Tag: Fortyfivedownstairs

REVIEW: Punk Rock

Powderkegs in school uniform

By Owen James

Simon Stephens is one of my favourite contemporary playwrights, his works electrifying and always relevant. The raw, confronting story of Punk Rock tackles the escalating and debilitating final three months in the lives of seven teens in their last year of grammar school.

Stephens’ extremely realistic characters are taken to their most energetic and explosive extremes in this production by Patalog Theatre, with director Ruby Rees ensuring they are infused with equal measures of juvenile rebellion and adolescent uncertainty. Rees’ direction is powerful and pacy; the interval-less lengthy runtime passes in a flash, and the Breakfast Club-esque pressure cooker setting is used to its full advantage with intimate, imaginative staging. Rees has included punctuating frenzies of fantastical violence, sex and desire as scene transitions, which are for the most part effective at disrupting our comfort and expectation.

There is not a weak link to be found in this tight ensemble of eight, who all expertly commit to the violent, often terrifying world they are trapped inside. They are a joy to watch. Audience favourite Laurence Boxhall as timid Chadwick gives us many of the play’s most hilarious and crushing moments, and is perhaps the most successful of the group at combining the tropes of his character’s clichéd stereotype with authenticity. Ruby Duncan is a powerful presence as Cissy, fearlessly launching into many conflicting emotions with endless gusto and wavering stability.

Stephens has written a challenging, tormenting character in mutinous kingpin William, who Ben Walter brings to life with nuance and glimpses of delightfully unrestrained anarchy through every cautious powerplay. Walter’s William is as distressing as Stephens has written him to be, building to the play’s final crescendo with disturbing composure.

Annie Shapero is electric as deceptively simple Tanya, and Flynn Smeaton as Nicholas is the perfect blend of studious and smarmy. Karl Richmond brings depth to provocative maverick Bennet, suggesting deeper personal discomfort that may be prompting this genuinely intimidating bully to act out as he does. New student Lilly is our initial line-in to this world, portrayed by Zoe Hawkins with sass and a brazen disregard for conformity. Jessica Clarke’s brief stint as Dr Harvey in the final scene is strong and considered.

Patalog Theatre are leaping from strength to strength with every production. They are one of the most important companies to watch for us theatregoers who enjoy contemporary, boundary-pushing evenings of grit and dynamic gusto. Patalog and Punk Rock embody everything good theatre should be.

Don’t miss this gripping rendition of thunderous retribution, playing at fortyfivedownstairs until December 15. (Beware of blood splatter for those in the front row…)

https://www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/wp2016/event/punk-rock-by-simon-stephens/

Photography by Craig Fuller

Kin Collective Presents SHRINE

Intelligent and invested production of Winton’s play

By Tania Herbert

Starting with an Acknowledgement of Country and transitioning straight into an Australianism-filled train-of-thought dialogue, it was immediately evident that we were in the theatre with one of Australia’s most celebrated writers, Tim Winton. Shrine is one of Winton’s three Western Australian-based plays, presented by Kin Collective and directed by Marcel Dorney.

Shrine.jpg

The script content is not happy fare, telling the story of teenager Jack Mansfield (Christian Taylor) and his untimely death from a car accident that his bratty and drunk grammar-school friends (Nick Clark and Keith Brockett) manage to walk away from unscathed. His grieving parents (Chris Bunworth and Alexandra Fowler) find themselves struggling to come to terms with both their loss and their disbelief at the events as related by his school mates.

The catalyst come through interactions with June (Tenielle Thompson), an enigmatic and almost ghost-like character, who appears to Jack’s father Adam. She offers the chance for him to gain a last insight into his son, as she tells stories of moments from her long-term school-girl crush on Jack.

The central character of Adam – a stoic, grieving father filled with barely-contained rage – was masterfully captured by TV and theatre veteran Bunworth. The emotional range of both character and actor were engaging and believable, driving both the story and the emotion. Thompson as June plays counterpoint to his layers of emotional depth with a likeable and steady performance.

Dorney’s staging greatly added to the allure of the play, with the brick shrine centre stage functioning poignantly as prop, emotional barrier, or transitional object. This, with the heavy proscenium border and ambient soundtrack made the performance space reminiscent of a live cinema, with characters stepping from screen into the audience, beautifully capturing the theme within the play of moving between life and fiction.

