Tag: Emily Milledge

A Dirty Pretty Theatre and Critical Stages Productions Presents THERESE RAQUIN

A dark tale revealed

By Leeor Adar

The audience’s lust for work exposing the underbelly of human desire and vengeance never ceases, and gothic masterpieces always manage to spook and lure audiences centuries after their first public entrance. A great practitioner of literary naturalism, Émile Zola’s Thérèse Raquin finds itself dealt a supernatural twist in the hands of director and adaptor Gary Abrahams for theatre company A Dirty Pretty Theatre. Abrahams has not disposed of the elegance of late 1800s Paris, as his set designer Jacob Battista and costume designer Chloe Greaves journey back in time with him.

Therese Raquin

Thérèse Raquin follows the tragedy of a small family moving to Paris for a new start to invigorate the sickly Camille (Andre Jewson). Trapped under the weight of wifely servitude is the beautiful Thérèse (Jessica Clarke), oscillating between wistful gazing and the swift practiced movements of someone wanting to shatter her proverbial glass cage. The delightful little family is threatened by vagabond artist, Laurent (James O’Connell), whose presence gleefully brutalises the now excitable Camille and stirs up the most carnal of longings in Thérèse – both of whom are desperately seeking something that helps them forget themselves. The lust overcoming the characters climaxes in a brutal killing: cue the total disintegration of the survivors’ sense of sanity in a manner that Shakespeare himself would admire.

In this production, projection was a difficulty for some of the actors, particularly Clarke whose voice strained into hoarseness, but this could be due to the total submersion into a desperate Thérèse. Clarke’s performance certainly conveyed the desperation of her character potently, and O’Connell’s Laurent was suitably dangerous. Overall, the performances throughout were strong: notably Suzanne as played by Emily Milledge had the captivating ability to take us far away from the gloom of the room in her girlish rants about a phantom lover. Keeping the pace of the production was the composition and music of Christopher De Groot, whose score injected a sense of melancholy to the production.

Tragically, some very dramatic moments were thrown askew on the night I attended by the curtain falling upon a poorly-placed table and a flower crown that was swept about underneath the gowns of the actresses. The audience’s occasional laughter was perhaps a welcome distraction from the gloom of the tale before us – but at times, in Zola’s land of naturalism, such misadventures cannot be helped.

Abrahams’ production ultimately aimed for high drama, but unfortunately came across as pure melodrama with too many distractions. I admittedly enjoyed the gothic horror elements that snuck up on us, but feel these could easily have been dispensed with for the subtlety Zola’s text warranted.

This gothic drama was performed at the beautiful National Theatre in St Kilda from 31 May – 1 June.

Image by Sarah Walker

Advertisements

THE RABBLE Presents JOAN

Magnificent

By Myron My

It was only a matter of time before experimental feminist theatre company THE RABBLE decided to take on the life of Joan of Arc, the woman who helped France win the war over Orléans and was later burnt at the stake for heresy and cross-dressing. Twenty-five years after her death however, she was declared innocent of her crimes by the courts and was canonised in 1920. Her struggle and persecution is something that still resonates with us today, and with a fierce and poignant feminist perspective on her story, co-creators Kate Davis and Emma Valente bring her plight into a contemporary spotlight.

Joan.jpg

The show begins with a projection of an eye onto a scrim at the front of the stage. While it originally challenges the audience, there is a vulnerability and apprehension to the blinking eye that lingers in the room. The sound of burning logs and crackling wood as it continues to stare into the audience further builds on the unease and hints at what is to come. While we may know the story of Joan of Arc, there are still plenty of surprising and gripping moments to unfold in this production.

Joan‘s non-linear narrative structure explores significant moments in  life including her visions of angels and saints, the examination she underwent to ensure her virginity was intact, and her execution by fire – spectacularly and awfully brought to life on stage. These vignettes are used as a way of exploring not only Joan’s power and persecution, but also that of all women. The focus is not war or history but the person – the woman – and THE RABBLE construct a strong and commanding voice and presence for their protagonist through the evocative performances from its highly talented and dedicated cast.

