Tag: Eugyeene Teh

Little Ones Theatre Presents MERCILESS GODS

Walk into the darkness

By Leeor Adar

Little Ones Theatre manages to make me laugh at the grotesque and alluring once again in Merciless Gods. Whether it’s the description of a hardened criminal unpicking thorns from the tongue of a paedophile or the pungent growth spurt of a teenage boy, beautiful and ugly words cohabit so eloquently at the end of Don Giovannoni’s pen, the result of which is imagined onto the stage with feverish intensity by director Stephen Nicolazzo.

Merciless Gods' Charles Purcell - photo credit Sarah Walker .jpg

The scene is set early on as a gathering of hip university-educated 20-somethings pop pills and dive into their samosas before descending into the truly “bad” things they’ve done. A competition of sorts of the varying evils they’ve seen or committed. Merciless Gods is at its core a series of monologues and performances that capture Australia’s foreign identity and the universal identity of being human, even if it’s grotesque and sadistic. There is enormous vulnerability too in this production, as it lays itself bare to hard truths.

Eugyeene Teh’s costume and set design is a perfect mix of minimalist drama. We have red curtains and a catwalk of sorts for a stage to let the intense performances unfold before us. Intense is honestly an understatement, and I found myself really affected and mesmerised by the actors.

Peter Paltos delivered a monologue that really defined the night for me. As the criminal who commits an unforgivable crime in line with the rest of the merciless gods of the night, Paltos manages to describe with such lush expression the pity he experiences, and the violence of his actions. I am certain the audience had their eyes fixed on his sweat, spit and grit with wonder. Another notable series of performances by the mercurial Jennifer Vuletic really heightened the calibre of this production. Vuletic could inhabit the pious tragic figure of a woman speaking broken English and then swoop on stage in naked cruel glory wearing nothing but royal red robes to tear apart her feminist daughter (Brigid Gallacher).

Despite its darkness, there is a great deal of humour in Merciless Gods. Gallacher’s comic timing sent the audience into frequent bouts of laughter, even when she beautifully and breathlessly gazed upon her teenage son with love and disgust. Of course the humour delivered really emerges from Giovannoni’s writing which in its poetic and succinct quality captures what we think but cannot articulate.

Audiences with softer stomachs and a penchant for political correctness may feel queasy at some of the language, so heed this warning. Merciless Gods is unapologetic in its content and brutality and I find it utterly appealing for this reason.

Take time out of your every day and head to the Northcote Town Hall to catch Merciless Gods. The production runs until 5 August. Book your tickets here: http://www.littleonestheatre.com.au/merciless-gods/

Image by Sarah Walker

Midsumma Festival 2017: THE HAPPY PRINCE

Wilde’s famous fairytale beautifully reinvented

By Myron My

Oscar Wilde‘s short story, The Happy Prince, tells the tale of a golden statue of a prince that overlooks a city. Along with a flying swallow that he encounters, the Happy Prince sacrifices itself in vain in order to help the people who are suffering from poverty. As part of Midsumma Festival, queer theatre company Little Ones Theatre have taken Wilde’s tale and adapted it through a queer lens. The contemporary homo-erotic story now explores the desperation and futility that two women experience in order to remain with the one they love.

The Happy Prince.jpg

Dressed in a gold-sequinned dress with gold nail-polish and a smear of gold face-paint, Janine Watson wondrously captures the innocence (and ignorance) of the Happy Prince. As the sacrifices become bigger, her determination becomes more evident in bringing happiness and good to the people, regardless of how fleeting or thankful the act might be.

Catherine Davies brings a poignant level of cynicism to the Swallow but also a passion and yearning for a connection. With her hair quiffed up, wearing rollerskates and chewing gum, she is reminiscent of a defiant and impatient youth constantly on the go. The passion between the two performers is palpable from the very first moment they share the stage together and neither Watson or Davies let go of that for the entire show.

This short story doesn’t offer much in terms of length and plot development, whereupon director Stephen Nicolazzo has created erotically charged and deeply tender moments of no dialogue between the Happy Prince and the swallow, exploring their emotional state of mind on a deeper level. There is a sense of time standing still during the show and we are given the opportunity to take in everything that is being said and everything that is being performed without being rushed.

Katie Sfetkidis‘ intelligent combination of cold and warm lighting design throughout the show highlights the moments of passion and love and the ultimate demise of said love as does the sleek clean set design by Eugyeene Teh. The grey material that runs along the wall and floor of the stage allows the gold and sparkle of the Happy Prince’s costume to constantly attract our attention and admiration.

The Happy Prince is the poetically tragic tale of a love that cannot be. Through its queer retelling, Little Ones Theatre have expertly crafted a powerfully affecting and layered story of deep affection and sacrifice that will linger in your mind long after the final scene.