The build-up and resolution were unpredictable, nuanced and somehow satisfying, in typical-Winton style. However, unfortunately there are serious eye-rolls evoked by the storyline’s gender stereotyping (quite touchingly reflected upon by the director in his program notes), with female characters presented only as passive recipients of abuse and grief. There was little Fowler could do with the character of Mary Mansfield as the wailing wife, who appears only to howl, berate her husband and embark on soliloquies of childbirth and motherhood. Her one short scene of a sweet memory with Jack is the only time she gets to be her own woman, and becomes a particularly moving moment of performance. The sections of stunted, overlapping sentences typical of Winton felt a little unnatural as more prose than dialogue – though the director used them to advantage, giving a lofty Greek-chorus feel to the unwinding of the tragedy.

Thus despite some script limitations, the direction and performances here are strong, the play engaging, and the lighting (designed by Kris Chainey) is just gorgeous. Fortyfivedownstairs was the perfect venue for a dive into what lies under the surface of Australian culture in Shrine.

Shrine is on at fortyfivedownstairs, May 24 – June 18, Tuesday – Saturday 8pm, Sunday 5pm.

Bookings: 02 9662 9966 or online at  http://www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/wp2016/event/shrine-tim-winton/.

Ticket price: $30-45.

N.B. Shrine is part of 2017 VCE Drama Studies Unit 3 Curriculum – Thurs 1, 8 & 15 June 11am school matinees are for school groups only.

Daniel Lammin and MUST Present AWAKENING

A stunning reimagining

By Bradley Storer

Frank Wedekind’s play Spring Awakening – a tale of sex, violence, and the messy transition from child towards adulthood – is a classic of the twentieth century, incredibly explicit and shocking for the conservative times in which it was written and instantly banned. Awakening, an adaption of the original Spring by director Daniel Lammin comprised of five actors (Nicola Dupree, Samantha Hafey-Bagg, Eamonn Johnson, James Malcher, Sam Porter and Imogen Walsh) all sharing and swapping roles, seeks to unpack and re-examine the issues raised in the original play to see if anything has changed.

Awakening.jpg

Oddly enough, it is when the play sticks close to its source material that it feels slightly flat – the earlier, more traditional scenes seem to drag and lack energy despite the commitment of the cast and a wonderful sound design (constructed by Porter) that enlivens every scene. As more stylized and less naturalistic conventions take over, the true and more thrilling theatre begins to appear. Hansy’s masturbatory monologue has never been more intimate and enthralling, and the darkness and horror of the barn scene chills the blood, Wendla’s terrified whispers echoing in the blackness.

The second act, which breaks completely with the setting and costuming of the original text, is where Awakening truly comes into its own. Here Wedekind’s play is cracked open and re-examined in the light of modern society, the most obvious connection being the continuing prevalence of youth suicide and disconnection from each other even in an age where technology connects us in more ways than ever, depicted here in funny and finally tear-inducing series of text messages that pinpoint that tenuous dance between the desire to reach out and the fear of the vulnerability inherent in doing so. The cast are brilliantly versatile, swapping roles with ease, singing multiple harmonies on many occasions and even playing instruments for a Freddie Mercury song.

The final, brilliant revelation this re-examination comes to is an uncovering and denouncement of the original Spring Awakening’s support and perpetuation (whether intentionally or unintentionally, but it is made clear that this makes little difference) of rape culture, pointing out a hideous contradiction in thinking that feels both stunningly obvious and horribly insidious.

Lammin and the cast should be incredibly proud, Awakening is shocking in the best sense of the word: a true ‘awakening’.

Venue: Fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne.

Dates: 10th – 21st May 2017

Times: Tuesday – Saturday 7:30pm, Sunday 5pm

Price: $25 – $35

Tickets: 03 9662 9966 or fortyfivedownstairs.com

In Your Face Presents TRAINSPOTTING LIVE

Breathtaking and confronting

By Rebecca Waese

Trainspotting Live, directed by Adam Spreadbury-Maher and Greg Esplin, and performed by the aptly named Scottish theatre company In Your Face, is challenging, irreverent, assaulting and haunting. Based on Irvine Welsh’s novel and adapted for the stage by Harry Gibson, this spectacularly immersive production has arrived in Melbourne on its Australian tour. Upon entry to a transformed fortyfivedownstairs, audience members are given glow sticks, wrist bands, and encounter the heightened pitch of a rave in Edinburgh in the late 1980s. Enthusiastic spectators are invited to dance with the actors. Sound designer Tom Lishman elevates the cast and audience through some familiar trance tracks like Sandstorm as the eerily good Renton (Gavin Ross), Sick Boy (Michael Lockerbie) and Begbie (Chris Dennis) interact with audience members on the ecstatic trip together.