The four Joans (Luisa Hastings Edge, Emily Milledge, Dana Miltins, and Nikki Shiels) initially appear behind the scrim of Davis’ set, with flashes of light illuminating them or capturing them briefly before the stage is enveloped by darkness once more. The music and Valente’s lighting create a haunting rhythm which, when paired with her adept direction of the cast with their ritualistic prayer-like movements, fills the room with a supreme intensity, emphasising the devout faith held by Joan.

The projections designed by Martyn Coutts are effectively used (particularly during the character’s aforementioned visions and examination), which allows for various complex feelings and thoughts to be cleverly depicted by the various Joans, complemented by the flawless lighting and sound effects.

While there are no authentic representations of what Joan looked like, in casting four women to play her, Joan allow her to embody womankind. While the only documents that exist of her speaking are those from her trial, this superb production expresses powerful words, emotions and ideas from and to her, and by extension, offers a voice to women across time.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda 
Season: Until 30 April | Wed – Sat 7:30pm, Sun 5pm 
Tickets: $38 Full | $30 Conc 
Bookings: Theatreworks

Image by David Paterson

REVIEW: Malthouse Theatre Presents ANTIGONE

Sophocles revitalised

By Margaret Wieringa

A shipping container stands, raised on stilts, above a desolate patch of dirt. A man carrying a naked woman slowly descends the staircase and places her on the ground, and is joined by two other figures who all partially undress and take grotesque poses. Industrial sounds fill the space, but are gradually joined by a lone woman singing. The audience is transfixed.

Antigone

Director Adena Jacobs has taken the ancient play by Sophocles and re-imagined it for 2015. It is barren and tough, with little movement yet the complexity of the original is present. Each scene seems long, yet sparse. It is fascinating.

Jane Montgomery Griffiths, who adapted the play, dominates as Creon, the leader who bows to public perception over what may be argued as the moral thing to do: to allow Antigone to bury her brother against societal rules. But when Antigone sounds her final song, her final prayer, her final ritual; this is the pinnacle of Emily Milledge’s performance.

I’ve always found the staging at Malthouse to be fascinating, and in this performance lighting director Paul Jackson uses exposed white lighting, at times dim and other times blindingly bright to add to the stark hopelessness of the play. And then there is the bloody water. A slow appearance that comes to dominate the scene, to reflect the torment, to disallow any character to escape the tragedy.

I’m not a classical scholar, I am very aware that there are far deeper readings to this piece. But what an interpretation like this does so well is to remind you why classic theatre needs to be adapted and performed again and again; universal truths are universal, and the tragedy of ancient times is just as relevant in the politically and morally-challenging present as ever.

WARNING: Contains adult themes, coarse language, partial nudity, strobe lighting, smoke and haze effects
Where: The Malthouse Theatre, Sturt St, Southbank
When: 21 Aug – 13 Sep
Tickets: $35 – $65
Book: http://malthousetheatre.com.au or call 9685 5111

REVIEW: The Production Company’s LA CAGE AUX FOLLES

A little more mascara

By Ross Larkin

La Cage Au Folles began as a play in the 70’s by Jean Poiret until it was later remodelled into a musical by Jerry Herman. In 1996, Hollywood created the well-known film version, renaming it The Birdcage. Melbourne’s The Production Company last night opened their version of the musical at The Arts Centre, with Todd McKenney and Simon Burke as gay lovers Albin and Georges and a familiar supporting cast including Rhonda Burchmore, Gary Sweet and Marg Downey.

La Cage Au Folles - Todd McKenney and Les Cagelles

When Georges’ son Jean-Michel (Robert Tripolino) announces his engagement to Anne (Emily Milledge), matters accelerate to hysterical at the prospect of his fiance’s highly conservative and political parents (Sweet and Downey) coming over to meet Jean-Michel’s family.

