle Wood

Meeka is a tale of fraud, deceit, arsen and a brutal attempt at murder told with all the straight-talking humour you would expect from a play set in the outback.

Meeka.jpg

The storyline focuses on a local school pricipal John (Kevin Summers) who is trying to do the best he can with his small isolated community school. However dealing with budgetary issues becomes a bigger burden than he had bargained for, especially when the city folk in the department send auditor Kevin (Keith Brockett) up to Meeka to check the school’s finances. John is not fooled by the apparent routineness of the audit and is determined to watch the Kevin’s every move. To complicate issues John’s relationship with his staff is on tenter hooks for a whole range of reasons, including issues of favouritism and power plays, that potentially implicate his staff in the alleged fraud. When Kevin arrives all seems to be going well, but bit by bit things slowly start to unravel ending with Kevin’s head blending profusely, Kevin claiming John tried to kill him, and John professing self defence. Under normal circumstances that would be a spoiler, however Meeka is based on a true crime, so the focus is not so much on the murder attempt but the events leading up to the heinous crime and who exactly is responsible.

The cast is full of wonderful Aussie archetypes: the straight-talking, no-holds-barred woman Eileen (Kelly Nash); the quintessential bloke PE teacher Tom (Liam Gillespie); the uptight English teacher Tiffany (Christina Costigan); and the primary school teacher Bec (Claire Pearson) with a hint of rebellion behind her caring demeanour. It is superbly cast, each performance complimenting Dan Walls‘ dialogue which is witty, and generally well paced. There was quite a colourful array of explicit language used throughout, sitting naturally alongside the very Australian twangs and colloquialisms of many of the characters. Under Shaun Kingma‘s direction there is complete authenticity to each of the performances, and the transitions between scenes are fast and make great use of the large space and simple sets.

If there was one thing that perhaps didn’t work as well for me was the middle section; it seemed to lag a little in comparison to the snappiness of the beginning and end. That aside, Meeka is a strangely funny take on some very dark subject matter; what makes the narrative work is the humour comes from the characters and not the situation. An exceptionally well-written and executed play.

Venue: Fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Season: Until 14th February, 8pm, 3pm Sundays
Tickets: Full $38
Bookings: www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/events

Review: THE MODERN INTERNATIONAL DEAD

Powerful, important and immensely watchable theatre

By Tania Herbert

With hunger strikes on Nauru, boats of asylum seekers arriving almost daily, and the Australia government attempting to excise Australia’s shores from, well, Australia (and no, it doesn’t make sense), there is no better time for Act-O-Matic 3000’s presentation of The Modern International Dead.

Written by Damien Miller, the play is based around the true adventures of three international workers: a soldier, a nun, and a bio-chemist, and relates their experiences – and the impact of those experiences – through tales of some of the most significant human rights violations in recent times.

Despite the heavy material, this is an extremely watchable piece of theatre, and the range of characters and emotions presents the audience with moments everyone can relate and connect to. The three performers complement one another’s stories and show an impressive range with humorous and varied characterizations, and there is a slickness to the whole show which is only likely to increase through the season.

Brett Whittingham gives a raw and gritty portrayal of a soldier losing his heart in Cambodia and his mind in Rwanda. Equally intense is Nadia Tracy’s portrayal of an ex-Sister turned counselor who is fighting an equally fraught battle with her own faith and identity.

Yet the standout performance of the evening was without doubt Dan Walls as a simple bio-chemist who, in his never-ending quest to help, eventually finds himself as a weapons inspector seeking WMDs in Iraq. Believable and understated, you find yourself liking and empathizing with this ‘everyman’, giving the audience a rare insight into a very human face inside of one of the greatest political atrocities of modern history.

At times performances felt rushed, and there was a feeling that some of the power in the dialogue was reduced by fast pacing. However, the show is beautifully staged, and flawless audio and lighting effects greatly add to the experience, particularly as the intensity grows through the second act, where we see all of our three characters coming together in a spine-chilling reenactment of aid workers caught in the crossfire of the Rwandan genocide.

Perhaps the most rewarding part of going to see The Modern International Dead is the knowledge that this is a show that is certainly practicing what it is preaching- with all proceeds going to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) , supporting those seeking refugee status in Australia.

Whether it be to support a great cause, to see some great theatre, or to peek into the curious world of international development, The Modern International Dead is a highly recommended evening out.