 Trainspotting Live.png

From the adrenaline-fueled high, we crash hard into the bleak world of addiction. The characters shock us and each other with their violence, betrayals and failings. Dark humour arises from the class divisions and the addicts’ relentless drives to get their fixes. The Scottish slang is often impenetrable but the desires and torments of the actors are never unclear. Renton, Sick Boy, Begbie, and Tommy (Greg Esplin) embody their roles brilliantly with frightening and uncanny nuances, and Alison (Erin Marshall), Laura (Rachael Anderson) and the dealer, Mother Superior (Calum Barbour), create impassioned and memorable roles. The actors transgress so many conventional boundaries as they engage the audience to see the junkies’ world from the inside. Most audience members will need to wash afterwards. There are no safe seats. My partner had his head licked. We were splattered by beer, spit, and brown liquid from the toilet scene. At least one spectator left, horrified. It was repulsive and riveting; confronting and ultimately profound.

The demise of one character is particularly affecting because he abstained from drugs for so long; his fall is swift and merciless as he contracts HIV from sharing needles. Lighting designer Clancy Flynn creates a sickly green glow in a strobe sequence as the character’s world crashes down; during this final scene, there is a ten-minute theatre lockdown where no one can escape the nightmare. But for the affected audience, there is hope at the end from another character who quits cold turkey and takes us through the junkie’s limbo into health.

Trainspotting Live, coinciding with the release of Danny Boyle’s long-awaited film, Trainspotting T2, is a visceral and unforgettable experience. Choose wisely; if you are keen to go, book now.

Warning:

Strictly Ages 16+

The show delivers an entirely immersive experience. Do not wear your best clothes.

Nudity, coarse language, violent and sexual themes and imagery, heavy drug/needle use, haze effects, strobe lighting and simulated smoking.

fortyfivedownstairs

ticket price: $34 – $45

March 22- April 13.

03 9662 9966

info@fortyfivedownstairs.com

Midsumma Festival 2016: I AM MY OWN WIFE

Finely crafted and utterly fascinating

By Myron My

The last song I expected to hear playing over the speakers as I entered the space for I Am My Own Wife was “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer. But the purpose is later made clear as we learn about the extraordinary and intriguing life of German transgender woman Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, who survived both the Nazi and the Communist regime. While that might be a valid reason to admire her, it is not a guarantee that she was also a hero.

i-am-my-own-wife

American playwright Doug Wright travelled to Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and after a series of interviews with von Mahlsdorf totalling hundreds of hours,  wrote I Am My Own Wife. Thus, the show – is not just about von Mahlsdorf’s life but also Wright’s own role in this tale, and the impact that the experience of trying to get inside the head of this enigmatic person had upon him.

Ben Gerrard is simply captivating for the entire one-performer show and his German and American accents are well-maintained with great pronunciation and intonation. There is a recording of Wright’s voice that is played to the audience and upon hearing Gerrard’s impersonation of it, you would not be blamed for believing it was the same person. You may also find yourself unable to take your eyes off Gerrard as he faultlessly jumps between 35 varied characters, and his constant eye-contact with the audience draws you in, as if he is telling this story only to you.

Similarly building on this intimacy is Hugh Hamilton‘s sleek lighting design, supporting the tension of the narrative with spotlights anticipating Gerrard’s moves and changes. Shaun Rennie‘s sharp direction ensures that these movements are made with purpose and used to construct a stronger connection with the audience. Meanwhile the minimal set design by Caroline Comino allows us to focus also on Gerrard’s words and when set pieces are used, they are used creatively, effectively, and with the same skill of not detracting from the story.

The show leaves some deliberate ambiguity as to how much of a hero Charlotte von Mahlsdorf actually was: the threat of death was very real back then and hard choices had to be made. I Am My Own Wife doesn’t pass judgement or draw any conclusions: instead it lets us wonder about the life a resilient and extraordinary person led, who survived against the odds in a world that was set on destroying her.

Venue: fortyfive downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
 
Season: Until 5 February | Tue- Sat 7.30pm, Sat 28 Jan & Sat 4 Feb 4pm, Sun 5pm 
Tickets: $45 Full | $35 Conc 
Bookings: Midsumma Festival

Vic Theatre Company Presents THE GATHERING

Plenty of charm and intrigue in new Australian musical

By Rebecca Waese

Vic Theatre Company’s The Gathering, directed by Chris Parker, is an original Australian musical about friendship, love and loss inspired by the spirit of the Millennial generation. A group of twenty-somethings reunite in a haunted house to see their friend Tom (Joel Granger) who has surfaced after five years. When Tom runs away again, the friends stand by one another, (think of an Australian Rent meets Scooby-doo and the gang), and Tom begins to emerge from the shadows of his mysterious past.

