Tag: Daniel Nixon

Red Stitch Presents RULES FOR LIVING

Uproariously funny

By Caitlin McGrane

As the audience walked into the theatre on the opening night of Red Stitch’s new production Rules for Living, I was feeling slightly apprehensive. There’s something about the idea of a play about families at Christmas that can make even the most hardy feel slightly uneasy, like it all the potential to go horrifically, horribly wrong. And, indeed, it does; but I have honestly never laughed so much at a piece of theatre in all my life.

Rules for Living.jpg

The script for Rules for Living is sharp in a way that sometimes beggars belief – the cast and crew are so tight, they have their finger held so firmly on the pulse of playwright Sam Holcroft’s wonderful script that at times I thought they might be ad-libbing. The story is of a British family at Christmas: they’re dysfunctional in a recognisably empathetic way, oozing with pathos, and steering pretty well clear of the ‘wacky family does Christmas’ tropes we’ve all seen 8000 times before.

There’s brothers Matthew, (the always wonderful Rory Kelly) a charming/horrific liar and Adam (Mark Dickinson) who’s almost pathologically unable or unwilling to show weakness. Then there’s their mother the neurotic pill-popping matriarch, Edith (Caroline Lee), and Adam’s deeply tragic alcoholic wife Sheena (Jessica Clarke); but for my money the standout performer was Jem Nicholas as Matthew’s actress-cum-comedienne girlfriend, Carrie. Nicholas carries so many of the scenes, she’s truly the life and soul of the ensemble; there are times when I longed for her to return to the stage so I could see what this magnificent incarnation of the ‘Essex girl’ would do next. Ella Newton has a minor role as Adam and Sheena’s daughter Emma, and Ian Rooney makes an appearance as Matthew and Adam’s wheelchair-bound father Francis, an utterly detestable man who leers over women, and shouts ‘fuck off’ at his wife Edith; confused he may be, but without sense he is not.

The behaviour of all three men on stage gets to the very heart of what I loved so much about this play – the women. All the characters all abide by ‘rules’ for how they live their lives but the women have to constantly put up with so much deplorable behaviour from their partners that it’s no wonder they retreat into alcohol, drugs, and playing the clown. The male characters in this play are deeply funny, but they’re also awful, recognisably awful in a way that’s almost frighteningly realistic. The women on the other hand are by no means flawless, sometimes almost cruel, but it seemed to me they’d been conditioned into it, their actions a way of coping with the men in their lives.

Director Kim Farrant has done a magnificent job with this work, and the play hangs together like a carefully-placed bauble on a Christmas tree – balancing just the right amounts of humour and tragedy across the two acts. The only thing I think that could have really improved it was a reduction in length – the 2.5 hour running time was probably too much, and there were scenes that could have been cut down slightly just to keep the pace up.

Sets and costumes (Sophie Woodward) worked wonderfully: almost too well, as there were moments when it was like being at my nan’s for Christmas; lighting (Clare Springett) and sound design (Daniel Nixon) really enhanced the play’s mood, and created just the right slightly tense atmosphere round the kitchen table.

Overall I don’t think I could speak highly enough of this production, it is another Red Stitch triumph where a clear, clever, well-constructed script together with a strong, dynamic cast brings so much joy, good cheer and a huge dose of fun. Go and see this play.

Rules for Living is now on at Red Stitch until 16 April as a part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. For more information and tickets visit: http://redstitch.net/gallery/rules-for-living

Image by Teresa Noble

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Paul Capsis in RESIDENT ALIEN

Superb sojourn in the life of a legend

By Joana Simmons

“If I have any talent at all, it is not for doing but for being.”

Resident Alien, presented by Cameron Lukey, is a thought-provoking look at English writer and raconteur Quentin Crisp. The seasoned and critically-acclaimed Paul Capsis embodies this textured effeminate character and has the audience swept up as he recounts stories and moments from his fascinating life.

Resident Alien Photo Credit Sarah Walker.jpg

Quentin Crisp was a self-described flamboyant homosexual.  He’s a man who defied convention by criticising Gay liberation and Diana, Princess of Wales. At a time when homosexuality was illegal, Crisp remained true to himself and expressed himself by dying his long hair lavender, wearing nail polish, and dressing in an often androgynous style. Despite the ridicule and violence often directed toward him, Crisp carried on, meeting hostility with wit. When he tried to join the army with the outbreak of World War he was rejected by the medical board, who determined that he was suffering from sexual perversion.  Instead, Crisp remained in London and entertained the American GIs, whose friendliness inculcated a love for Americans and he moved to Manhattan in 1981, when he was 72 years old. Crisp continued to tour, write, and lecture; including instructions on how to live life with style and the importance of manners.