Venue: La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday St, Carlton
Season: until 29 January | Wed 6.30pm, Thu – Sat 7.30pm, Sun 4pm
Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc
Bookings: Midsumma Festival

Image by Pia Johnson

Malthouse Theatre Presents BLAQUE SHOWGIRLS

Truly outstanding

By Caitlin McGrane

Nakkiah Lui’s searing portrait of white Australia’s treatment of Aboriginal people, Blaque Showgirls, is vital viewing for all white people. In this production, Lui does not shy away from intensely uncomfortable subjects, but her punchlines always hit their target.

blaque-showgirls

The show opens as Sarah Jane (Bessie Holland) starts performing her signature dance, the Peking Emu on stage in Chithole, Queensland. Sarah Jane is a white-skinned ‘blaque’ girl who dreams of making it as a dancer at the famous Blaque Showgirls show in Brisvegas, just like her mother. With a voice that could shatter glass, and dance moves that would not be out of place in any reputable club in Melbourne, Sarah Jane is unceremoniously booed offstage. Sarah Jane makes the journey to Brisvegas to begin her journey to stardom, where she meets the amazing Chandon (Elaine Crombie), Kyle McLaughlan (Guy Simon), and Molly (Emi Canavan). Chandon and Kyle are the owners of Blaque Showgirls, the best and toughest show in town; Molly meanwhile is Sarah Jane’s Japanese sidekick who gets continually cut off when she’s talking. As Sarah Jane (aka Ginny) begins to work on her dancing with TruLove Interest (spelling: uncertain, Guy Simon) she starts to discover her true culture through the ‘Sacred, Sacred Really Sacred Dance’ (never-before-seen).

By the end of the performance my face hurt from laughing so much. Director Sarah Giles has worked magic with Lui’s exceptional script, and with it the duo has delivered something truly outstanding – the production perfectly skewers Australia’s bonkers and backwards attitudes to race and cultural appropriation, while Ginny continues to wreak havoc and destruction on the lives of those around her, her life continues to get better and better. Even finding out the truth about her past fills her with unconscionable optimism.

The production is completed with wonderful set and costume design from Eugyeene Teh, lighting design from Paul Jackson, composition & sound design from Jed Palmer, and movement direction from Ben Graetz. The team obviously have a tremendous passion for the subject matter, which left me deeply sympathetic to the tiny bumps in the production, which should be ironed out once the cast gets further into the show’s run.

There is so much more I wish I could say about Blaque Showgirls, but you should just go see it, especially if you’re white.

Blaque Showgirls is now on at the Malthouse until 4 December 2016. More information and tickets at: http://malthousetheatre.com.au/whats-on/blaque-showgirls

Image by Pia Johnson

MTC Presents STRAIGHT WHITE MEN

Four blokes and one family Christmas

By Myron My

Upon entering Fairfax Studio at the Arts Centre Melbourne, you can’t help but notice Candy Bowers as the Stagehand-in-Charge sitting up in her booth, playing some hip hop music, including Khia’s racy “My Neck, My Back”. As the music plays, she regularly glances over the audience while flicking through a newspaper, the back page emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter”. Considering we are about to see Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men, a play about a family of the four eponymous men getting together for Christmas celebrations, the ruthless satire is punching us in the face, especially as she makes her way down to the stage and introduces us to the make-believe world.

Straight White Men.jpg

The “brotherly” chemistry between Hamish Michael, Luke Ryan and Gareth Reeves, as siblings Drew, Jake and Matt respectively, is undeniable. Their scenes together have a believable authenticity and you do feel like they have known each other for their entire lives. Michael in particular is a highlight as the youngest sibling, trying to help his family while trying not to be seen as the baby of said family. Ryan also impresses with his alpha-male banker who would prefer that the status quo under which he is comfortably living is not ruffled. Reeves as the oldest sibling offers an accomplished performance as a white man struggling to find his place in society and to not be seen as living off his privilege. Despite the other characters being louder and more animated than Reeves’, he manages to have a quiet but strong presence on stage. John Gaden as patriarch Ed, brings a nurturing and fragile depth to the man who only wants the best for his children.

The set and costume design is another impressive feat by Eugyeene Teh. While this is a little more conservative than what I’ve previously seen in his work (and this is due to the script itself), he captures the mood perfectly and once again is able to make the environment just as much of a character in the story as the four men on stage. Along with Lisa Mibus‘ intelligent lighting and David Heinrich‘s sleek sound design, all the elements come together seamlessly for Straight White Men.

While I enjoyed the show, especially the stellar performances from the cast, I feel Lee’s script ultimately lacked a deeper exploration of what these men are actually arguing about and the privilege they have, to really leave a mark. There are some extremely funny scenes and some that capture realistic sibling relationships, but the overall story seems to become preoccupied with this humour at the expense of the more powerful issues. It is clear Lee knows what she wants to say but possibly not how she wants to say it.

Straight White Men is an enjoyable performance, but this play ends up more a family Christmas dramedy than an intended piece of satire that will have people – mainly straight white men – questioning their privilege and perceiving how lucky they are.