The Gathering (James Terry Photography).jpg

There is plenty to applaud in this production (with book, music and lyrics by Will Hannagan and Belinda Jenkin) and in this company of young performers who are promising, self-possessed and leave their hearts on the stage. Outstanding vocals are delivered by Luke (Daniel Assetta), playing the camp best friend of Tom’s foster sister Kelly, (Shannen Alyce Quan), who is another strong talent to watch. Quan shows power and vulnerability in “Sweet December Feelings” with subtle and nostalgic references to the particular qualities of an Australian summer. Daisy, (Hannah Sullivan McInervey), shines in her solo, “Hair So Long” and Sullivan McInvervy’s voice brings a refreshing and unexpected Missy Higgins-type quality to the ensemble.

The vocals, however, under the musical direction of Daniel Puckey, are far superior to some of the lyrics, and there are a few weak plot points in the show. A handful of too-obvious rhymes calls out for the guiding hand of an experienced dramaturg. Yet, the open spirit of the young company made me forgive some of the clangers and the performers did well to shroud them with humour and ironic deliveries. Luke’s memorable line to Kelly, “I apologize profusely/ by making you muesli,” struck a playful note as the friends negotiated their path to adulthood amidst the chaos that growing up and apart brings.

There is some enjoyable comic work by Mia (Olivia Charalambous), and a compelling dramatic moment when Tom asks why Luke didn’t help him when he needed it most. Heartbroken Joe (Daniel Cosgrove) was delightful when Daisy’s line, “we’re on a break”, lead to a sudden realisation.

The Gathering captures a sense of the moment today for young Australians out in the world, released from share-houses and uni and beginning to make their way as adults. The big company numbers are exuberant with “Never Ever” re-living the classic drinking game, “Haunted” lit by Iphone-wielding ghost-busters, and “A Different Kind of Love” bringing resolution to Tom and his friends as harmonies fill the space. There is a distinct sense of Australian place in this musical, which, despite some awkward lyrics and plot holes, speaks openheartedly and with comic self-awareness of this moment in time for the Millennial generation. Whether this is your tribe or you want to eavesdrop on their moment, The Gathering is uplifting and has much to offer.

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Season:
Nov 30 Dec, 2, 6, 8, 11, 7.30pm
Nov 26, 4pm, Dec 3,10, 8.30pm
Nov 27, Dec 4, 3pm

Tickets: $38 – $42

Bookings: 03 9662 9966 or online

Image by James Terry Photography

Rebecca Waese is a Lecturer in Creative Arts and English at La Trobe University.

Encore! Presents L’AMANTE ANGLAISE

A dark and compelling masterpiece

By Myron My

Based on Marguerite Duras‘ 1967 novella, L’Amante Anglaise (The English Lover) is on the surface a murder mystery story, but look a little deeper and it is an exploration of what happens to a person when the life they are leading turns out to be the life they never wanted. Originally performed at La Mama, this stage adaptation has been remounted for a second season at fortyfivedownstairs. Having missed it first time round, I was very thankful I managed to get to it now for this really  is a breathtaking production.

L'AMANTE ANGLAISE

The story unfolds in two interviews conducted by nameless interrogators over the brutal murder of a woman in a small town in France. The dismembered body is discovered at a railway viaduct, missing her head. Furthermore, the novella is based on true events, adding to the darkness and brutality to the proceedings.

The first interrogation is with Pierre (Rob Meldrum), the husband of the woman who has confessed to the murder. What transpires is a picture of a man who cared very little for his wife, who can offer little insight as to what could have driven her to commit such a heinous crime, and Meldrum’s portrayal of the detached husband is well-presented throughout and compelling to watch.

In the second interrogation our attention shifts to Claire, where her interrogator insists on finding out what drove her to commit murder. Jillian Murray does a phenomenal job in this role and it is not hard to see why she won the 2015 Green Room Award for Best Female Performer. Beginning as a shy and timid woman it was hard to imagine Claire viciously killing someone, but as the interview progressed, her instability and sadness began seeping through.

The intimate direction and impressively staging by Laurence Strangio allows for the words of the characters to create the visuals for the audience, and creates focus on  the hands, the feet, the eyes and the face to show the characters’ states of mind, enticing the audience to be drawn further into the intrigue and horrors of the story and its protagonists.

In its powerful intersection of fiction and reality, L’Amante Anglaise has you leaving the venue with an emptiness and sadness deep in your heart as to how these people have got to where they are in life. Ironically, it is not the dark details of the murder that have this effect on you, but the utter fascinating character study of two people who yearn for a different time. Unmissable.

Venue: fortyfive downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Season: Until 3 July | Tue- Sat 7.30pm, Sun 5pm
Tickets: $38 Full | $32 Conc
Bookings: fortyfive downstairs