The play by Tim Fountain picks up in Quentin’s dusty single-room Manhattan apartment, littered with books and dirty plates, where Crisp speaks to the audience as he prepares to be visited by Mr Brown and Mr Black.  His monologue moves naturally and conversationally through a plethora of opinions and anecdotes, from the mundane to the ones that strike a chord in your heart and get your brain spinning. Paul Capsis is outstanding in this role. Each single look and mannerism is captivating and his skillful delivery of the wordy and lengthy script is astonishing.

Director Gary Abrahams has helped construct a theatre piece that gives you more than something to sink your teeth into- it’s a piece of theatre that needs to sink in. To be able to stage one man’s story and views and have it make us reflect on our own whilst still being entertaining is true craftsmanship. Romaine Harper’s costume and set design gives immediate depth and background to this interesting person as the Fortyfivedownstairs performance space is transformed into Crisp’s apartment, cleverly lit by lighting designer Rob Sowinski and all accompanied by Daniel Nixon’s sound design.  You can tell the production is high-calibre and many hours have been spent on tying everything into one professional and glamorous bow.

Sometimes we go to the theatre to laugh, sometimes we go to cry, sometimes we go to forget about our own lives and live in a different world for a moment in time. Resident Alien gives us all these things. It’s remarkable, it’s memorable and it’s still got me reflecting now. If you go to the theatre and you enjoyed yourself, that’s great. If you go to the theatre and it makes you question yourself, that’s art.  Congratulations to all the creatives involved for producing such a high-class production.

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, CBD

Season:Until June 12 2016

Bookings: http://www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/wp2016/event/resident-alien/2016-05-25/

Image by Sarah Walker

REVIEW: Little Ones Theatre Presents DRACULA

Bloody and beguiling

By Myron My

Little Ones Theatre is back with bite in their nearly all-female, silent production of Stoker’s classic 1897 gothic horror story Dracula. It is a brilliant homage to previous cinematic adaptations of the novel, with nods to Bela Legosi, Gary Oldman and Catherine Deneuve, while also including the company’s trademark exploration of sexuality and queerness.

Dracula - Amanda McGregor and Zoe Boeson -photo by Sarah Walker

The seductive Dracula is ‘brought to life’ by Alexandra Aldrich and Catherine Davies, with Davies playing a more youthful transformation of the bloodsucker. As one expected with films made during the silent era, on-screen performances need to be more emphatic and expressive, and on stage, Aldrich and Davies (like the rest of the cast) do not falter. Under the strong direction of Stephen Nicolazzo, their movements and actions are large and telling while still maintaining a menacing air of mystery around Dracula.

Janine Watson as Jonathan Harker, Mina Murray’s fiancé, who in turn is the obsession of Dracula, convincingly shows the emotional turmoil her character goes through, beginning with his initial hapless meeting with the Count. The only male cast member, Kevin Kiernan Molloy certainly nails it (so to speak) as vampire hunter Van Helsing. Molloy portrays him with much bravado and machismo as here to save the day, but ultimately it is he who poses a threat to those around him; intriguing in this case, he is shown to be the destabilising force.

All the various stage elements of this production seamlessly come together and work extremely well in supporting each other. Katie Sfetkidis‘ dramatic lighting design is a highlight with some memorable moments created from its play with darkness and shadows. Along with Daniel Nixon‘s original score, the emotion of both music and light heighten the tension as the story builds to its climatic conclusion. The sparkling all-black stage design by Eugyeene Teh paired with Tessa Leigh Wolffenbuttel Pitt’s and Teh’s mostly black-and-white costume designs pay further homage to the silent film era.

The Little Ones Theatre‘s winning streak of creating unique theatrical experiences therefore continues here with this production of Dracula. While we may be familiar with the gothic and erotic nature behind the famous story, the striking camp and queer elements the company explores ensures that this retelling retains a high level of surprises and entertainment for audiences.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda

Season: Until 14 November | Wed- Sat 8:00pm

Tickets: $35 Full | $25 Conc

Bookings: Theatreworks

Image by Sarah Walker