Venue: Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, 3004
Season: Until 18 June | Mon – Tues 6.30pm, Wed 1pm, Wed-Fri 8pm, Sat 4pm and 8.30pm
Tickets: $39 – 77
Bookings: MTC

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

REVIEW: Watch This Presents COMPANY

Stunning performances in superb production

By Adam Tonking

Stephen Sondheim can be tricky. His shows seem to be full of pitfalls to trap the unwary theatre company into poor choices, and Company is no exception. With no linear narrative, just a series of vignettes centred on marriage and relationships in New York and his usual densely layered music and finely wrought lyrics, there are a myriad of ways for this show to go off the rails. Fortunately, the cast and creative team behind Watch This’ Company are more than up to the challenge.
Company Photo Credit Jodie Hutchinson

The cast are sublime. The protagonist Robert is a difficult role to play; a mostly passive observer to the five married couples in his friendship circle, he still needs to build a rapport with the audience so they care when he stops for a moment of self-reflection. Nick Simpson-Deeks was perfect, engaged in every scene as the fulcrum around which the action takes place, charming and affable with a stunning voice: there could not have been a better choice for the dramatic lynchpin that carries the whole show.

But there were many beautiful performances from the rest of the cast also. Mark Dickinson as David in an early scene where he reveals a controlling side was absolutely chilling, Johanna Allen as Jenny brought a delightful schadenfreude and glorious voice to “Getting Married Today”, and Sally Bourne brought poignantly to life the difficult song “The Little Things You Do Together” as Joanne (a role which in another performer’s hands could have seemed like a mere mean drunk there simply to throw in the acerbic asides). These were a few of my favourite moments, but the whole cast were spectacular.

In fact, the creative team have likewise done a spectacular job. The choreography by Michael Ralph was inventive and finely detailed; in a show that doesn’t require big dance numbers, his choreography was clever and beautifully executed. Costume design by Zoe Rouse carefully managed a balance between current fashion and the 1970s era in which the show is set, while also cleverly colour-coding the married couples to help the audience manage visually the relationships between the characters.

One glaring problem with this production is the choice of venue. Unfortunately for a portion of the audience, the action was obstructed from view by poles or railings, which is a shame because the direction and staging was flawless. A sparse and economical set by Eugyeene Teh was transformed under the direction of Kat Henry into the multitude of locations required, and Henry’s tight direction kept the momentum going through the quietest of scenes. The creative team also made the brave choice to have the performers work without microphones, with mixed results. There is something so much more engaging and compelling, particularly in an intimate show like Company, to hear the performers under the musical direction of Lucy O’Brien without the filter of amplification, and in many moments in this production it was magnificent. Until the performer turns away from you and you’ve missed what they’re saying. Again, I confess I blame the choice of venue.

That said, I would dearly love to see this exact production again, preferably in a different venue, or at least in a better seat. This is Sondheim, after all, and Watch This have presented a brilliant production of Company. My suggestion is, see it, but make sure you choose your seating carefully. Actually – see it anyway. Because even from my seat next to the band where I couldn’t see half of the stage, I still loved it.

Watch This presents Company by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth is on at fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, from September 16 till October 4. Tickets available at www.fortyfivedownstairs.com or by calling 03 9662 9966.

REVIEW: Little Ones Theatre Presents THE HOUSE OF YES

Dysfunctional comedy all in the family

By Myron My

It took me exactly 37 seconds to realize that I was going to be in pure bliss watching Little Ones Theatre‘s production of The House Of Yes, a bizarre yet hilariously witty play by Wendy Macleod.

The House of Yes_Photo Credit_ Sarah Walker Photography

It’s Thanksgiving in 1983, and Marty (Benjamin Rigby) has returned home with his fiancée Lesly (Anna McCarthy). As we meet the rest of the family – his mentally unstable and Kennedy-obsessed twin sister “Jackie O” (Genevieve Giuffre), younger brother Anthony (Paul Blenheim) and matriarch, Mrs. Pascal (Josh Price, in a superb casting decision) – the domestic Pandora’s box is well and truly opened in this satirical play on class, incest and mental illness.

For the most part, Giuffre succeeds in bringing out the fragility and loneliness in the challenging role of Jackie O but it is the scenes involving McCarthy and Blenheim that allow for a deeper honesty and vulnerability to be present. Unfortunately I was not at all convinced by Rigby’s performance as Marty, who really only shines in his scenes with Giuffre which are filled with an infinite amount of palpable sexual chemistry.

Price as Mrs. Pascal is truly an unusual choice, but at the same time a perfect decision to convey the dysfunctional ties of the family, and personify the desires and morals that otherwise seem to be lacking in the Pascal household.

Director Stephen Nicolazzo has done a great job in crafting the pace and delivery in The House of Yes, and there is never a dull moment on stage. The set and lighting design of the Pascal home further articulates the misguided values and the mindset of a family that is caught up in its own bourgeois reality. Eugyeene Teh’s all-pink set contrasts with the darkness that envelops the family, and the lighting by Katie Sfetkidis successfully builds the tension towards the climatic final scene, even with all the laughs and antics.

Little Ones Theatre have managed to bring their own unique touch to this compelling story of a family whose desires and wishes to lead the lives they want only ends in devastation for themselves and each other. The House of Yes gets a resounding yes from me.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda.

Season: Until 13 December | Tues – Sat 8:00pm

Tickets: $30 Full | $25 Concession

Bookings: 9534 3388 or http://www.theatreworks.org.au