Venue: Mechanics Institute, cnr Sydney & Glenlyon Rd, Brunswick

Season: Nov 17, 20-24 (8pm) & Sun 18 (4pm)

Tickets: $25 Full, $15 Conc, Pay What You Can Tue 20th

Bookings and info: www.trybooking.com/BYUO, www.actomatic3000.blogspot.com.au, Phone: 9005 7870

Review: OBSERVE THE SONS OF ULSTER MARCHING TOWARDS THE SOMME

A brave war effort in theatre

By Anastasia Russell-Head

This new Melbourne production of Frank McGuinness’ iconic play Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme visually transports us to another place and time.

From the moment we entered the theatre space at the Brunswick Mechanics’ Institute and were confronted with a mist-shrouded cross-shaped catwalk-style stage, the somber palette and earthy textures of World War I set the mood very effectively.

Telling the story of eight young Northern Irish soldiers who are thrown together by circumstance, and who must navigate their own fears and prejudices, this play is compelling in its subject-matter but yet left me strangely unsatisfied. There were some fine performances from the ensemble cast, who bravely took up the challenge of the Irish accents, and Dan Walls is to be commended for his portrayal of the subversive Kenneth Pyper. Nicholas Brien also showed depth and sensitivity as the young blacksmith David Craig.

The play itself is a little heavy-handed – as The Guardian’s Michael Billington writes, McGuinness puts an “excessive emphasis on an apparent Ulster death-wish”. The shortcomings in the script, coupled with perhaps some lack of subtlety in direction, prevented this story from fulfilling its potential to be truly moving. Lighter comedic moments really hit the mark, however, evoking genuine laughs from the audience, and providing a bitter-sweet counterpoint to the main plot.

Visually and spatially this production is quite successful. Having the audience in the round gives visual depth and interesting angles from which to view the action, and I enjoyed the surprising moments of intimacy which this offered. This stage layout is of course much more challenging for sight lines and lighting – a challenge that was generally met very well.

Hoy Polloy has taken the challenge of a tough ensemble play – a work not without its flaws – and has produced a solid production supported by an excellent cast of young actors. If you want to see the next generation of leading men strut their stuff, this is the show to see.

Featuring: Nicholas Brien, Angus Brown, Karl Cottee, Kevin Dee, Mathew Gelsumini, Tosh Greenslade, David Passmore, Ian Rooney & Dan Walls

Season runs until 13 August, 8pm Tue to Sat

Mechanics Institute Performing Arts Centre (cnr Sydney & Glenlyon Rd, Brunswick)

$30 /$24/$20 Tue

Bookings www.trybooking.com

 Enquiries 9005 6734

Review: THE SUBCONSCIOUS COMETH

Witty skits on life, death and the edge of sanity

By Jen Coles 

Baggage Productions has been working for years to promote female writers and performers in the industry with intelligence and wit.

Their latest, The Subconscious Cometh (Costigan/ Burton/ Nash), is an extremely original piece of theatre, detailing discussions of loss, life and death.

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect as the program notes nor the performer biographies hinted at what was to follow.

Thankfully, what did was an extremely tight and poignant program of short skits and monologues featuring all performers in a variety of roles.

The program began by introducing the cast, and their fears, in an extremely comedic way (almost like a game show).

After the introduction, we segued into ‘Motivational Dating’, featuring a character who used cooking metaphors to describe his “life menu,” which particularly resonated as we see people try to sell us new concepts every day for virtually the same things.

Other highlights were ‘Haunting the James’s’ – did we ever consider the ghost’s point of view about hauntings? – and ‘Spirit Guy’.

Featuring the only two males in the cast, the latter involved a character watching his family after he’d died and being assisted by his spirit guide who was perhaps a bit unorthodox. It was completely touching and humorous, as were many of the pieces in the show.

The monologues in the show were of excellent class, too; reasonably paced and all ended at a suitable place that made a point.

However, the monologues worked best when they were short and succinct; both James Deeth’s ‘Tasteless’ and Dan Walls’ ‘Changeling’ made their point well, but were a touch too long and stretched the show a bit.

In comparison to some of the shorter pieces of the show, the fact they seemed to sit on the same bits of material more for dramatic effect actually lessened the meaning, not enhanced it.

Regardless, the setting, lighting and subject matter made for an intimate discussion and reflection on the human soul.

My personal favourite were the discussions of our subconscious, ego and alter-ego (clearly an examination of Freud) manifested as a spider, a neurotic mess, and an extremely rude being. 

The Subconscious Cometh was a wonderful evening that managed to make you think hard about yourself, and laugh at the same time.

Baggage have created a terrific piece of theatre that they should probably think about expanding into a full-length play. But for now, it was short, to the point, and excellently produced.

Baggage Productions’ season of The Subconscious Cometh played at Trades Hall, Carlton June 14 to 25th June 2011.