Decidedly flamboyant transvestite Albin is deemed by Jean-Michel too risky and controversial to meet Anne’s parents and is advised to make himself scarce for the evening. When Jean-Michel’s birth mother fails to show, Albin steps in in all his convincing drag glory under the pretence of being mother himself, and hilarity ensues.

As with any famous and celebrated show, there are unavoidable audience expectations. In the case of La Cage Au Folles, it is safe to assume that giant laughs, flashy songs, spectacular dancing and tremendous energy are all somewhat anticipated.

Regretfully, The Production Company only gently hit the mark, waxing and waning in pace and stamina. The occasional musical number is quite impressive while too many others are underwhelming and forgettable.

The two leads are undoubtedly well performed, with McKenney in particular delivering much of the needed laughs and glamour, and Aljin Abella as the butler a consistent source of humour and force.

However, director Dean Bryant’s decision to merge La Cage Au Folles into pantomime territory with actors speaking to and interacting with the audience for extended periods (presumably to cover costume changes) was an ill-fated one, breaking from the struggling momentum even further.

Sweet as Anne’s father might have looked the part but was typically miscast, yelling every line with farcical irritation and further contributing to the pantomime domain. Downey and Burchmore were reliably enjoyable but sadly appeared all too briefly.

Essentially, Bryant and The Production Company have found most of the ingredients necessary to make La Cage Au Folles the dazzling spectacle it deserves to be, however, its current state feels underbaked, in need of increased pace, energy, stakes and more bold choreography.

La Cage Au Folles is playing at The Arts Centre Playhouse, Melbourne, until December 7, Wednesday-Sunday at 7.30pm and Tuesday December 2 at 7.30pm, with 2pm matinees each Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Bookings 1300 182 183 or visit www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

REVIEW: Ghost Light and Moving Light Productions’ CARRIE: THE MUSICAL

Things will get bloody…

By Margaret Wieringa

Initially, the tale known by most as a horror film from the seventies seems like an odd choice for a musical. But, at the heart of Stephen King’s novel Carrie is the story of a girl who is oppressed by her mother and tormented by her peers until she breaks. The twist, as most people know, is that she has telekinetic powers, and wreaks a brutal revenge of those who have hurt her. Carrie: The Musical deals a story so epic it could have been an opera.

Carrie The Musical

The show begins with a musical number that shows off the talents of the strong supporting cast. The busy and eye-catching choreography by Lisa Minett draws the audience into the world of the musical as well as the angst of high school. When Emily Milledge enters, she brings all of the awkward misfit elements of Carrie and even when the beautiful swan emerges, she retains a hint of the fearful girl within. The duets between Carrie and her mother, played by Chelsea Gibb, are intense and passionate. It really is a cast of strong female performers, with Chernae Howlett also capturing the deep nastiness of Chris Hargensen as she manipulates those around her, and sets out to ruin Carrie’s life.

The stand-out performance, however, came from Hollie James as Sue Snell. Easily able to hold the stage on her own, she showed all the poignant sweetness and kindness the character required. Her duet with Jack O’Riley playing Billy Ross at the start of the second act was delightful.

Clearly, it was going to be a challenge to have objects flying around and the utter destruction of a whole town shown on stage – especially the small stage at Chapel Off Chapel. However, director Terence O’Connell and his excellent production crew really make a little go a long way. While the explosive scene at the prom is quite short, the combination of the sound and lighting with clever choreography gave it the intensity to be extremely effective. The solid musical accompaniment of the band helmed by David Piper allowed the cast to shine throughout, especially during this dramatic finale.

Carrie: The Musical is the debut production for Ghost Light, a company that aims to present premieres of musicals locally, as well as creating new musical and physical theatre. They have certainly started with a bang, and will be worth keeping an eye on.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel,
Season: 25 September – 12 October, Wednesday – Saturday 8pm, Saturday matinee 4th and 11th October 2pm, Wednesday matinee 8th October 1pm, Sunday 6pm
Tickets: $49.50 Full, $39.50 Concession and groups of 10+
Bookings: http://chapeloffchapel.com.au/